Recently our family went out to eat at a favorite local pizza/ pasta place. It's really popular around here, and pretty well every time we go we see groups of local high school kids there. This particular night, not long after we had started eating, in came what appeared to be an entire baseball team. All good looking young men, all apparently quite comfortable with each other.
watching them; observing the details of their little party. I watched them watching the basketball game on the TV mounted in the corner, calling out what the players should be doing. I watched them on their phones, texting or posting or some such thing. I watched them carry in stacks of pizza slices and comment on each other's loaded plates. I watched them adjust their pants and their hats and their hair.
Blessedly, I wasn't offended by bad language or grossed out by pants that desperately needed to be pulled up. There was more to admire about these baseball buddies than not. But this vibe was also clear:
They thought they were pretty important.
And this observation got me thinking- is that a good thing?
And answering- first No, but also Yes.
Here's the thing... we want our teenagers to be confident. I feel strongly about equipping my boys with confidence. I know this trait will help them achieve all that they can in life. Without it they wouldn't be able to be or have all that they are or could. Confidence makes young people, really any people, beautiful.
But what's with the entitlement and ego that want to sneak in? It's important that my sons be confident. It's also important that they know that they are not that important.
And really they are that important- it's a weird, touchy thing to think about! They are important, and special and rare and capable. They have been saved for these last days. They are valuable beyond measure. But, still, they are not the most important thing ever.
Maybe that's the key: important vs. the most important.
Everyone is Important. But other people, and even sometimes things, around us are even more important than we are.
My sons need to know that they are capable of anything they desire to work toward, that they are attractive from the inside, precious more than they'll ever fathom. But their abilities and their countenance do not translate into needing the next best techy thing in hand, having the right to convey orders or commands to anyone, and especially needing to say or do things that make others feel less of themselves.
How might this soapbox I'm on have been changed if, instead of getting the sense that the young men on the baseball team I observed had a heavy dose of ego going on, I had seen the boy with the great hair sit next to the couple of guys that were clearly a little less comfortable? If the boy who felt like he knew how to coach the basketball team better than the professional coach, had looked in to the eyes of the girl trying not to look up while clearing plates from the table, and asked how her shift was going instead? If I had seen the boys laughing all together, instead of quite so distracted by their phones and iPods?
Interesting how portraying that they really weren't that important
would actually have made them matter even more.
Perhaps selflessness is the parent of Confidence?
Ya know, I admire my oldest stepson, Taron, so much. I want him to know that he shines! He really does! Young men don't come any better than him. He is the kind of young man that the girl working at the local pizza place would feel so much better about herself after he had looked into her eyes!
The thing is... he wouldn't. I can pretty well promise you that even if his Dad offered him $5 to go talk to that girl, he wouldn't do it. And maybe that's just because a girl is involved, but the point is that he wouldn't. He wouldn't want to catch her eye because it would make him way, way too uncomfortable. He wouldn't feel like he was important enough to really do that.
But, wait, isn't that actually not it at all? If he were to be thinking about her, more than about himself, wouldn't that change things entirely? If Taron really cared about how that girl felt more than about how he did himself, would he be afraid to help her feel a little more special? His confidence might just go through the roof if he grasped his lack of importance...
But to even begin to think that way, he'd need to have had his personal importance instilled in him previously. Importance as in worth and value and love. It would be impossible for Taron to believe he could improve the pizza girl's day if he hadn't been told long before that moment that he was special. Not that he was the best hitter on the team, or that his phone was the coolest, or that his clothes looked the best. None of those praises would really contribute to his ability to think more of her than of himself. They would in fact only add to his ability to walk into the room as though everyone should be glad he had arrived. And in that case, the less comfortable members of the team and the shy working girl, and my little boys and I observing as we slurp our own pasta, would merely carry on, unimproved to be sure.
So with selflessness the parent of confidence,
perhaps also genuine, worthwhile praise is the parent of selflessness?
To be selfless, we need to have gotten, from somewhere,
a sense of our own worth on a deeper, real level.
Herein, I have to point out that I do see positive proof of selfless with Taron a lot, and with my younger stepson, Keaton. I've used Taron in this analogy just because he's older and it fits better. :) But I have seen real life examples of Taron and Keaton both realizing their lack of importance many times. They play with their younger siblings when they'd rather just chill. They babysit for their Mom when they surely feel like they've already met their babysitting quota for life. They still say their cute little ritual goodbye with their Dad on the phone even when they have friends around. They do know what it is to put others before themselves and I am so grateful!
I have to note, too, that it is hard. This is a life long process. I often have the thought that I should call or message a friend I haven't talked to in awhile, or someone that made an impression on me, or regarding something I am grateful for. But I usually don't. Because I don't want to be a burden on them. I don't want to call at the wrong time. I don't want them to see a message from me and wonder why I'm bugging them. See a trend? I am thinking more about myself instead of really about others. Somehow, even as a grown woman, my confidence is lacking, the praises around me haven't sunk in. Seems this Praise, Selflessness, Confidence cycle waxes and wanes as our life experiences take their toll on us, maybe as we lose connection with what matters most. Maybe the praise we are hearing and letting shape us should really be coming from our Maker, from a Source we can't hear with real words, then it wouldn't really be that way...
I want so much for our younger boys to come to know that thinking less of yourself and more of who and what is around you in fact makes you better. To be the Mom that is feeding their ability to believe they improve anything and anyone they connect with. To see their confidence be something powerfully unwavering because they mark themselves second and seek to improve who and what is around them first.
To know that they are important, but not that important.
PS... Ok, so this isn't so much my usual style of post, but I would like to do more spewing of my thoughts more regularly. I can't even tell you how many essays like this I've started to right and have never hit publish on! So when you see "Boy Mom Soapbox" in my titles from now on, you'll know that my inner dialogue and desire to write for real are taking over :) Hope you enjoy and can relate no matter what!