Pastor column: An event that can make us all proud
As a member of the aging baby boom generation, I find myself reflecting more and more on the values our generation has championed and espoused over these past decades. (We were convinced we could make the world a better place!) I am struck mostly by our emphasis on free thinking, personal choices and independent decision making. The music, movies and literature of our generation lifted these values and encouraged us to "do your own thing." It became the
"American Way," and the "national anthem" for those of us coming of age in the 1960's and 1970's.
Now don't get me wrong, I realize there is a lot to be said for thinking for yourself. It certainly has its time and place. In fact, even my mother used to challenge me with, "Just because your friends jump of a bridge, are you going to jump too?" (Sound familiar?) Yet when I look back at the track record of our generation, I find myself becoming more and more cautious of these unquestioned values of thinking independently and making personal choices.
More often than not, it seems, "Think FOR yourself" really means, "Think ONLY ABOUT yourself," and personal freedoms are often nothing more than an excuse for selfishness. Rather than reaching for the greater good for all, we settle for "what makes ME happy?" (What happened to our dream of making the world a better place?)
Now contrast this to the fact that there have been earlier generations and cultures (such as the ancient Hebrew people) who didn't even have words in their language for "I," "Me," or "Mine!" That is to say their vocabulary discouraged and even prohibited them from thinking only about themselves. Their focus and emphasis was always on the family, the tribe, the village and the greater good. Making decisions was not about "what's in it for me?" but "how will my words or
actions affect: my spouse, our children, our extended family, our church and our community?"
I would contend it is harder to speak cruel words, cheat your investors, enter into an extra-marital affair, lie to the IRS, embezzle from your company, or sue your boss when your first question is always "How will this make for the greater good of everyone?" That may be why Jesus challenged us to put our neighbors on the same plain as ourselves when he insisted "Love your neighbor as yourself"... no more, no less, but be sure your neighbor is part of the equation with your thought process and decisions because you don't live in a vacuum! The ripples of our actions DO affect others and the balance of the world more that we care to admit!
Call me disillusioned and a traitor to the Woodstock Generation, but I've come to believe thinking for yourself is highly overrated! (It's certainly not radical anymore, and so very few of us really have an original thought anyway!) I've come to believe we bear an incredible burden and endanger the people nearest and dearest to us when we are hell-bent on exercising our personal freedoms at all cost.
Could it be that our generation and the culture we have helped to create, isn't really as intelligent, sophisticated, and as altruistic as we had hoped and assumed all of these years? Has "doing our own thing" really made us happier, more fulfilled, or more admirable than other generations? As for me, I'll go with the ancient wisdom that insists we best not think FOR ourselves, but BEYOND ourselves to make the world a better place. Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Now there is a radical and world changing thought!