human doings

Jan 13, 2010

Human Doings.

I recently read this phrase on a TJEd discussion board and instantly fell in love with it. It will become a fabulous way for me to remember that I am a being, not a doing.

What exactly are we teaching our children when we value results, actions, and behavior instead of patience, forgiveness, and tenacity? Now, I am not saying any of us actually make a conscious choice to value the former over the latter, but perhaps we do it with our actions. Perhaps?

When we praise the child with straight A’s and the child who struggles is left with a cursory “good job” we have spoken our priorities loud and a clear. When we finish a child’s project for them because they are taking sooooo long, I think we send a message of results, not process, adult excellence, not childhood attempts. When we want children to sit still and stop wiggling this very minute, we might be sending the message that their holding still behavior is far more important than anything else. When finishing gets more glory than learning how to work, learning how to figure something out, or learning what failure feels like, children learn very quickly that results are all that are important.

I was raised with the phrase “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” While I agree that that is a true statement, I also know from firsthand experience that it is paralyzing. If you cannot do something well, where does it leave you? If you don’t have time to do it well right this minute, what are you to do then?

I have come to love the phrase “Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first.” It conveys to me that I don’t have to do everything well. I certainly don’t have to do everything – or anything for that matter – perfectly. If it is worth doing well, then it is worth the time it takes to learn how to do it. It is worth the effort of watching others, reading books, practicing, disciplining, trying different approaches, asking questions, and keeping on keeping at it. It is worth it!

I have told myself for years that I cannot sew. I am quite handicapped in this area, that is true. BUT, as I have embraced the mantra of  “Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first,” I have decided to keep trying, to reach out to others that can help me, and to not beat myself up for my less than stellar results.

And guess what? I have made some pretty cute things! My children’s deluxe pencil rolls turned out adorable AND they love them. Love them to pieces. They use them all the time and they show them to their friends with pride in their voices. I have made a few things for friends that are beloved by them, perhaps because they know how much love, unpicking, and hair pulling went into sewing them. I have decided to keep trying even though it is really hard for me.

I want my children to know I adore them because they are children of God. They are mine. They are lovable. It doesn’t really matter to me what they do – it matters to me who they are. But even if they become someone I don’t like because of what they do OR who they are, I want them to know I will still love them. I want them to really learn that anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first. I want them to be willing to try new things even if they aren’t very good at them. I want them to know that their value is so not dependent on what they do.

I think its time to change the song “I Am a Child of God.” You know the part about “teach me all that I must do?” I think it should be “teach me all that I must be.” Should I try to change it?

Being. Becoming. I think that is what this life is all about.


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  1. Great food for thought, Tracy!

  2. Becky

    Thank you for this. I really needed to hear it and I’m starting to feel more hopeful. Hooray for doing things worth doing poorly (at least at first)! Thanks for making a difference for me.

  3. Good post. I’ve explored the idea of failure being o.k. in a few posts at my blog, and I see the fear of failure as a major obstacle for most people. It certainly was for me. As a homeschooling mom of 6, though, I’ve had to learn to let go of the need for control. Once I accomplished that feat, I learned to relinquish the need to succeed, but I stil struggle with it, at times. I guess the next hurdle I need to overcome is the mistaken notion of being a “human doing.” It’s difficult for me to be in the moment. I often have my seven-month-old baby nursing and sleeping in my lap for an hour or more, but I seldom look at her beautiful face! My nose is buried in a book. I realize my limitations, but I still have days when I worry about not accomplishing enough in the way of lessons. Questions like, “What if we don’t finish this book by the end of the year?” nag at me. It’s at those low points that I don’t see the wisdom of taking the time to fail and learn and finally do it right, benefiting from the entire process, not just the end product.

    • tracy

      Welcome Cheryl! Thank you for your words – they hit home with me as well. I often nurse at the computer and can go for a whole nursing session without even really connecting to my baby in an emotional-spiritual way. Even though we are physically connected! It is always a wake up call to me when that happens that I need to snuggle her in close with my heart, not just my arms.

  4. Anne

    Wonderful post! I love that saying, too. “We are human beings, not human doings.” I don’t know who said that first, but it is so wise! Here’s to the joy of BEING! :)