Lim: To break or to become better

Melanie Lim.
Melanie Lim.File photo

I felt a twinge of regret after I clicked SEND last week. Was I too harsh? Should I have given them a break?

They who feel entitled to everything without lifting a finger. They who believe all must be handed to them on a silver platter. They who do just because they can.

I was indulged but I was not entitled. My parents lectured a lot and they didn’t say they’d love me, no matter what.

My mother always told me that whatever we had we should not frivolously spend or waste because while we could be better off tomorrow than today, we could also be worse off. We should always save for the rainy day.

Not once did my father ever say that the world was mine for the taking. Instead, he always told me I had to work for everything. So, I grew up with the premise that life was hard. I couldn’t expect any favors from anyone. I had to be tough to survive.

Despite the kind of upbringing, circumstances or experiences we may have, at the end of the day, it’s up to us—to break or to become better.

I almost broke. But I didn’t. It took a while but I did become better. I look back and I am grateful—for the pain, the hard times and the heartbreak. What doesn’t kill you does make you stronger.

Your childhood can be tough. But adulthood can be tougher. Once in a while, life will throw you a wild card. You have to learn to play with the cards you’re dealt with. But if you survived boot camp at home, you can survive anything.

It’s up to us—to break or to become better.

Eighteen years ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with the newly-minted superior of my high school alma mater. She was confident that the students were intellectually prepared to take on the world. But she worried that they were pampered and protected all their lives. How, she asked, could these students develop strength of character?

It’s tough when you’ve had an easy life. Because it’s hardship that develops character. If you’ve never experienced any form of hardship in your life—it will take a bit more time for you to get there.

Like developing physical strength, you have to put in the work. And you have to experience some pain. You’re not going to get those muscles lying on your couch all day.

That’s what worries me, more than anything else. More than the rising index of idiocy, indolence and indifference—it’s the rejection of selflessness and sacrifice, the worship of money and metrics, the appetite for the fast buck and the quick fix.

They do get to enjoy their lives more than we did. But are they happier? Are they more fulfilled? Do they have more meaningful relationships? They know what they are entitled to. But do they know what to be grateful for?

It’s the dearth of soul, conscience, morals, manners—that’s what worries me most.

I don’t think I was too harsh. I don’t think I should have given them a break. Because if I did, the world would break. And I don’t want that. I want the world to be better.


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