The Worst Mistake You Don’t Know You’re Making

In high school, I had a teacher, Mrs. Kuntz, who was so tough on her students that we all feared failing her class. Never before had I worried so much about earning a passing grade, but her high standards made me wonder if I had what it took.

letter writing

At the end of the semester, I wrote a book report and had to pull an all-nighter to finish it. The next day, I turned it in.

When Mrs. Kuntz returned the marked-up version, my heart dropped into my stomach as I saw all the red marks covering the paper. Furiously flipping through 15 paper-clipped pages, I arrived at the last one.

There it was in bold, red ink:

95%. A.

The teacher who rarely gave out good grades and never offered empty praise gave me something special, something I was sure the other students didn’t get. And below the grade was a note:

Please consider a career as a journalist or professional writer. You have a gift.

Nobody had ever said anything like that to me. I still have the paper today.

Words like that, affirming words from mentors and teachers and even strangers, make us into the people we become.

I’m embarrassed to admit this

There’s something powerful about words. They can tell a person she matters or that you believe in her. But they can also tear down and destroy, hurt and wound and make a person question everything about himself.

There’s no denying it: words have weight. So why do we often disregard their power?

For the past couple years, my wife and I have sponsored two children through two different child sponsorship organizations. And every so often, we get a letter from one, which we read, stick on the refrigerator, and then quickly forget about.

Apart from reading those letters and rarely responding, these kids have not been a part of our lives. I have never gone out of my way to tell them I believe in them or love them or think they’re special.

And I am so very ashamed of this.

Because today, I saw what those words can mean to a child.

Read the rest of this post from Jeff Goins at Goins, Writer.

3 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Kathleen Auen February 28, 2014

    I was thinking earlier today that I have been sponsoring Wood for eight months. My commitment to myself when I began was that I would write to him once a month. I have only written him once, although he has written me three times. I feel like I’m failing him as a sponsor. It’s much more than sending money once a month.

  2. Denise Richards February 21, 2014

    I am new to compassion. Thank you for the story I will be sure to write to my sponsor child often.

  3. Allison Russell February 21, 2014

    I realized after reading this post that I was wearing a very big smile on my face! I am a high school special education teacher and I constantly hear people saying, “well your kids can’t do that, can they?” or, “it’s not like they’ll have a real job after school”. This breaks my heart and makes me a little more angry every time I hear things like this. My students are capable of so much, but all they ever hear from people is how they are inadequate or can’t do this and that. I inherited a new class this year from a teacher who thought that they were not capable of much and didn’t push them to do their best. The students came to me saying “I don’t know how to add without a calculator” or “I can’t write”. Over time with me telling them yes they can, and using some tough love, my students are doing things they, and their families, never thought possible. I don’t think people understand the power of positive motivation! I’m not a miracle worker by any means, but all I had to do was tell them daily that they were capable of so much and hold them to higher expectations then their achievement increased to higher and higher levels. Never underestimate positive thinking and speaking!

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