Sometimes The Best Way To Support Me Is To Thwart Me

Growing up, I was part of a Boy Scout Troop that met in an old converted house. I have a lot of good memories associated with that building, some of which stand out so vividly that I can almost smell the musty walls again—like the time the Scoutmaster told me that I had failed my Board of Review and would not be progressing to the next rank. Meanwhile, my friends passed. I can still taste the embarrassment of that moment, but today I count it as a good memory, along with all the victories and laughter of those years. The fact is, I earned that failure. I went in overconfident and underprepared, fully expecting to be the best of the bunch by just showing up. When they asked me about the things I was supposed to know, I didn’t. So I really did fail, and they let me. They could have bailed me out and given me the rank anyway to spare my feelings, but I’m glad they didn’t.

I was young, but the experience sobered me. It showed me that thinking you’re a success doesn’t make you one. It taught me to take the Scout motto seriously and “Be Prepared” for the next time—and I was. When I faced the Review again, I was more than ready, and the Scoutmaster was beaming when he delivered the good news afterwards. With the enthusiastic support of the Troop and the leaders who had thwarted me, I ended up with every rank the Boy Scouts had to offer. Thanks to my failure (and others like it), I also learned to work hard to be ready for whatever was coming, and to never take success for granted. Their support gave me more than improved self-esteem. Their support gave me an improved self.

I’ve had a lot to learn in the years since I left Boy Scouts, but I’ve found that many of the best lessons have come the same way: At the hands of people who cared enough about me to thwart me when I needed it. Like the Board of Review, they saw my pride and carelessness, and refused to let it slide. They saw my destructive choices and heard my self-justifications, and refused to affirm them. They loved me enough to stop me in my tracks, help me find a better path forward, and walk with me on the way.

So to everyone who has cared enough to thwart me when I needed it, I just want to say: Thanks for the support.

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