What happens when you don’t teach character first? What happens when sports or talent come ahead of integrity and honor? What kind of adult does a child grow into when parents see him as way out of poverty? When making it big trumps being honest and kind to others?
The whole Ray Rice & Adrian Peterson brouhaha in the NFL has really been on my heart lately. I knew I wanted to write something to address it but wasn’t quite sure what God wanted me to say just yet. Then I saw Derek Jeter’s final at bat at Yankee Stadium and the interviews that followed. The difference in how Jeter was being portrayed was so different from Rice or Peterson. That’s when the light bulb went on for me. One was taught character first. The other two not so much.
When you have a child who shows some talent in a sport , you have to be careful not to make the sport more important than the man you are molding. This isn’t about race either. This is about adults seeing a way out of poverty or a chance at a better life and taking it at all costs. This is about making sure the child succeeds in the sport at all costs. Success in the sport becomes the number one priority. Academics and character education are just an afterthought to the sport. I’ve seen this happen in all aspects of every child’s sport .
In Jeter’s case, his parents made sure to teach him how to be a man. Not just any man. A man of integrity and honor with impeccable character. You can clearly see that in him. You don’t get made Captain of your team by being a slouch. Teammates see leaders. They see men of character versus those who have been riding on talent alone. It’s clear here that his parents valued the man over the talent.
Let’s be brutally honest here. A man learns from the people around him while he is a boy that is ok to beat women. Ray Rice punched her so hard that he knocked her out in one punch. That sort of behavior is learned young. Just like , his now wife learned young that it’s ok for a man to beat her to put her in her place. This makes for a train wreck waiting to happen. It’s really sad if you think about it. Someone in their lives didn’t value them enough to teach them how a healthy relationship should work. Both Rice and his now wife got robbed here. Peterson learned that physical punishment is how you get children to conform to your demands. This had to happen by him getting those same beatings at that same age except no one stepped in for him. Listen, this parenting gig is hard. Add in how much work marriage is as well and the workload can be overwhelming.
I have a dancer and a football player. Both show talent in those areas. Both could easily let their love of their sport overtake their lives. It’s my job to make sure that their character is impeccable. It’s my job to do for them like Jeter’s parents did for him. To do anything less would be a grave injustice to them. It would be so much easier to be their friend. To let them eat, sleep , and drink dance or football at all costs. To let them ride on the coattails of their talent. Instead, I need to show them that hard work trumps talent every time. I need to love their father with all my heart in an effort to teach them how a man should treat his wife along with what a wife should expect from her husband . I need to teach that when there is a need for correction , there is a right way and a wrong way. First and foremost, I need to teach them to love God with all their heart, mind and soul.
In all honesty, if I teach them to love God with every fiber of their being, the rest will fall into place. The Holy Spirit will do a much better job than me guiding them along the path of life. If I fill their minds with Scripture, when they get angry they will remember what to do. By walking with God myself, I will be an example that they can emulate later in life. Will I fail? On a daily basis. The good news is that God’s grace is sufficient for all of us. All He asks of me is to not take the easy road. Take the time to build impeccable character in them. One day, they will be all grown. Lord willing, I will be able to see the fruits of my labor. My grandchildren will get to appreciate all the work that went into their awesome parents. That makes it all worth it.