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a personal appeal to adults on behalf of young people.

Previously, I wrote an article on the dangers of meritocracy – especially in the Singaporean upbringing and way of life. While we are all aware that we live in a society where our best is unfairly and unnecessarily juxtaposed against someone else’s good, we need to realise that there will come a point where we’ll just have to say “No” to the sickening and extremely poisonous repercussions of comparisons. I mean, seriously, if a young person is already giving his or her best, what else do you expect? One day, you will either drive him up the wall or out of the house. Is that it?

To combat low self-esteem and the unhealthy habits of pegging ourselves against others, I’d recommend that we employ the power of encouragement in our daily ins and outs. Indeed, a pat on the back pushes out the chest! I’ve said it time and again, that encouragement is to put in courage, where there is none. Never underestimate and neglect the necessity of encouragement – you can really empower someone with simple words of affirmation – eloquence is not required.

I believe that young people, when they come to a certain age, are actually smart and self-aware enough to make their own decisions and be responsible for it. Like it or not, one day we will have to stop treating them like they are still children. This is for their own good as well as for ours. The least (and most) that we ought to do as adults is to give them the benefit of doubt because I believe that youths do know their personal limits and they are doing. Yes, as mature adults, we probably would have experienced more than they have; and so our job is to warn them of the consequences of their decisions and to encourage them to be responsible for it. Look, we must know that we cannot protect them for life and shield them away from making big decisions. This is harsh, but we’ll be crippling them, really. Nothing is more powerful than telling a young person that you believe in him or her and actually following up your words with actions.

(On a side note, it is unfortunate that Singaporean guys pick up negative habits like acting ignorant, avoiding responsibilities and not taking ownership of themselves during their national service days. If a guy decides to adopt that attitude while in uniform, he wouldn’t just throw away two years but may actually cause more damage to himself as he unlearns the good habits honed during his teenage years prior enlistment. No wonder the girls are so outstanding nowadays. I genuinely hope that our boys would stand up and be counted like real men. But I digress…)

We should give our youths the opportunity to learn from their own decisions – both good and bad ones; when they knock into walls, they will be convinced of their folly and will make their own comebacks. Trust me on this – they will regret their decisions more than we ever think they will. I remember saying this before, that while we cannot stop someone from falling, we certainly can stop them from crashing.

I’m unapologetic for my repetition, but all we really should do as older individuals, is to believe in and encourage the younger ones. Already our society is telling them what they cannot do instead of what they can do – what an oppressing environment to dwell and develop in! Don’t add on to their existing pressure! Don’t do to them what everyone else is doing to them. If we love them, then we ought to tell them that they can and will make it, not how they cannot and would never get there – what good do these damaging words do, really? We need to learn to trust that they can make decisions and take ownership of their choices; there is greater value there than curtailing their liberty.

I’m not being a renegade or encouraging any young person to rebel – I’m merely sharing my honest opinion of why I think that our young people are more stifled these days than they ever are. We ought to help them to become complete and mature individuals, not hack them into pieces with our destructive words. Don’t be surprised at how outstanding our young people can become. I think they only need two ingredients – 1) time, and 2) someone to believe in them. Would we dispense these freely?

So from the bottom of my heart – hear me, please – let our young people live their lives, not relive yours. Let them chart their paths, not walk yours. Let’s guide them, not dictate them. The best form of encouragement is when it’s loud and repeated. May your face appear in their heads whenever they think about someone who believes in them and may your voice resonate in their hearts as the one who says, “I believe in you”. That, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the greatest gift you’d ever give to them.

top ten reasons why i’m thankful i’m a guy.

The time has come for the weekly top ten. It’s somewhat enjoyable and a challenge to write within ten points because it coerces me to concise my ideas as well as to surface the first decathlon of my thoughts; sometimes I have an abundance and other times, insufficient. With homosexuality becoming increasingly rampant (and the scary thing to me is, it’s also becoming increasingly acceptable) in our society, I’d like to write about why I’m thankful to be a guy, in the conventional context of what a guy is designed to be. I don’t know another more politically correct manner to phrase that sentence.

I’ve deliberately decided to keep this list fun and politically indifferent but the harsher radicals would find the controversial overtones in-between my lines; radicals always do anyway when their senses are heightened and acutely sensitive to their forte topics. So here it goes, as light-hearted as I can be, the top ten reasons why I’m thankful I’m a guy.

1. I spend lesser money on clothing and accessories simply because I have lesser parts to cover. And for those parts that require coverage, it’s a fuss-free affair. Walking into a ladies’ shop is an overwhelming experience; I haven’t the faintest clue how girls just know what to purchase in the plethora of choices. I’m inclined to believe that the material world was created for the ladies and would collapse in their absence. I mean, just undergarments alone, my choices are limited to only boxers or briefs (thank goodness!), of which both serve the same purpose, and cost a lot lesser than bras, panties and lingeries! And I haven’t even gotten started on make-up! *phew*

2. I am physically stronger and naturally more athletic. Of course, I do not compare myself to a professional woman athlete. Having physical advantages is blessing that men should not take for granted – that we can run faster and last longer than the average lady, as well as to carry more weight and endure more bodily hardship than most ladies. However, while I believe that guys have better endurance, girls’ threshold for suffering is without a doubt higher than their counterparts.

3. I get to pee standing up. There is no question about this benefit for I think it’s something that girls may even desire! This means that I can answer nature’s call anytime and anywhere. And just for the record, I don’t really have to bother about the cleanliness of the lavatory as no part of my pelvic area would ever need to come into contact with a urine-stained toilet seat! I’m sure, however, that some girls do possess this skill of vertically taking a leak…

4. I can’t get pregnant or experience the pain of childbearing. This characteristic is definitive of being a woman. In fact, I know a lady who medically cannot give birth and hence is sad that in her lifetime she won’t be able to undergo this defining experience. The only ones who can experience (the pain and joy of) childbirth are women who are born women; this sets them apart from men forever. Hence, men must truly appreciate wives and mothers for they can never, ever emphathise with this aspect of a woman’s life.

5. I am rational and have better control over my emotions. Now, there are rational ladies and emotional men and there’s nothing wrong with either. I’m just personally thankful that I’m built this way because it has enhanced my ability to make decisions as well as to have a pragmatic approach towards most things in life.

6. I live in a patriarchal world. Like it or hate it, this world has always be created to favour men. I won’t go into too much detail and as much as I’m all for equality, I believe that there’s order only when the equality apportioned to women is determined and deemed allowable by men. Oh, what a contentious statement. Peace, peace, peace.

7. I determine the gender of my child(ren). In olden days dramatised by TV serials, the paternal mother-in-law always makes life a living hell for the daughter-in-law who fails to deliver an heir to the family line. Of course, we are better advised these days and know that the determining factor of a child’s gender belongs to the X chromosome that only men have. Maybe that’s why children continue their father’s family name?

8. I am the biblical leader of my marriage. I genuinely believe that most ladies, even the most independent, intimidating and outstanding ones, in the inner-most recesses of their heart, long for their man to be established as the leader of their relationship and would gladly relinquish and empower them to exercise it. I don’t have the statistics, but I wouldn’t be surprised that one main reason for a dysfunctional or broken family is the man’s failure to command leadership in the household.

9. I have the privilege of influencing and raising young men. While mature women can mentor young men, there’s just something that they cannot impart simply because they are not men (and vice-versa). Young men look for role models to follow after; I had my hero figures when I was younger and I still have them now. A lack of a dominant alpha-male (pardon my lack of a better way to phrase it) is sorrowfully missing in our society and it is especially prevalent in the church, where ladies are generally more active, fervent and prolific in serving the Lord. It’s not a bad thing but it’s time for the men to rise up in (my) church! I want to play my part in reversing the alpha-female culture in my youth group.

10. And last but certainly not least, I’ve saved it for the end… I get to fall in love with girls! This has to be one of the best things about being a guy (if not the best) – for you appreciate what you don’t have and who you will never become. Opposites certainly attract, but beware, for sometimes differences complement and sometimes they conflict! As much as I am thankful to be a man, I know I can’t live without a woman. Either way, I’m thankful that my lifelong companion is a lady.

Have I missed out on any other reasons? Do you disagree with any of the above? Let me hear your opinions!

meritocracy is unbiblical.

Jesus looked at [the rich young ruler] and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24-25, NIV)

Singapore is a great country to reside in – it truly is. I can say this because I’ve lived in Shanghai for nearly two years. We take pride in our credible and proven governance of meritocracy – where, by dictionary definition, “people [are] selected on the basis of their ability”. In other words, if you do well enough, you’ll probably get by. However, I’d like to think that meritocracy is poisonous, especially for a Christian making an honest attempt to live his life relying on God.

I’ve always lamented about the overly rigourous and demanding education system here. A young student is forced, whether voluntarily by his own will or involuntarily by unhealthy peer pressure, to do well in Singapore. Sadly, sometimes it’s not about doing well for his own good, but about doing better than someone else. We have produced countless outstanding people because of how (insanely) competitive we are. After all, it’s a known fact that Singapore’s greatest resource is her people.

Hence, existing in an environment as such, we have been continuously engineered to believe that we just need to do well enough, and we’ll be able to get what we want – chiefly wealth and status amongst others. Unfortunately for us, we have also allowed this secular mentality to creep into the Church and worse, into our walk with God. More often than not, we’d rather sort ourselves out first before going to God rather than going to God first to get sorted out.

We approach God thinking that if we have ticked the checklist boxes of praying, doing quiet time, worshipping, reading the bible, etc., we’d be accepted and be presentable before God. How scarily distorted that can be! Having a checklist may not be wrong, don’t misunderstand me, but it is severely inadequate.

A classic example is how we typically go to God in prayer only when we take our exams with insufficient preparation or when we commit a major mistake at work. It’s like we consider getting God involved only when matters are completely out of our control and domain of influence. Or sometimes when we ask for good results or work promotion (or even dating success), we use “I promise I’ll spend more time with You, Lord” or “I promise I won’t visit those sites again anymore, Lord” as stakes, thinking that it may actually move God to accede to our “requests”.

How dangerously misconstrued that is!

In a society where meritocracy calls the shots, we start to tattoo in our hearts and minds, “I CAN DO IT“. Great optimism and confidence, don’t get me wrong. But it may lead to one thing – that “GOD CAN DO IT” will slowly and steadily be obliterated from our operating system. We need to be extremely cautious because this swelling pride can mislead us – from trusting in God to trusting in ourselves. We constantly wage war between societal and biblical reality.

Now, may I beseech you to be alert and to quicken your spirit to this, that you do not draw confidence in your flesh but in God. Don’t become complacent when you exit an exam hall after a good paper because it doesn’t mean that you seeking God ends. In the same way, don’t become overly concerned about beefing up your resume just to raise your chances of getting a good job. Place not your confidence in yourself but in our faithful God who never fails to deliver! Be excellent but not wrongly/overly-confident.

For those with average grades, do not be discouraged – our God can operate with Bs and Cs (and even Ds and Fs!) and still give you success and a good future, only if you seek Him wholeheartedly. For those with soaring on societal favour and success, do not get complacent thinking that all these achievements arrived by your own merit – God can give but He can also take away, and what we are constantly challenged to say is, “Blessed be Your name”. Keep your eyes on Jesus, my friends!

Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul declared quite famously in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV),

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‘ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

When we rely on ourselves, we may fail. But when we rely on God, He will deliver! Let us declare that we can’t and that God can!

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