In today’s National Post, UCC Old Boy and McLeese Chair Theo Caldwell ends his tribute to St. Patrick with this observation:
“Patrick had a special relationship with young people, and some suppose he strove to give them a hope and happiness his own childhood had lacked. But were it not for his early suffering, could Patrick have become such a seminal figure of faith?”
I am willing to bet that you will not find the words “early suffering” in any school’s admission brochures, mission statements, or tag lines. And God help the school that has “suffering” in any form as part of its branding! (“Come suffer with us” may not be considered catchy in 2010.)
But suffering, the denial of self, the enduring of disappointment and pain – as much as we want to protect or boys from all of this – is an important and necessary part of personal development. Without these experiences, our boys won’t have the chance to develop their resiliency muscles, that inner strength that will help them endure the setbacks that will inevitably come their way. Because, as we all know all too well, life isn’t like summer camp, and not everyone will receive a blue ribbon after every contest.
The challenge for us today is that our instinctive reaction is too often to protect our sons from the slings and arrows that come their way. If my boy struggles on a math test, I want to call in a tutor. If he’s cut from a team, I want to have a word with that coach.
These well-meaning impulses, unfortunately, undermine our boys’ development. “Early suffering” – while it doesn’t make for a snazzy bumper-sticker — is actually just what he’ll need in order to become the man he needs to be.