You Are Special by Max Lucado
My oldest daughter (14) recently had a fun time looking up the differences between her generation (z) versus my generation (x). She was listing off her generation’s pros and cons according to her source. She mentioned many things, but three of the things she said really stuck out to me – they were:
- Generation Z is less religious compared to past generations.
- Generation Z relies on social media for relationships.
- Generation Z is more depressed compared to previous generations.
These stuck out to me personally, because I see a correlation between these three things. While being ‘less religious’ does not imply atheist, I do think it means the younger generation does not seek God, even if they believe in a higher power.
“The desire for God is written in the human heart because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to Himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (CCC, 27).
If we don’t seek God, then we look to others for fulfillment. The younger generation’s relationship with others is social media, which is full of ‘likes’, ‘thumbs up/down’, ‘hearts’, or comments of praise or criticism. In a social media world everyone has an open medium to express their opinions, with no consequences. Given this we are doomed to rarely think highly of ourselves, because we can’t please everyone all the time. The fallout of this concept is a generation that is more depressed than any other generation in history.
This made me think of the book, You Are Special by Max Lucado.
This children’s book is about Wemmicks, small wooden people, who were carved by the woodworker named Eli. Wemmicks spend their days sticking stickers on each other. There were two kinds of stickers. A star for those considered pretty or talented and these stars made them feel good. The second type of sticker was a gray dot. The dots were given to those that had scratches or no outstanding talent to perform. One particular Wemmick, Punchinello, only had gray dots. These dots made him feel bad about himself, and he was afraid to go out and about because he might do something to earn another gray dot. One day, Punchinello meets a girl named Lucia. Lucia was different because she had no stickers. When Punchinello asked her why others didn’t give her stars or dots, she told him others did, but they didn’t stick. She explained this was because she spent time with Eli every day. She encouraged him to go visit Eli, and when he does this is their conversation:
“Why don’t the stickers stay on her?”
“Because she has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them.”
“The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers.”
The biggest take away from this book is that Punchinello didn’t even want stars given to him from others. Punchinello was not interested in gaining other Wemmick’s praise. I think this is important because if we allow the compliments of others to give us self-worth, then we must also allow the criticisms of others to take away our self-worth.
I think the message we are telling our younger generation is what others think of them matters. In fact, my middle school children had a class about how words matter. They were encouraged to use ‘their words’ to make others feel good, and not to hurt others. While I agree, intentionally saying awful things to people is terrible. I don’t think the teachers recognized that they were teaching children their self-worth is based on the words used to describe them by their peers.
This is not the message I want for my children. I tell my children they should base their character on two things. 1) How do they measure up based on God’s laws? and 2) How do they measure up to who they were yesterday on their journey towards God?
No one is perfect, so God calls us to improve every day. We need to recognize we are all on a journey towards God, and only compare ourselves to where we were on this journey yesterday. God does not call us to become superior to other people. God has given each person the talents and gifts they need to fulfill His will. Thus, there is no need for comparisons to others nor taking others’ opinions into consideration, regardless of whether they are good or bad. If they don’t have a talent, then it is not needed in their lives. The only thing they should worry about is their own personal journey and if they are becoming a more Christ-like person each day. This is a long process of improvement. St. Francis de Sales said, “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfection but instantly set about redeeming them — every day begin anew.”
The final message I stress with my children is we can do nothing without God.
John 15:5, “without me, you can do nothing.”
This is true for every person. Therefore, there is no need for jealousy in their lives. When they have talent, they should praise God. When someone else has talent, they should praise God. Both abilities were given by the same supreme being for the same purpose, to serve God.