Robert & Kay Camenisch encouraging and equipping relationships

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What Kind of World Do You Want?

See the source imageWhat kind of world do you want for 2018? One full of confusion, self-centeredness, animosity, judgment, bitterness, hatred, and strife? Or one of humility, love, respect, harmony, peace, and joy?

More descriptive words are unnecessary, because the answer is obvious.

What is not so obvious is how to get from here to there. The negative is not as pervasive as I listed, but we’ve moved too far in that direction and too rapidly for comfort.

The only way I know to turn it around and move in the opposite direction is for a revival across the land. We as a whole, but beginning with the church, need to turn to the Lord and to put Him first in our lives. We can pray diligently for that to happen.

Meanwhile, I think I know one thing that we’ve done to lead us to the mess we’re in, and we can do something to reverse that trend.

We have embraced self-centeredness and have trained our children in it. (No, not everybody, but it is far too common, and it leads to destruction.)

It begins with babies and toddlers being the center of attention, with everybody watching in delight with each new achievement. Their every feat and funny (or outrageous) remark is repeated to family and friends.

I know, that’s natural because they are adorable and each step of progress or funny anecdote is worth sharing. The problem comes when the child grows to expect life to be centered around him or her.

Is it normal for life to always be centered around a responsible, well-adjusted adult? It is a sad case when an adult expects such attention, but that’s what we’re training our kids to be when they hear their every deed talked about, are constantly entertained, are always allowed to make their own decisions as to what they want to do (wear, eat, go, . . .), and are allowed to monopolize conversation and activity in the midst of an adult gathering.

The Lord set children in families and gave parents the responsibility of training them—not just of feeding, clothing, and entertaining them. We’re to train our children for successful adulthood. A three-year-old that is allowed to set the agenda of a family gathering by demanding constant attention is leading the family and being trained in self-centeredness. Parents need to step up and lead or the child will not be prepared for adulthood.

Young children who are allowed to be the center of attention will have to unlearn self-centeredness if they are to learn to respect and appreciate others, obey authority, and be responsible, much less to listen, be compassionate, or be a team player.

I may be over-reacting, but lately I’ve been in a situation where eight adults in a room were unable to have a conversation because of the rowdiness of two small children in their midst. The children were vying for attention, crying because they didn’t get their way, or making so much noise that conversation was impossible.

I also know of teens who are disrespectful to all authority, teens who don’t do chores and are given things and money freely. They’re not eager to get their driver’s license, an education, or a job. They spend their time on the phone or playing games.

Too many young adults can’t hold a job because they are late or don’t report to work when they want to do something else. They don’t want to grow up.They’re content being free to do what they please while someone else carries the responsibilities.

The problems carry into adulthood. The disrespect and lack of civility among our political leaders sounds like bickering among children that have no training. They compete to be the center of attention. If somebody doesn’t agree with them, they say or do something to discredit that person (or group). Tit for tat continues as each side demands to be heard and to defeat the other.

In all three scenarios, a major problem is an expectation that life centers around the individual, and the individual has the freedom to do as they please, with no respect for others or their beliefs and convictions. It seems boundaries or guidelines for civil behavior have vanished.

I’m not exempt from the problem. While I try to hold my tongue, far to often, I realize that things that irritate me are things of little consequence—except that they interrupt my agenda or cause me discomfort. I react to things that aren’t the way I want. At times, my “wants” are based on the Word of God and are bigger than me. That’s a different matter, but too often, it’s personal preference.

We can only see life through our own eyes and experiences. Without effort, we only experience our own personal needs, comforts, and desires. We have an in-born tendency to please Self.

And yet, nothing trips us up in relationships–or walking in righteousness–as quickly as self-centeredness. It is the source of pride. It is the foundation of most hurt feelings and arguments.

Nevertheless, if we create a self-centered environment for our children in our  efforts to show them love, we’re training them to be self-centered.

Kudos to the parents who sacrifice to teach their children to respect others, obey authority, and consider others as more important than themselves. It’s a difficult and daily task, but one well worth the effort. There are many parents who gallantly try, but they’re not as noisy as the self-centered ones, so we don’t hear from them as much. But they do stand out because of their contrast to the crowd.

So, what can we do if we desire a world of humility, love, joy, and peace? First, pray for Jesus to change our hearts, for a revival, a turning back to God. We need Jesus to change hearts if we want real change.

Second, we can work on ourselves, seeking God’s help and grace to not be self-centered, but to walk in humility, being gentle and patient, sowing love, joy, and peace so that God will be glorified through us. (See Rom. 12:2-3, 2 Tim. 2:24-26, Titus 3:1-11, 1 Pet. 5:5-11.)

Third, as parents, grandparents, or those who are involved with young children, we need to be intentional in training children to rule over their self-centered tendencies so they will be successful as adults and will be instruments of peace in our world.

Daily we are faced with the question of what kind of world we want. And daily, we answer the question through the choices we make. The question is whether or not we are aware of the significance of those choices.

What kind of world do you want?

PS. Three days after posting this I read a post by Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders. He further develops ideas on how to help children succeed as adults. Check out his comments on “How to Make Snowmen From a Snowflake Generation” at https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1#inbox/16109347dd4200bc .