Author Dr. Skip Downing wrote about understanding emotional intelligence, which is, as I see it, one's ability to be aware of how emotion — rational or irrational — affects life choices. Two educators — I have forgotten their names — wrote that most people operate at a kindergarten level and that means, "It's not my fault! I had poor parenting, a dysfunctional home, bad neighborhood and poor potty training to name a few."
An experiment in the 1960s did a pretty good job of proving how important personal emotional awareness or the lack of personal emotional awareness affects students' future. Children at a preschool were told they could have one piece of candy right now or if they could wait 10 minutes could have two. I believe the test was called immediate or delayed gratification.
"No big deal," you say? Well, since the researchers were very keen on their findings, they took another look at the subject children some 12 to 15 years later. Here's what was found. Those kindergarten children who were able to wait long enough to get the two pieces of candy — delayed gratification — were better high school students, scored an average of 210 pints higher on the SAT and experienced fewer social difficulties than those children who displayed immediate gratification.
I have a question or two of my own about some factors those researchers didn't include. Just hang on for a couple of minutes. You'll get two pieces of candy. Maybe. Gee whiz!
Some of the happiest married couples I know have almost identical stories. They told me how truly poor — in material stuff — they were and how hard they had to work just to get by as they adjusted to one another, sacrificed to complete their education, gave up such expected things like moves, trips and nights out. They told me how they could feel the breeze coming through the cracks in the walls, setting the kitchen on fire while learning to make someone's favorite meal, driving an old clunker, counting change to see if there was enough for a Big Mac they could split and the day when they — it's always they and not just he or she — got the first raise, job promotion and could finally see daylight. They always looked at one another and told me those were some truly wonderful times. They held hands and smiled. Sound familiar?
I also remember some couples who had it all! They were the perfect couple, had the story-book romance and were given cars, houses, unbelievable honeymoons and expectations were very high. Many — and I mean many — of those perfect beginnings ended in failure and heard more than once, "We didn't have to work for anything. Maybe that was the problem. We had it all."
My delayed questions, "Did the researchers understand the process of life? Did they know the backgrounds of those children: parenting, education, security, discipline...?"
And now my personal questions. "God, why did You not make life easy for me, give me all I ever wanted from the start, give me only the obvious choices, remove any doubts, bless me with a photographic memory, good knees and the other stuff I don't have enough room to mention?"
The answer comes quickly, "Come on, John! Get serious. I think you already know."
Yes, I do know. I have had a lifetime to understand and cherish what has been given to me and I would not change a thing. Thank you, God.
Back up for just a tad. God gave us — at the very beginning — freedom of choice to make immediate or delayed decisions. We've all eaten dessert before we were forced to eat that okra or black-eyed peas. We've all not counted to 10 before we acted. We've all made some whopper mistakes! That's how we learn.
God tests us. He never fails us. You've the rest of the day to complete what you've started.