The "Positive" Message that is Crushing our Kids
You can be anything you want to be...except, you really can't. So why is this narrative being so aggressively sold to our children in picture books, movies, songs, commercials, and schools?
At first glance, this sentiment seems positive - an encouragement to dream big, to reach for their full potential. These are admirable goals, but even our highest achieving humans are limited and it's important for kids (and grown ups) to feel their own limitations and here's why:
Endless possibilities are too heavy a burden to bear. When kids are told that their lives are basically a story in which they are the main character and they need to decide who they are and what their story is about, they are overwhelmed by the pressure of these choices. Some choices are good...endless choices are exhausting. No wonder so many teens are having nervous breakdowns! According to the Bible, our lives are an important and valuable part of a story that is not ultimately about us, but about God. The God who made us tells us who we are and what we are for. Furthermore, the God who made us has engineered specific skill sets and preferences into our hearts and bodies SO THAT we can be equipped for the purposes HE has for our lives. This is a very different message than the world is selling - it is much more limiting - but somehow, more joyful and freeing.
As adults, we recognize our limits, right? Our lifespan is limited. The amount of hours we can go without food or water or air or sleep is limited. We cannot jump off a roof and fly if we really, really believe we can. And these limits are good for us - they are supposed to inspire our worship of our limitless God. So why is the cultural narrative aggressively trying to teach our kids the exact opposite? I read A LOT of children's literature and we watch cartoons and movies with the kids and there is almost always a point in which I have to pause and say, "Is that true? Can that mouse be an elephant if he really wants to be? Can that red crayon be blue if that's how he feels? Can that boy grow up to be a surgeon if he never does his homework and has a tremor in his hand?" No. The answer is "No", and even my 5 year old understands that.
We have to tell our kids the truth for their own well-being. A few years ago, the biggest decision kids had to make was what outfit they wanted to wear or what they wanted to study in college. Now our kids are being asked to decide their gender, their world-view, the meaning of their lives, their purpose on earth, and their definition of truth and goodness. Not only do these limitless possibilities lead to a false sense of control - the weight of these choices is literally CRUSHING them.
"It's up to you,
It's up to me,
No one can tell us what we can be."
- Lyrics from "Rewrite the Stars" The Greatest Showman
Love the harmonies in that song - hate the message. The One Who made us, He gets to tell us who we are. Sometimes it chafes, but ultimately, that truth will lead to your most fulfilling and joyful life. We still have choices, but those choices are limited and limits are good.
So why is this false messaging so prominent in our culture today? Because people have rejected God - the true Author of Life - and have opted to fill that role themselves. Look around. It's not going well. Parents, if you believe the Bible is true, make sure you are presenting that truth to your kids on the daily, because they are receiving a very different message everywhere else.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:10
“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ Isaiah 45:9
You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.
We are witnesses of this. Acts 3:15
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his