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Chapel Speech: Learning Freedom from Fear

Chapel Speech: Learning Freedom from Fear of Failure and Embracing Imperfection as a Part of Growth
Felicity Wong, Grade 9

[Students from Class Eight were invited to deliver speeches during morning chapel to the Lower School. This speech was written and delivered last spring.]

The counselor secured the high ropes harness onto my body, as I asked myself why I signed up for this camp activity. Despite my acrophobia, I forced my friend and myself to climb the pamper pole. I took a deep breath and climbed, looking up at the two-inch pegs and to the top of the 30-foot telephone pole.

Perfection has always been my idea of success: being a model student who always earned A+s on her report card; being a model friend who was always fun, popular, and loyal; being a model person who always tries her best and perseveres to overcome all odds. However, attaining this perfection is impossible, because we are humans and sinners. Wilberforce taught me to embrace this imperfection. Instead of trying to be a perfect sinner, my teachers have taught me to learn through my mistakes. The "growth mindset" involves taking risks -- many risks I was not ready to take when I was in the classroom. Wilberforce is known for its unique classroom dynamic: learning and exploration is fueled by the power of peer discussion. Tables are arranged in a circular order to encourage peer-to- peer communication. I remember in Class Six, being uncomfortably wedged in a corner, shakily holding a book, burning with fear that I would be called on to answer a question. I was afraid to get the answer wrong, that my classmates would judge me, of not being perfect. But one cannot do anything if one isn't brave enough to try. My teachers guided me and helped me overcome this seemingly unconquerable fear. Thank you, Mr. Young, for telling me to share my thoughts during Bible class, however irrelevant and redundant I thought they were. Thank you Mrs. van Elswyk and Ms. Krall for starting and fostering my love for literature. Thank you to countless other teachers: I am now able to sit at the table and openly share my thoughts, building a classroom community that will teach me much more than being perfect ever will. To quote Mr. Yang: "It's okay to fail." If we aren't brave enough to fail, we never learn.

With each step, the telephone pole wobbled, I became less confident, and nausea escalated. "Can I come down?" I asked. "Just keep on going and take deep breaths," my counselor replied. I clenched my stomach and pushed my leg off the first peg.

I like to be confident and successful at whatever I do, such as piano, public speaking, and languages. That's why I didn't like the idea of joining the cross-country team in Class 7. I've been battling asthma for all my life, and I was born with low pain tolerance, so I never attained the exercise I needed. At practices, I'm plagued with chest pain, asthma attacks, and wheezing. Nevertheless, I joined the cross-country team. Wilberforce taught me to push through and persevere: just because I'm not spectacular at something doesn't mean I can't try my best. Thank you, Mr. Owen, for giving off positive energizing vibes, and Coaches Wright and Stowe for teaching me hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Wilberforce has taught me to push and "run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." (Hebrews 12:1a-2)

I reached the top two pegs, my legs crouched and shaking, my body unsteadily swaying at the peak of the wooden pole. Nausea rose throughout my chest while my eyes admired the pristine forest. I stood up tall and proud. I leapt off as my cabin members cheered for me. My life was in the hands of the seven who gently lowered me down to the ground after my body hung suspended mid-air. It is no wonder the jump off the pamper pole is called the "leap of faith."

Wilberforce has helped me grow in my faith and relationship with God. Weekly Friday chapels provoke deep inner-thoughts that help me delve into my questions about Christianity. Wilberforce has taught me to trust God. As a "fail-phobic," I worry what the future has in store for me; I've been taught to lean on God, trusting Him and dedicating my life to Him.

My experiences are also applicable to my school life, my relationship with God, and beyond. My six years at Wilberforce have taught me valuable lessons of bravery, perseverance, humility, and faith. I will always remember my teachers, friends, and Wilberforce community who have mentored and taught me about trying my best for God, not for myself. Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."