Second place is a no-no: On children winning laurels
Over the last few days, I have been fascinated by a story which was reported in a Nigerian daily has captured the attention of many people on social media in Nigeria. It was a story told on Facebook by a woman who describes her niece’s experience at one of the most exclusive private schools in Lagos, Nigeria. The story goes as follows: a 12-year-old male student stole sulphuric acid and ethanol from the laboratory and poured it into a female classmate’s water bottle. He hoped the concoction would send her to an early grave. The crime committed by his classmate who is 11 years old was that since they started at the high school, she had beaten him to claim the first position in their class for two terms in a row. The girl was saved because some of their classmates saw him and pulled the plug on his plans. Imagine what pain and agony his victim would have been subjected to with a burnt esophagus; all because another student wanted to be in first place.
A lot of people have described the alleged perpetrator as evil or mentally ill. It is impossible to discuss the mental health of this child not because it is unimportant but because despite all the speculation making the rounds, we know nothing about him except that he is likely from a wealthy home. That is not to say that his mental health is irrelevant or that the psychological and emotional trauma of his intended victim should be ignored.
Motivation is a crucial factor in everyone’s life. It determines the price we are willing to pay for something and is influenced by the boundaries we set for ourselves. The dominant reason that motivated this act was a bid to claim the position of the best student in JSS1. It wasn’t a dislike of his female classmate. His desire to be labeled best student appears to have been his overriding consideration. Did coming second create a loss of identity or status in his home, school or with friends? Did he come to believe that winning was more important than the process that gets you there? Did he believe that winning was the only option?
As an aside, perhaps it is time to rethink the way we view academic achievement and the pressures placed on children to be first always. You may disagree, but shouldn’t our grades be more important than position assigned based on academic performance? Academic success is very important. The average Nigerian places a high premium on academic accomplishments. I know because I am Nigerian and it is how we are brought up and how we think. We need to ask ourselves if we have been so achievement oriented that we have now coached our children that nothing is out of bounds if they win? Are we teaching our children to lose their humanity because we want to brag about their exploits in school?
Sadly, some parents make it obvious that their love for their children is based on their performance. Children need to know that they are loved unconditionally with or without the medals as they negotiate this journey called life. The boy could be your child so let’s stop the finger pointing, examine our attitude, sit down to talk with our children and walk our talk.
We don’t know what the dynamics in his family is and we shouldn’t pretend to know. I believe he and his family need help in negotiating this problem and I hope they get the help they need.
Do to others as you would like them to do to you (Luke 6:31, NLT)
Recently, I heard my teenage son say a woman whom he felt was unjustifiably angry “was probably on her period”. I was not pleased and told him it could very well have been a man in the woman’s position. He explained that the girls at school said those words to other girls all the time. If girls used those terms to refer to other females, then what was wrong with him using them? This was a teachable moment.
Descriptions such as the above are regarded as derogatory to women. Is it then right for a female to say it to another female? Does being of the same gender as another person give you the right to use terms which might be regarded as sexist when used by another gender? I have wondered about this in the past but have come to realize that many of these things do not have a clear-cut standard. The goal post of what is acceptable or not is fluid and constantly moving.
The Golden Rule applies to this just like in other life issues “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” Jesus was simply telling his followers to treat others as they would want to be treated. I believe this was meant to help us consider our thoughts, emotions, speech, and behavior and live mindfully. It means we should build others.
Putting this in context, we could say “speak to others as you would like them to speak to you”
If it shall cause harm to another person, then why engage in hurtful speech or behavior?
That is the question we should ask ourselves often. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Guess what? As humans, we have the capacity to learn and get better. So then, let’s get on with it. Let’s determine to get better, live better, love better.
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world…. CS Lewis
Four days ago, the news was awash with the story of a homicide-suicide which happened at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital in New York. What made it even more shocking was that the attack at that hospital had been carried out by a former employee who was a physician. He reportedly wanted to take revenge on those whom he thought were responsible for the loss of his position as a physician at the hospital. A staff of the hospital said Dr. Bello threatened to come back to kill those he held responsible for the loss of his license to practice medicine. Two years after, he made good his threat.
My initial reaction was of shock, disbelief and then anger. Dr. Henry Bello, a family physician, had shot and killed one person and injured several others before taking his own life with a gunshot to his chest. This happened within hours of another attack in the Las Vegas area where a pain clinic was attacked by a gunman. Why would anyone do something so horrible? Hospitals are supposed to be places where people come to find help, not a place where their fears and anxieties are amplified. Reports from the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital said Bello was a troubled man. He had also been accused of sexual assault. Methinks mental health issues were also at play here and he should have been encouraged to get help. Does that justify his actions? No! There’s nothing right about what happened to all those people and it could easily have been anyone of us.
Mental health issues among health professionals are often never discussed. In fact, it is mostly a taboo and in some countries, licensure would be difficult if not impossible if it was known that a health professional had ever had a mental illness. As a result, many professionals don’t seek the help they need to live a healthful life. No wonder then that suicide rates among physicians are high. It trickles down to medical students as well.
Issues regarding mental health should be in the open. It is wrong to stigmatize anyone because they are dealing with mental health challenges. Wrong! We need to address the elephant in the room. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. Stigma is wrong on all counts.
My thoughts go out to those who are in so such pain because of this senseless act of violence especially to the grieving family of the physician who died in this tragedy. The staff and patient of the hospital are hopefully getting the help they need to help them overcome the trauma they experienced. Hopefully, this incident and the trauma it has caused will compel hospitals to begin to take the security of their staff more seriously.