A Facebook friend posted something last week I feel compelled to comment on. I don’t remember the exact words, but the gist of it was that this person is sick and tired of the selfishness, self-centered attitudes, and sense of entitlement of people today, and they are waiting for a return of old-fashioned values like trust and honesty and a sense of right and wrong.
I didn’t post a reply. That may say something about my own courage, but I don’t feel like I know this person–an old high school classmate–well enough to post negative replies without seeming like a troll. Not to mention that Facebook disagreements rarely seem to benefit anyone. But the post has been in my mind for a few days now, so I feel compelled to answer it.
First of all, I think the selfishness and entitlement of folks these days is hugely overblown, and the death of what we call old-fashioned values is greatly exaggerated. Yes, plenty of people seem to feel like they are entitled to things they didn’t earn. And plenty of people are working their tails off to get what they want–which usually isn’t just for themselves. My kids’ generation is often more focused on what’s good for the world, on sharing and extending prosperity to places it’s largely unknown, than on what’s good for themselves. Yes, they want answers. Yes, they want what they want right now. That’s not lack of character; it’s what the world we and our parents created has trained them to expect.
But that’s a subject for a future post, maybe.
No, what compels me to respond to my classmate’s post is the idea of waiting for things to change. I don’t normally think of waiting as inherently unproductive; often as not, waiting helps us understand better what we want and need to work for, and in many cases helps us see that what we thought we wanted isn’t what we really need.
But if we really think the world is going in the wrong direction, if we’re really not happy with what we see around us, waiting is exactly the wrong thing to do. So is complaining on Facebook, to be honest.
It seems to me the way to change the world is to show the world what you want it to be. Can’t stand selfishness? Show the world selflessness and generosity. Can’t stand entitlement? Show the world what it looks like to work your tail off–and don’t complain when your reward isn’t as great as you want it to be. Want honesty and trust? Be honest and trusting. Don’t wait for others to show you qualities you’re not willing to show them.
In a way, I’m following exactly the same unproductive course my classmate and a thousand others take every day online–posting a list of things I’m unhappy about and somehow expecting the world to change to accommodate my wishes. But I’m also working on myself, working every day to show my kids, and my Scouts, and my Sunday school class, and the folks I work with, what I think it means to live in a way that makes the world a little better.
At the end of the day, living better is all I can do. I can make myself into the kind of man I want to know. If I’m lucky, someone will admire how I live and choose to emulate me in some way. But I can’t control that.
I choose not to wait for change. I choose to change myself.