I mentor several young adults (12-18) during their home school experience. Because I believe many young people don't live up to their potential and our culture has such low expectations for youth, I'm not easy on them. Many jump right in feet first, gung ho, and rise to the occasion. Others want to believe they can do hard things but have not had experiences of success with this idea. Leisure seems almost written into their DNA. The latter of these two groups usually goes through a sort of crisis of beating themselves up over their lack of success even when they secretly know their lack of success is their own failure to plan and act diligently.
I get groveling emails apologizing for bad work and stupidness. It seems that young people think punishing and humiliating themselves makes up for falling short of their potential. This is a fallacy; the unread pages, unwritten essays, and un-calculated equations tell the tale.
When this sort of behavior starts, however, I know the young scholar is becoming teachable. Interacting with one such youngster this week, I wrote this.
One of my cub scouts years ago had a habit of saying he hated himself. This grew unsettling to me. I told him that he was God's special creation. When he said he hated himself, he was saying he hated God's creation and thus insulting God. Certainly, we have times, when we aren't as diligent as we should be. Beating one's self up isn't as productive as using it as a learning experience.
There is a difference between humility and humiliation. The former means being teachable. The latter is degradation and regression. God doesn't want to run us down and stop our progression. He wants us to be teachable aka learn from our mistakes. Jesus told the sinful woman to go and sin no more. He didn't rail on her about her sin. Likewise, he wants us to go and do better but not tear ourselves down or grovel.
So...go and do the best you can each week. Sometimes that best isn't as good one week as it is another. However, the best you can give is good enough if it really is your best. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24)
Each day, each moment evaluate your efforts. Are you acting as the tortoise, who slowly and steadily worked toward his goal. Or are you acting as the hare, who worked in fits and starts never really doing his best always playing and making excuses for poor performance. Likely, you are a little of both. The trick is to move toward acting as the tortoise more and more. The diligence welcome each task as a special assignment from the Lord and steadily, earnestly, and industriously complete it.
As Lorenzo Snow put it, "establish a character before God that [can] be relied upon in the hour of trial."
"The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want." (Proverbs 21:5)