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Dear COA Family,

For those of you who have followed the Winter Olympics Games in Beijing which ended last week, I’m sure you would have been aware of this heartbreaking incident.

Kamila Valieva, a 15-yr old Russian skater who was heavily favoured to do well in her free skating event, fell repeatedly in her routine while executing her quadruple jumps. As a result, she tumbled from first place to fourth place in the medal rankings. She was understandably distraught at her performance.

Yet instead of receiving assurance and comfort from her minders, she was severely reprimanded for her poor showing. Her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, was heard criticising her repeatedly when she exited the rink: “Why did you let it go? Why did you stop fighting? Explain it to me — why? You let it go after that axel. Why?”

Such a response by the coach reflects a culture where we measure a person’s worth by his or her achievements. If we are not careful, we can extend such expectations towards our young who are most ill-equipped to cope with such pressures to excel.

Just this week, too, I was at St Andrew’s Junior College to pray for all the students who received their eagerly-anticipated A level results. Many students I met were very nervous while waiting for their results. Some broke down after seeing how they had fared. The teachers were told to look out especially for those who had underperformed, to comfort and counsel them. The principal also made a special effort to reassure the students publicly that their self-worth was not determined by their academic scores.

All of these reflect an underlying ethos within our society which values a person’s achievements above his or her intrinsic self-worth.

Yet the bible tells us that this perspective is wrong. Psalm 139: 14 says,
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

The Lord values us as his children more than what we can do or achieve for him. We are all valuable and precious to him. And he treats our children in the same way as well.

Let us all be God’s instruments to communicate love and care for our young people for who they are – God’s gracious gifts to us. And let us be careful not to place undue pressures on them to succeed, but to bring them up in the love and knowledge of our Lord.

God bless,
Revd Ian