Friday, January 27, 2012

Be a Heavyweight Champion

There is a great story about John L. Sullivan who was once the heavyweight prizefighting champion of the world. It's related by John Holt in Teach Your Own.

"Late one afternoon he and a friend were riding standing up in a crowded New York City streetcar. At one stop a burly young man got on who had had too much to drink. He swaggered down the center of the car, pushing people out of his way and as he passed John L, he gave him a heavy shove on the shoulder. John L. clutched the strap to keep from falling, but said nothing. As the young man went to the back of the car, John L.'s friend said to him, " Are you going to let him get away with that?" John L. shrugged and said, "Oh, I don't see why not." His friend became very indignant. "You're the heavyweight champion of the world," he said furiously. "You don't have to be so damned polite." To which John L. replied, "The heavyweight champion of the world can afford to be polite."

The world is full of people bristling at the slightest offense, jumping up to defend themselves ferociously. We need more people around that can afford to be polite. We ourselves need to get to the point where we can afford to be polite: to each other, to our children, and to ourselves. It is one of my objectives as a parent to raise a heavyweight champion, who can afford to let the insults and the bumps and pushes slide, because he is secure in his own worth. The best way to teach children things is, of course, to model them yourself. And not just to model the values you want him to hold, but to really be the kind of person that you want your children to grow up to be.

The world would be a lot better off if parents stopped lecturing/punishing/worrying about our children's behavior and worked on our own.

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