One of the great pressures of peer relationships often takes the form of “wowing” each other with trivia. In the world we see it with body tattoos, hair dyed green, sharing some shocking DVD, movie, or byte from a CD, and wowing our friends with tricks and crude jokes. It can further descend into daring one’s peers…yes, all the way to gang activity and murder as an initiation rite. Not only does the fear of men give rise to temptations to fit in with them, at any cost just to please them, but to have this edge of wowing them. For Christians, of course, these peer temptations are far more subtle, but they still exist.
Friends who seek to “serve” their friends, relatives, elders, guests instead of to “wow” them wind up endearing themselves to those people at a very deep level. Such a friend’s focus is upon meeting the other person’s needs, not satisfying his own need to be applauded or revered. It is a choice between a temporary high (receiving the transient praise of men, quickly now) and gaining a friend who would die for them, the love runs so deep.
Carrying heavy luggage, serving a meal, washing a visitor’s car, mowing someone’s lawn unexpectedly, privately fixing something, etc.—these are the kinds of things that are the weightier jaw-droppers in feeding a friendship.
Wowing, on the other hand, rather than serving, has a deep downside. I once knew a ballet/modern dancer who was addicted to having people praise her. She said it was awful; the praise was never enough. When some activity has the potential for invoking praise, it can be engulfing. As another example, a young man in our town was quarterback on the football team in high school. Every time he “breathed” he was written up as “something” in the local newspaper. When he was suddenly finally taken off the field in an ambulance due to a football injury, never to play again, his purpose in life vanished and he sank into a deep depression for years; he just couldn’t get going in a normal world.
As parents (or grandparents, for that matter), we can be sensitively training children in this primary attribute of friendship: death to self. God’s will for us, as completed, mature believers is a totally flexible, supple will. The Heavenly Father even required it of the Messiah. “Not my will but Thine” was His Son’s evidence of a hard won personal maturity. The ability to self-soothe, to subdue one’s own will, IS what maturity IS. The ability to say “down boy” to our weaker, darker side at every turn is evidence of a refined personal self-management. The possibility of such a state is assumed in the creation of a final judgment: men ARE ultimately accountable for their own wills.
So, the focus of our parenting/grandparenting needs to be upon training a totally flexible, supple will in our offspring. That means crossing self-indulgence at every turn. “Anything is fine with me for the good of others”... is the goal. As it incrementally grows, via good parenting, it will beget the offspring’s ultimate happiest state. Sin is spelled with an “i” in the middle. Hell is endless “me”.