What's in a Name?

Ecstasy (n)- 2. Excessive joy; rapture; a degree of delight that arrests the whole mind; joy may rise to ecstasy. (Websters 1828 Dictionary)
Doldrums (n)- A sate of inactivity or stagnation.(Dictionary.com)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Generation Me: Self View

In 1734 Eliza Lucas’ father headed to Antigua to rejoin his regiment in the war against Spain, leaving his daughter to care for His three large plantations, her toddler sister and her ailing mother. She was delighted to do these things for her father and set to work to accomplish the task of maintaining order in and without the house, even exercising creativity in developing indigo as a cash crop, among other things. Eliza was just sixteen years old.

In today’s society we can’t even fathom a sixteen year old taking on such responsibility (although I know my fare share of sixteens who could)! The expectations we have of them is not very high at all: do well in school, go to college, get a job. Anything beyond these things (which are mere duties for which the accomplishment of these things by teenagers should be taken for granted) is viewed to be “above average.” Nothing is expected of them in regards to serving their families and looking out to the interests of others. Oh, no! Let them “enjoy life” and “have fun.”

Generation Me is encouraged to have a high “self-esteem,” to be somebody, be unique, love themselves and focus on meeting their own needs and their own sense of self-importance. We have allowed ourselves to become obsessed with feeling good about ourselves to the point where any hint of an unloving thought toward ourselves makes us break out the self-help books and call a therapist!

The thought of simply being normal or anything less than stunning or merely blending in terrifies us! We have nurtured individualism in ourselves, wanting to be the starlet and amaze people. Individualism and uniqueness are the goals of life. We have cultivated these ideas into our hearts so that GenMe is the most Narcissistic generation in history (I’m not talking individual people- because there are plenty of men and women throughout history who were incredibly self-focused so that it effected the nation- I’m talking about an entity). Disgusting! We worship at the alter of Self in the forms of self-esteem and self-focus. Even believers are integrating these philosophies into their doctrine and world-view. 

As a result of all of this individualism and looking out for their own interests, GenMe has lost the sense of politeness and civility that would have been expected of them, had they been born a generation sooner. We have a difficult time trusting. A disrespect for authority is not only tolerated, but often encouraged. One professor had struggled with his students to get them to come to class, listen to his lectures and actually complete their homework assignments. The students claimed that they should be able to do whatever they wanted and turn in their homework when they pleased! GenMe also has no sense of community outside their own peer groups and even then it’s not usually a give and take relationship, but just friendships that focus on themselves. This is largely due to the individualism so encouraged in them. 

Generation Me also has a tell-all mentality. One 24 year old was quoted in Generation Me: 

“In my generation, as opposed to my parents’ and grandparents’, we are told to express our feelings and anger and sadness about our surroundings and not to hold them in. We are an emotionally spoiled generation. It can lead to more dramatic emotions when you are always discussing, sharing and analyzing them as our generation is led to feel they should do.”

Much of how GenMe is ending up is blamed on their parents or the culture around them. While these two groups do have a direct effect on each GenMe’er, I believe the true blame is on us. We have accepted these lies quite freely and have run with them. So, what do we do about it? We rebel.

What??? Isn’t that part of the problem? You may say. Don’t misunderstand this, please. I’m referring to a holy rebellion; what Brett and Alex Harris call in their book Do Hard Things a rebellion against low expectations. We want to stop listening to Satan’s lies of selfishness that come straight from the pit and trade them for a cleansing truth and pursuit of holiness that is first centered around Christ and then seeks to look out for others.

The major weapon of this holy rebellion? The Sword of the Spirit (aka The Word of God). Just what does the Bible say about being self-focused?

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.

Romans 12:10 (In fact, most of the chapter deals with thinking about God and others, rather than ourselves)

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 2:4

Love....does not seek its own..

1 Corinthians 13

There are two antidotes for this epidemic of selfishness that pervades, not just this generation, but all generations. What are they?

#1 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. In doing this we realize that we are only made righteous because of a Holy, perfect God. We did nothing on our own, so why should we think so highly of ourselves? We really shouldn't! Instead, we should set our minds on God, Who He is in all of His splendor and perfection. When we do this, our view of man will be proper. 

We need to know that we are as worms and our only worth is due to God. Yes, he created us in a fearful and wonderful way and each human has value because we are created in God’s image. But, you see, it really has nothing to do with us! We need to have a balanced view of ourselves and find our confidence in Christ, not in self.

Upon visiting America, the Duke of Windsor sarcastically said, “The thing that impressed me the most about America is the way the parents obey their children.” This is all, on side of parent and child, rooted in selfishness. When parents give their children choices over every little detail (“Now Jonny, would you like cheese on your broccoli or salt?” “What movie would you like to watch?” “What would you like to play for a game?”) it teaches them that their wants are the most important agenda. When we realize that God’s wants are the most important, our view of self will fall into its proper place.

#2 Love your neighbor as yourself. Loving ourselves, that’s not such a hard thing, is it? Loving our neighbor takes a little more effort. When we prefer the desires and needs of others above our own, we are defeating this sin of self-worship. As women, we truly want to surrender our time and energies to the service of others, most importantly those in our immediate family. Your closest neighbors, as single women, are your father, mother and siblings. Seeking to further the vision of our fathers and aiding our mothers, should be how we seek to serve first.

Ladies, will you join me in breaking the Generation Me stereotype and help create a whole sect of 1 Timothy 4:12ers.

So, just what happened to Eliza Lucas? She married a godly man, had children,  resolved to be the best wife and mother she could be by the grace of God, helped the cause of the revolutionists by raising up a solid son by the name of Charles Pinckney who was one of the great statesmen, Governor of South Carolina in fact, and soldiers in the revolutionary war. What a gentle rebel! And it all started when she was just sixteen.

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