Singapore has world-class education system – that I do not deny. My scholastic abilities have been tuned by my learning environment (observe the careful choice of words) and I’d like to think a big part of my confidence and street-smartness (or some would say arrogance) comes from a decade spent in ACS. However, if I had a choice, I’d rather not raise my children in a local school and if I had the resources, I’d rather home-school my kids; I do not want to subject them to the unnecessary and poisonous culture of the education system here – where students somehow feel that they are never quite good enough.
Our academia has changed considerably – some would consider it progress, some see it as regress and for a few others, digress; I belong to the third group. I think that we’re missing the point of education, really. We should teach people how to think not what to think. Today’s students are subjected to a lot more pressure and stress – that doesn’t come from themselves but primarily from their parents and secondarily from their peers. The desire to improve themselves is shrouded by external motivations instead being influenced by internal drives.
I’ve always opined that pride is not about wanting to be the best – there’s nothing wrong with that – but pride is about wanting to be better than someone else. There’s an element of covetousness in pride, where the desire to better oneself sprouts from the obsession to outdo others. We’ve heard it time and again – a student could far outperform himself and score a 60% in a test (and achieve his all-time highest score) but this joy is somewhat short-lived; his initial delight soon plummets into despair when he begins to compare his results with a classmate that scored 70%. The process is transferred to the next dimension and (if you pardon the direct translation of the old Chinese adage) there always seems to be a higher mountain that is insurmountable. Where does it stop? Before you know it, these students return home to mourn about their oh-so-terrible score when they should instead rejoice over their progress made. There’s no end to this vicious cycle of self and societal inflicted torment. No wonder suicide cases related to academic pressures have risen sharply over the years.
Achievements and successes are all relative – hence it is imperative that we manage our expectations and chart our progress on a realistic rate. Today, you should ask yourself if you are competitive or comparitive. There’s nothing wrong with benchmarking yourself against the best to gauge and improve your own abilities and thresholds. But once you begin to compare and slide into the venomous glance-over-your-shoulder behaviour, you inevitably welcome self-destruction and a never-ending pursuit of nothingness. We are all different – get used to the idea. To those who have more, more is expected of them. Learn to be comfortable with yourself and realise that if you want to be someone else, who’s going to be you?
When I stroll down memory lane, I don’t seem to ever recall a time that I wanted to be better than someone else because I realised that I’m constantly waging war with my own insanely high standards (again, this is a relative statement). To an extent, I seem to allow no one to determine how good or how bad I can and will be. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m an ambitious person and I effort to bring out the best of my gifts and talents by being excellent in all that I undertake, but in the event that my desired outcomes do not materialise, I have learnt to trust God for the lessons learnt in temporal failure and postponed success. I realised that I’ve always secretly (but confidently) trusted God for the results, for God was the origin of my desires and ambitions. Either way it turns out, I already know that God, being efficacious, has a lesson in store for me to learn; I believe that He has pre-prepared different packages of lessons for every single different outcome.
I urge you to be wary of the poisonous standards of this world, where it tells you that being contented with your lot is apparently mediocrity. A subscription to these worldly values often results in worldly remorse and regret – that’s not biblical or victorious living at all! Know that with Jesus, we fight from victory and not for victory. Be comfortable with who God has created you to be for your strengths complements someone else’s weaknesses and vice-versa – that’s how the body of Christ works. Everyone plays a different role and is a different jigsaw in the puzzle of life – never let this world determine how you should live and what should make you happy. May your spirit be acutely tuned to the dangers that inescapable and obligatory academic excellence brings.
So what if you finally become the best and better than everyone else? What’s next? At the end of the day, it’s all meaningless. It doesn’t make you better than anyone else, really. The antidote then, to competition and comparison, is contentment.
It is inevitable that I am extremely excited about REAL and especially about the upcoming lock-in camp. I’m praying that God will send me the right 10 participants who are serious and not just curious. On a side note, I realised that I’m really quite a camp person; I spent the day putting together the lock-in schedule and I am proud of what I have put together because it looks different from the other years, refreshing and purposeful. I’d like to think that this lock-in camp packs a punch.
I’ve been accumulating sleep debt over the last week (mainly due to FM, I have to be honest here, but my repentance began last night) and as I dragged myself out of bed yesterday morning, I thought about my friends who have “burnt out” in ministry and what these former youth leaders are now. I’d like to think that there’s a huge difference between burning out and losing your fire completely. Think about that for a moment.
More often than not, (physical and emotional) fatigue is usually the cause of sizzling out and I think to address that, it’s an issue of constantly having input – be it through your devotions, mentoring sessions, bible studies or other methods. But losing your fire completely is a sad state of being – it’s like having your passion, zeal and zest for serving God completely removed. I cannot imagine the kind of person I’d be without passion! I’ve become so synonymous with passion over the years that without it I’d be devoid of my driving force, or in a more humourous way, my mojo.
I don’t quite know where I am going with this entry but I find myself juxtaposing how we used to serve and how we are serving now. Did something happen along the way? Did growing up or the allure of the world take something away from us? Some of us seem to have lost that spark in the eye, that fire in the belly, and end up serving the ministry with a lackadaisical attitude.
I have strong opinions about this matter and I do apologise if my tone sounds offensive, but it won’t stop me from saying that it is truly sickening when I see people shortchanging the ministry with a less than excellent spirit (because I know that they can do and have done better!), and yet put in 101% for academic or work pursuits. The question I’m asking isn’t “What’s your passion?” but “WHERE’S your passion?”
This entry is turning out to be a little tough to stomach but at least it’s out of my system. I especially caution those in leadership positions. Once these symptoms start to infiltrate the way you serve, you have to address it immediately by being accountable to someone. If you don’t already know, bad leaders produce bad members who’ll eventually result in becoming worse leaders. This downward spiral of standards and vicious cycle of mediocrity is poisonous not just for our generation but for the generations after us.
May we should rethink the way we ought to serve God.
Everyone is excited by different things in life. I am always excited to go on a date with HY, to be near her and to just be with the woman I love; I am always excited to partake in my mother’s cooking and it’s almost certain that I’ll finish every morsel of food; I am always excited to converse with my sister (when she’s not moody) because she’s like the best friend I’ve always had (and knowing her, she’d puke when she reads this because she has affection-phobia towards me).
So, what always excites you?
Nowadays, I get excited by learning something new about God and knowing something more about Him. I get excited about preaching because I think it’s something that stretches and challenges me in my competencies. (On that note, I really think that my “season” of worship leading is over, well sort of.) I get excited when I am mentoring someone and imparting what I know and have experienced to him or her. I get excited when I meet my mentors and to learn from their many life experiences and stories.
So, what excites you today?
I think it’s imperative that we all live for a purpose greater than ourselves. It would be pure drudgery for anyone to have to drag themselves out of bed each morning. We have to be internally motivated by goals and externally driven by actions to achieve all the dreams that are birthed in our hearts. There is no salary high enough that could ever satisfy a man if it doesn’t challenge, inspire or motivate him to take a step closer to his given destiny in life. This is why I’ve always aspired to live the mundane in an extraordinary fashion.
You and I are no different. We have similar struggles and have as many victories as setbacks. We get persecuted as much as we get praised. I’d like to think that my life is a fulfilling one because I choose to approach it that way. I refuse to live a life of mediocrity and settling for second-best (unless God specifically instructs me to do so). While life (on earth) is short, it is also the longest journey (on earth) that we will ever embark on. So let us learn to remind each other to live our lives for something, someone, some event greater than ourselves.
And to close a less serious note, I do enjoy very much (“get excited” is an exaggeration of this sentiment) when I make people laugh or when they laugh at my jokes – there’s a sense of gratification bringing joy, fun and laughter to someone’s day. This is one reason why I have baptised myself as Asher – which stands for “blessed, joyful, happy”. I also enjoy it very much when I pull off a stunt that people will remember. Presenting to HY her 22nd birthday gift was one; suddenly deciding to leave Shanghai was another; appearing for the No One Else was something that is etched in my heart forever.
And for the most recent one, it was great to pull off something so crazy in my trip to Shanghai last weekend. Man, the look on people’s faces – priceless. Lovely.