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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Poblacion Girl and discernment

Reader Briace Santos writes: “Thank you for the wonderful wisdom you share in your opinion pieces. They are fresh and succinct; important and useful in reaching the present state of readers across generations.

“In your recent piece (Money magnifies character, Dec. 23, 2021), your advice [to your student C who blames her classmates for not caring about other people in the pandemic] is to ignore them. ‘Ignore those who don’t care’ stayed with me, hence the reason I write.

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“Wouldn’t addressing the offenders be more viable instead of turning a blind eye? I understand confrontation requires paramount finesse and is never as simple; however, ideas on the application of tolerance suggest that mistakes need to be aptly corrected or called out lest they worsen. I feel that the passive mentality clouds the pacifist mindset that has confounded today’s society. I only wish that the youth would hold high the courage and wisdom to discern when to turn the other cheek and when to rebuke their neighbor.

“I only wish to gather further insights. I myself have plenty to work on so writing my thoughts is a step towards the right direction. You are an inspiration and I pray that this holiday season be wonderful for you and your loved ones.”

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My Reply

Thank you for your thoughtful letter, which raises valid points. I agree that turning a blind eye often makes things worse, but student C spends her time railing against what she believes to be the faults of her classmates rather than channeling her energies into more productive efforts.

It is not easy for entitled, nonresilient, undisciplined people to grow, and unless they experience major crises that require change, there is little that their peers can do to convince them to improve. Even parents and teachers find it frustrating to ask these students to hone their skills to help others, to refrain from cheating in exams, to stop blaming everyone else for their shortcomings.

Aside from asking C to ignore those who don’t care, I also advise her, “Focus on what you can do … Hone your skills, stop comparing yourself to others, learn and grow as much as you can.” This does not mean that C should keep quiet—she continues to speak out—but it is better for her to focus on what needs to be done rather than be distracted by others who do not care.

Discernment is key, as you say. American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer starts with these famous lines: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I echo your wish that our youth attain the courage and the wisdom for discernment. Research shows that family upbringing, role modeling, social media use have a significant impact, for good or ill, on how young people develop character, including empathy and reason (see my Dec. 2, 2016 column), grit and resilience (July 29 and Aug. 5, 2016).

The effects of formal education on character are mixed. Families often outsource values training to schools, but many teachers find it hard to counter students’ negative habits ingrained since childhood or beliefs based on what society displays, like corruption, lack of discipline, crab mentality.

The recent case of Poblacion Girl, a well-off young lady in a top school who allegedly bribed her way out of quarantine and infected others with the Omicron variant, is another egregious example.

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That said, one way towards wisdom is to seek guidance from trusted people—a favorite mentor, an empathetic relative, a true friend. Thank you for trusting me enough to say your piece and to request for insights in your learning journey. I wish you peace, wisdom and joy.

The Serenity Prayer ends thus: “Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” via Lazada, or the e-book via Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected]

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