Not A Trophy, A Gift
Humility, gentleness and patience are not characteristics in abundant supply in our society. Our cultural twist on ‘tolerance’ doesn’t really fit the same bill – one person’s tolerance is another’s prejudice. And of course, social media is more likely to train us in pride, irritability and impatience than the virtues espoused by Paul. It is only seventeen years since Facebook launched, fourteen since the first iPhone, and ten since Instagram made its debut. That is not long enough for us to have learned how to use this new technology in a way that does more good than harm.
One of the negatives of social media is the manner in which it has encouraged us to think of life as a performance: we are all stars in our own reality TV show now. The way in which many people ‘curate’ their timeline has been well documented and the negative consequences (a negative correlation between time spent on social medial and happiness, impacts on teenage mental health, etc.) much commented on. Social media thrives on vanity more than humility, and vanity eats its own children.
A manifestation of this is seen in our curious attitude towards actual children, part of which results in us making our kids co-stars in the movies we post to the world. Increasingly this begins even before the child is born – the phenomena of ‘reveal parties’ being the latest example of this. The headline that earlier this week father-to-be Christopher Pekny died as the result of an accident while preparing a reveal party is a bitter irony: rather than the excitement of revealing whether it is a boy or a girl, the child – regardless of its sex – is now going to be without a father.
Freak accidents aside, what reveal parties really reveal is our tendency to see children as trophies – trophies expected to fulfil a role in the narrative we curate for ourselves even before they can walk or talk. This should raise questions about what we are then training these children to be, and think of themselves. It also displays a lack of awareness towards the childless and infertile for whom the parading of children, and foetuses, can add an additional layer of pain in their inability to tell a similar story.
The practical instructions in the letter to the Ephesians culminate with how family life is to be conducted: children are to obey their parents, so that it may go well with them; parents are not to exasperate their children but to train them in the way of the Lord. Not much there about kids being accessories to the movies of our lives.
Training our children to be humble, gentle and patient begins with parents understanding that they are receiving a gift. Trophies are paraded – boasted about in order to make ourselves look better. Gifts are treasured – received with humility in response to God’s grace.