Where have all the grown ups gone?

Being good is hard work. Developing character requires thinking about it and acting on those thoughts. We may have the HOly Spirit, but the Bible also tells us to work out our own salvation and that solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5).

Once upon a time everybody understand that character was important and that it required practice to develop. That practic included effort, personal, real, and sustained effort.

For years now we have tried to take shortcuts. We try to change ourselves from the outside in, to change ourselves by changing our image. We attempt character growth through conspicuous consumption. We can think we can accessorize ourselves into a better human being. What we buy, what we own- these, we think, will bring about the changes in who we are that previous generations understood came through hard work and training in good habits and right thinking and living.

All too often I find myself thinking about something I want to teach my children or to change in myself, and my next thought is “what can I buy to do this?” Our culture no longer has a self-sufficient mindset. Instead, we have a quick fix, instant gratification way, character growth in a box for cash or credit approach.

William Kilpatrick writes that T. S. Eliot ‘observed that some of his contemporaries were in the habit of “dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.”

He says we still dream of finding a substitute for character. Kilpatrick also points out that “The dream of a society “so perfect that no one will need to be good” is really a child’s dream. It betrays a hope that the grownups (society, the government) will take care of everything so the rest of us can just play. This is exactly the kind of attitude we might expect to arise in a culture where so many people are in search of their own inner child. And it helps to explain why when hurt in the pursuit of play and pleasure, so many look for someone else… to blame.
We need to stop dreaming. The truth is, there is no substitute for personal character and there never will be…. there is no way to educate young people for character in the absence of adults with character.”

We not only have a lack of adults with character, we have a dearth of adults. Nobody wants to be a grown up anymore. We see this demonstrated in many ways. Those adults in age who tell other people’s children, “Don’t call me Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith is my mother-in-law. Call me by my first name,” those are adults who are not comfortable with being the grown-ups. A friend of mine just told me about two new grandmothers she knows. They think they are too old young to be grandmothers (they are not- the mother of the new baby is 30 years old), so they have declared that they will not be grandmother- the hapless grandchild will call one of them ‘Princess,’ and the other ‘Cupcake.’ These are adults who are not comfortable with being grown-ups.

Many adults think it’s fresh and entertaining to talk about still being children and never wanting to grow up. They burden children with making grown up decisions because they are too afraid of being the grown-ups themselves. They think Peter Pan is a hero because he never grew up. In truth, Peter Pan is the story of a sad, lonely, frightened little boy cut off forever from his fellow man because he refuses to grow up.

We need more grown-ups.

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