Yes or No to Emotional Maturity … That is the Question
Did you happen to catch the recent blog post by Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University? It’s titled This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University! The short piece is a great read and packs a powerful punch at cultural tolerance.
In the words of Dr. Piper, “This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt ‘victimized’ by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter). It appears this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love. In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.“
Truth That Hurts Can be a Good Thing
“I’m not making this up,” continues Piper. “Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them ‘feel bad’ about themselves, is a ‘hater,’ a ‘bigot,’ an ‘oppressor,’ and a ‘victimizer.'”
Which is why on some college campuses students were recently provided with designated “safe spaces” in which to process their life-stopping grief over the presidential election. Perhaps they also received milk and cookies as they hunkered down in these comfort rooms?
I don’t mean to be unkind. Or rude. Or condescending. But come on! Over the last 20 years, we’ve have done our youth a major disservice. The worst part? They don’t realize how much we’ve stunted their emotional maturity with our helicopter parenting and unrelenting focus on their self-esteem and comfort. We don’t want them to fear or fail! Thank you, cultural tolerance.
Jonathan Helwink, an attorney and history professor writes in response to the “safe spaces” movement: “When we limit students’ ability to discuss controversial ideas, we allow harmful prejudices and thoughts to fester. Classrooms should offer more….When certain speech is punished, or forbidden by trigger warnings or safe spaces, students are not constructively confronted about their (alleged) racism, sexism, et cetera, through reasoned argument. Instead, they are silenced through intimidation and threatened punishments. In the meantime, the erroneous thoughts are not displaced; instead, they persist without challenge.”
Egads. Really, people? Is that the societal standard we should be aiming for?
Cultural Tolerance Fuels Helplessness
Remember when trophies were given just to the winners of an event? Now, every kid on the team gets some kind of ribbon or trophy, just to ensure they don’t feel bad or left out. Thank you, cultural tolerance. Last spring, at one of the local Texas high schools, National Honor Society students were prohibited by school administrators from wearing graduation stoles that signified their scholastic achievement. Why? Because the administrators worried that other kids would feel slighted or subpar. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Wait until they get a real job and have to face their first performance review!
Numerous news outlets covered the story. The local ABC affiliate did so with this headline: No National Honor Society Honors for Plano Senior High Grads. The Washington Times was a bit cheekier with its headline: School Bars Honors Insignia at Graduation to Protect Underachievers’ Feelings.
So is the message this: that it’s preferable to homogenize an event, rather than allow hardworking individuals to shine, to make sure everyone else feels “comfortable” and safe?
Look, I wasn’t a great student in high school or college — and yes, I felt a pang of envy at not being one of the super smart recognized at graduation. God did not give me the smartest brain, but I also had to admit that I had sloppy study habits, loved to procrastinate, and could be downright lazy about my coursework. I did not deserve to share the honor bestowed on the kids who had diligently and consistently put forth their best effort.
Even now I debate with myself whether, at the time, I would have appreciated my classmates not being allowed to wear their hard-won stoles just so I wouldn’t feel less than. But when I see that kids need safe spaces to deal with their discomfort, I am saddened by the effects of cultural tolerance. Fear — rather than faith — permeates every corner of society now. Many kids are clueless about who — and whose — they are.
Thankfully, my mother recognized early that I tended to be afraid of anything I hadn’t already tried. So what did she make me do? Jump in the deep end of the pool without floaties and dog paddle back to the shallows. Ski down a Blue slope when I kept clinging to the easy Greens. Go first when my gaggle of sisters visited the doctor for required immunizations (we all shudder at the sight of needles). She even made me order my own meals at restaurants, because I was afraid to talk to waiters.
I did not appreciate my mom’s seeming meanness at the time, but I am grateful that she instilled in me a “Just do it” mentality that benefits me now. I feel sorry for today’s youth who are not challenged to test their mettle. Mostly because they miss out on discovering which parts of themselves will burst forth and shimmer after they’ve endured a bit of heat from the frying pan. They miss out on knowing that they are stronger and more resourceful and capable than they believe possible.
But they also miss out on learning that God is the one who holds and carries them, and it is through Him that we’re able to become our best selves. Without internalizing just how much God loves and cares for us, we easily fall for fear. Especially as society makes good use of fear to attempt to control us. Fear makes our brains fog and our tummies hurt. It makes us want to hide under the covers and seek out “safe spaces.” But we need to grow up, because life is hard work. God has purposes for us to do, friends! Purposes that require our emotional — and spiritual — maturity.
Cultural tolerance tells us that “everything is good and fine and acceptable” — as are every person’s beliefs and lifestyle choices. The premise sounds noble and loving. But could it be that cultural tolerance is society’s primary tool to keep us soft? I mean, if you and I can’t be challenged — because, egad, that might make us feel bad — then isn’t society controlling us, rather than we taking ownership of ourselves? I think that’s one reason God cautions us to follow Him, rather than man. We humans, so easily, get led by our pesky, unreliable emotions.
Grow Up. We Need Your Best
Dr. Piper’s response to his this-guilt-I’m-feeling-is-yucky student? Basically, he tells the young man to grow up.
“If you want the chaplain to tell you you’re a victim rather than tell you that you need virtue, this may not be the university you’re looking for. If you want to complain about a sermon that makes you feel less than loving for not showing love, this might be the wrong place. If you’re more interested in playing the ‘hater’ card than you are in confessing your own hate; if you want to arrogantly lecture, rather than humbly learn; if you don’t want to feel guilt in your soul when you are guilty of sin; if you want to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them.”
In closing Piper adds, “Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a ‘safe place,’ but rather, a place to learn: to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others; that the bad feeling you have while listening to a sermon is called guilt; that the way to address it is to repent of everything that’s wrong with you rather than blame others for everything that’s wrong with them. This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up.”
To get directly to the point: “This is not a day care. This is a university.”
In our own lives, we might switch it up to say, “This is not a day care. It’s a marriage.” Or “This is not a day care. It’s parenting.” Or maybe even, “This is not a day care. It’s my place of employment.” In all of them we need to bring our best, mature self. That means dealing with disappointments, fears, loss. It means trusting that God has our backs, as His Word tells us that it does. We can take God’s promises as truth, even though our society is trying to push God to the sidelines.
While cultural tolerance touts that it wants society to be “inclusive” and “supportive” and “welcoming,” the truth is that it excludes ideas and principals that it doesn’t endorse. Go, Science! But God, you can just butt out. We don’t need you. We got this.
Really? Or do we have a swelling population of lost individuals who are expect to remain coddled toddlers? Why, asks one writer, do some people refuse to grow up? Simple, he says: In the big picture, it isn’t a cultural goal. If emotional maturity were emphasized as much as financial viability, more people would be mature.
I worry for us. We have lost our firm footing, thanks to political correctness and cultural tolerance. I see a lot of mewing kittens, but fewer wise lions. Emotional maturity is good for you, good for me, and great for our country. We need mature leaders, citizens of all ages who are willing to stand up and lean into their fears. We need to find courage to do the hard stuff — not demand the society make us feel comfortable. We need to grow strong in our understanding of who we are in Him.
I get that growth is hard work. There are days that I, too, want to just stay in bed all day and watch The Andy Griffith Show reruns. I want someone else to handle life so I can go play on the swing in the backyard. But I know I have to suck it up and simply deal with — via faith — all that God allows in my life. God promises to help us to overcome any obstacle, if we take our eyes off of ourselves and keep them on Him. But God also calls us to diligently commit to selflessness, as we serve others through Christ.
As iconic film star John Wayne put it, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” Wayne also said, “Life is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid.” His sentence still rings true if we change that last word to “helpless.”
Thought to Ponder
Where are you in your view of the world? Is it a scary place (okay, it can be) or is it your happy playground? Are you contributing to society, or coasting? Have you totally bought into the notion that your thoughts and feelings are so important that if anyone challenges them that you’re being attacked? If so, you can thank cultural tolerance.
This week, take stock of your life. Where are you purposefully not growing, because you simply won’t put yourself out there? Is God nudging you about something? Are you listening to his nudges, or seeking ways to silence His voice? Here’s your challenge this week: choose to grow yourself in one area that really scares you. It can be a small thing, or a big thing. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s a big deal to you. C’mon, you got this!