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Striving for Character, Better Than Making A’s

Our culture is quite clear: the path to success is through education. No doubt, becoming smarter is essential, but academic equipping is not the most important thing according to God’s Word. For all of you students who did not make straight A’s this year, I want to encourage your heart and refocus your priorities.

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Tristen passed her Algebra class this year. The news came in yesterday. She texted me, and I texted back that I was nearly in tears. She worked so hard this year, especially in Algebra.

God did not give her an “Algebra brain,” so every point she earned to get her grade up to passing came from her appropriation of His grace into her life. For an entire year! What you can’t know is how hard it was for her.

Tristen has stayed up nearly all night to work on her assignments. Most of her school days, Monday – Friday, were 15 to 18 hour days. She collapsed every Saturday, sleeping at times into the afternoon. I’m not lying. She has worked more than a full-time job this year to get through school, especially Algebra.

She has missed most of her church small group meetings. She lost a lot of family time as she nestled herself around her computer at her little desk in the corner of her bedroom. For nine months! She missed much because she needed to work harder than most students to pass this course.

We met with her teacher to learn how to serve Tristen better. We found a tutor to see if that would help. She made many sacrifices, and that is why I was nearly in tears. I met her as she rolled into the garage to give her a long hug, which was a mixture of relief and celebration. I could not be any more encouraged by her effort this year.

The Best A

We’ve never pressed our children to get A’s from their schoolwork. Making an A is not irrelevant to us. Don’t read what I’m not saying, but the liabilities of some children striving for A’s are profoundly stronger, especially if God did not give them a “straight A brain.”

The primary thing that has always mattered regarding our children’s schoolwork is their character. E.g., are you doing your best? Are you working hard? Are you resisting laziness and procrastination? Are you grateful for what you get? Do you celebrate with others who do better than you? Are you content with your efforts?

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33

Some will argue that making A’s will get you in the best colleges and lower your college tuition. Of course, they can do that, but Jesus was clear that if you seek God’s kingdom first, all these “Gentile pursuits” will be added to you.

Read those questions again. One hundred times out of one hundred, I want my children to excel on those questions first of all. And if they do “pass” the character grade, they will be seeking God’s kingdom primarily, and He will add all the necessary “Gentile perks” to them.

A Word to the Smart Ones

Ironically, I have counseled many educated and wealthy people in my life. The A’s they made and the colleges they attended did not help them with the more important matters of life, i.e., spiritual maturity, happy marriages, and biblically trained children.

I am not “pooh-poohing” education. I would never do that. But I would prioritize the order of the essential things in life, and a person’s character is at the top of the list when it comes to personal responsibility, not their grades, college choice, or earning power.

When I think of my daughter, I don’t focus on her lack of A’s. I think about her perseverance, patience, ability to guard her heart against worry, rejoicing in others who are ahead of her in class order, grateful for passing, daily joy, contentment with herself, self-control, lack of procrastination, resisting laziness, and sacrifice.

There are many more things that I could add to this list. God has done an excellent job by not giving her an Algebra brain. Her class this year was her “micro opportunity” to test her to see how she will respond to the later hardships that are certain to come.

If she continues to apply the character traits from her “Algebra year” to the rest of her life, she will be super-successful in whatever path the Lord has for her (Proverbs 16:9).

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. – Joshua 1:8

One Final Thought

When you meet and interact with someone, what are the things that you think about regarding them? It’s their character, right? Think about your friends. Your thoughts about your friends are along the lines of how they treat you, how they treat others, the joy or disappointment you experience by being around them.

You feel drawn to them because of their character, or you don’t want to associate with them because of the kind of person that they are. A person’s character qualities determine your thoughts and interactions with them.

Most certainly, when you’re seeking professional help, you want someone competent. There are “God-given A students” who are smart enough to provide competent and professional services. I praise God for these men and women. But their academic prowess does not make them better than the non-A students; it means they are working with the capacities that God gave them.

But if their character is not what God teaches, it would be wise to keep them out of your inner circle of closest and most trusted friends. I’d prefer my children marry individuals with high character, but barely made it through high school than marrying the Valedictorian with sketchy morals and a low view of God.

Call to Action

  1. Are you pressing your child to become what God did not give them ability to do? How do you know?
  2. Does your child embarrass you because he/she is not making as good of grades as another child?
  3. What is more important to you: your child’s grades or their character? Why did you answer that way?
  4. How does Matthew 6:33 apply to you parenting your child through their academic years?
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