Unfortunately, now we live in an age of entitlement. Our culture has migrated toward participation trophies and medals just for trying. We often hear this generation, my millennial generation, characterized as lazy, easily-offended, and entitled. A generation that believes their rights trump their responsibilities. Not all millennials demonstrate this behavior, but the majority of them certainly are giving us a bad rap.
However, those that identify as Christ-followers fall under a different category. Whether you are generation X, Y, or Z, we who identify as Christians are called to be Christ-like, we are to be counter-cultural. This means we are to give up our position, our rights, and our privileges because that’s the example Christ lead. This life just isn’t fair. It isn’t supposed to be fair. “Life isn’t fair get over it.” (I believe I’m quoting my second-grade elementary school teacher, if I remember correctly). We’re intended to crave a just world, a different world, that’s heaven.
But here we are on planet Earth living out our days waving around our rights and neglecting our responsibilities. I was an immature Christian feeling my rights trumped my responsibilities.
However, unlike the average millenial I actually choose not to watch PG-13 movies of my own volition and I never had this desire to wear skimpy clothes because spaghetti straps made me feel weird. I don’t recall feeling that my life was unfair compared to my peers. I actually intentionally choose to be different from them.
In my Stats class a guy apparently made a sexual innuendo while talking to our table group. I asked what he meant, and he said, “You’re a prude, Megan, you wouldn’t understand.” I actually had to look up what the word “prude” meant.
In my senior year of high school, I had a free fourth period. Instead of hanging out with friends during this time or going out to lunch, I marched my little patootie over to the library. And not just the “social” part of the library out in the open, I went to that little quiet area, that area with cubbies completely walled off from anybody.
So I wouldn’t say I struggled with the “Blah blah is doing it, why can’t I?” conversation. For my age, I was definitely responsible. I had a good group of girlfriends, we stayed out of trouble, I didn’t do the drugs/alcohol thing, I didn’t party, I excelled in school, I did my chores, and I practiced my piano. So yes, I was responsible at a young age. I was the teenager that watched television with my parents on Friday night and was in bed by 9pm. Not because I was forced to, I just really enjoyed being home, it was safe for me. I remember never having a curfew when my friends and I would go to school dances, I’m sure my parents were just happy I was being social for once.
In retrospect I dealt with a different type of entitlement. I felt that it was my right to get anything that I worked hard enough for. In my mind, hard work always equaled success. It equaled results. If I worked hard then it was my right to get what I worked hard for. It was mine.
I felt it was my right to get A’s when I worked hard. I felt it was my right to get a car when I earned my driver’s license. I felt it was my right to go to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo because I worked for that goal since 8th grade. I understood the value of hard work, but I also felt there was always a reward as a result of it.
There’s this little video on Youtube about children and a marshmallow, reflecting the correlation of delayed gratification and future success. You can watch the video experiment here and the TED talk reflecting on the results here. I would characterize past, present, and future Megan as one that is good at denying her immediate needs for the sake of a future reward. However, past Megan applied this ability to delay gratification in order to make her successful.
Much, if not all, my hard work especially in high school was driven by selfish reasons. Doing well in school is certainly not a bad thing at all, in fact I highly encourage it, but an undercurrent of selfishness drove me to excel. There’s was always something in it for me, not only that, I didn’t want anyone close to achieving my kind of success. It was my right, if I was the best it was because I deserved it and worked hard for it. I liked the view from the top.
I worked hard to go to Cal Poly and I did end up going there. However, I didn’t want anyone else to join me. If that was the case, then I probably shouldn’t have picked a university only an hour and half away from my hometown. Turns out lots of students from my graduating class joined me at Cal Poly. It flustered me to no end because I was the one planning my application since 8th grade. Then these peons decided months before the application was due to submit it and we both end up in the same place.
Mrs. Shinnerer’s quote still rings in my ears, “Life isn’t fair get over it.”
We are all bent toward sin, toward selfishness, and that’s where things get messy. That’s where we feel our rights trump our responsibilities.
Now what if we married the delayed gratification marshmallow principle with our call to be Christ-like? Christ gave up his rights, his privileges as God’s one and only Son and took on the responsibility of redeeming mankind from their sin and selfishness.
What if, just what if, we delayed our gratification here on Earth for our much greater reward in heaven? What if we shed the millennial mindset of “my rights are greater than my responsibilities” and accept Christ-like responsibility?
In two weeks, when I post my “I Am” blog for this series, I’ll be sharing how my mindset has transitioned through the natural process of maturing as an adult and as a woman of God. I’ve (at a snail pace) transitioned from, “it’s my right to have what I work hard for,” to this thing, this God’s Enough – Women’s Ministry thing, is all about shedding our rights and stepping into much more responsibility, Christ-like responsibility. I’m excited to share it with you!
At the end of the TED Talk I linked above, the last thing Joachim de Posada said was, “In the [United] States, we are eating more marshmallows than we’re producing.”
Let us, as Christ-followers, eat less metaphorical marshmallows and become a marshmallow factory of Christ-like responsibility.