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Don't Give Up Hope When Progress Is Hard to See

Thursday, December 20, 2012

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Growth is one of the hardest things to see, isn't it?

Whether it's growth physically, in a skill, or even in character, progress comes so slowly that we often miss it.

This Christmas season, my husband and I were disparaging about the challenges gift-giving poses for those of us who live in a society inundated with everything we need and then some.

We're challenged with ridiculous questions like: What do you give that family member who already purchases everything he wants all year round? Or what do you give the relative whose house is overflowing with more clutter than she knows what to do with?

My husband and I were also discussing the extra challenge of buying for teenagers. We have three teens in the house this year, and what do you buy for kids who are blessed beyond measure? And if you do lavish them with things they don't really need, what are you teaching them about contentment, gratitude, giving, and simple living?

We were a little disturbed when our three oldest added ipod touches to their Christmas wish lists. Many of their friends had been getting ipods, iphones, and even ipads. And so they didn't think anything of asking for such an expensive gift.

When my husband first heard their request, he sat back in shock and said, "When we were kids, we wouldn't have asked our parents for a $200 Christmas present. Why would our kids think they each deserve such an expensive gift?"

My husband and I could only stare at each other with bewilderment. We'd worked so hard over the years to make Christmas about giving. We'd tried to limit the number of gifts. We'd participated in various efforts like Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, going to nursing homes to sing and share, and baking cookies and candy to give away.

As we evaluated our children, we realized they've fallen into the "entitlement trap" that so many kids in our generation have been sucked into. They're a part of a growing population of young people who've never known real hardship or deprivation the way previous generations have experienced through World Wars, national crises, and Great Depressions.

As you can imagine, we sat down with our kids and talked about the problems of expecting much, giving little, and not experiencing true gratitude.

The bottom line is that we're facing an uphill battle against materialism and entitlement, not only with our children but with ourselves. And sometimes it feels as if it's a losing battle. We work hard to instill values and teach character, but it doesn't seem like we're making much progress.

Until we get a glimmer of hope . . .

One day, after discussing some options for our kids about getting ipod touches (namely that they need to earn and save money for them), one of my daughters came to me and said, "Mom, I've been saving up money. But instead of buying an ipod touch, I think I'd like to give my money to help fight sex-trafficking."

She had tears in her eyes. "I just can't bear to think about other girls my age in poorer parts of the world and that kind of stuff happening to them. I want to do what I can to help them."

HOPE.

GROWTH.

PROGRESS.

While my daughter is far from perfect (and still wants an ipod touch), her confession reminds me not to stop fighting to teach my children (and this generation) how to be more selfless, giving, and grateful. They can learn. They're picking up more than we think they are. And they will eventually make progress . . . if we keep persevering to teach them to do what's right.

In light of the Sandy Hook shooting, we certainly have a high calling to continue to work hard at shaping our children into adults who exhibit kindness, selflessness, and integrity.

My encouragement to myself and to everyone this holiday season is not to give up hope. Whether you're having a rough time with your kids, your spouse, or a loved one--in whatever difficulty you're facing, don't stop hoping.

We can't give up hope in seeing progress in ourselves either. Personal growth is usually invisible and becomes clear only after time passes.

Keep up the hard work. And maybe every once in a while you'll get a glimmer of hope. Cling to the hope. Stay the course. Fight the good fight.

Merry Christmas!

What's YOUR biggest challenge this holiday season?

Due to the holidays, I'll be taking a break from blogging. I'll be back on Thursday, January 3. See you then!


86 comments:

  1. What a touching post, Jody. Thank you for sharing your Christmas lesson on giving, and have a great Christmas and New Year!

    Thanks for all the effort you put into blogging throughout the year, and the wonderful posts the rest of us get to read twice a week.

    Merry Christmas!

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    1. Thank you, Naomi! I appreciate your sweet words. Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas too!

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    2. Thank you, Naomi! I appreciate your sweet words. Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas too! minnesote lakes

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  2. Fantastic post, Jody. I have a 17-year-old and a 22-year-old and yes, we've had similar conversations. The "toys" are getting more expensive. We've come up with our own solution. Our children get a stocking and then a set (limited) amount of cash. After Christmas, we head to the "big city" and have a family day of Christmas shopping. If they're wanting a big-ticket item, then they can pool their money, or pick out their own clothes, or whatever. Then we go out to dinner together. The emphasis is on our family day rather than the stuff.

    By the way, we have participated in Operation Christmas Child for years and it is absolutely the most fun. This year, my daughter and a couple of her high school friends ran around the store having a ball filling the containers. :)

    Merry Christmas to you. Parenting is work. Teaching the values, morals and thoughtfulness takes dedication, love and an eye on the eternal- kudos to you.

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    1. Love that idea, Julie. Yes, buying gifts "toys" for older kids is MUCH more difficult and expensive! My younger two in elementary school are so much easier to please! :-)

      Parenting is indeed a tough job and takes so much more work than I ever imagined! Those glimmers of hope give me courage to keep going and training as I know I need to!

      Have a Merry Christmas too!

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  3. Jody, Indeed, this "entitlement" issue in our society, particularly this generation, seems to be getting out of hand. I don't have kids of my own but I've worked in the Behavioral Health field with kids and teenagers where this issue of entitlement and materialism is running rampant.

    Thank you for teaching your kids what is truly important, for instilling old-fashion values, and giving hope in a world that needs it now more than ever.

    Have a very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and hope you get a little break to relax this holiday season!

    God bless,
    Shelly

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    1. Thanks for sharing your valuable perspective, Shelly. "Running rampant" is a great description of the problem! It's a great time of year to evaluate what we're doing as a culture and think about the ramifications long term.

      Hope you have a Merry Christmas too!

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  4. I'm still surprised how many kids have iPhones. I don't even have one.

    Last year, my then 9 year old put a 3D TV on his list to Santa. Needless to say, he never got one.

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    1. It's amazing at what kids have! We are definitely going against the stream when we DON'T get our kids the newest gadgets!

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  5. Thank you for sharing such a lovely post. It's so encouraging to learn how others are battling consumerism and entitlement. It's a little bit frightening how easy it is to fall into either (or both!) of these attitude traps. And yet we are so blessed!

    I hope that you and your family has a blessed and happy Christmas!

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    1. Hi Elisabeth,

      I think we fall very easily into the traps without even realizing it. I guess the important thing is to be continually talking about the issues with our children and helping them be aware of the tendency toward materialism and entitlement. Then when we set some limits with our kids, they can understand the reasons behind our training efforts.

      Wishing you a blessed Christmas too! :-)

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  6. A beautiful message of hope! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you! Merry Christmas to you! :-)

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  7. This is a really good post. It's difficult to go against the flow as parents. There is a deluge of materialism in schools. I saw it increasing while I was teaching. All we can do is lead by example and pray for wisdom.

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    1. It IS so hard to go against the flow as parents, especially because our kids are great at reminding us what everyone else gets to do and has! ;-) But you're right, we need to keep praying for wisdom and lead by example.

      Merry Christmas! :-)

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  8. I need to extend forgiveness to a family member, and I've (falsely) convinced myself that it's easier to hold it close. Thankful that God extended undeserved forgiveness to me.

    John 3:30-He (the Lord) must become greater, I must become less.

    Merry Christmas to you Jody!

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    1. Hi Jenni,

      Ah, that is a hard experience to extend forgiveness, especially when the hurt runs deep. Praying you find the strength to succeed this Christmas.

      Many blessings!

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  9. Wonderful post, Jody! Happy Christmas!

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    1. Thank you so much, Catherine! Merry Christmas to you and your family too!

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  10. I agree that many young people today (though not all of them are like that, of course) have a strong sense of entitlement. Many of my students have informed me that they feel they "deserve an A". Part of my job is showing them that they have to earn a good grade and work hard for it instead.

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    1. It's interesting that the sense of entitlement permeates even the getting of grades. Wow! But it sounds like you're doing the right thing!

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  11. Jody I love your blog and nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger award, so my readers could get to know you - if they weren't already fans. I'm sure with the following you've built you don't have time for all the awards you receive, but it was a way to say thank you for all the great info you provide.

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    1. Hi Jane,

      Thank you SO much for the award and the very sweet words of encouragement. I truly appreciate it! Have a happy holiday! :-)

      Delete
  12. We were talking about this just this afternoon, and came to a similar conclusion: that too many of today's youth (and some adults) have never experienced the "doing without" that was common in our grandparents' day, and have developed an attitude of entitlement. There are adults living beyond their means, getting into unmanageable debt because they believe that's the standard of living they should strive for. That mindset was behind the recent depressed economy.

    When our own homes display abundance, how do we teach our children not to expect gratification of their wishes for more? One thought was that while we don't like to see our children feeling deprived of what their peers have, we need to (1.) simplify our own lifestyle and (2.) resist the pressure to give in and indulge their expensive taste. Even encouraging them to save for a frivolous item suggests that in working for it, it's okay for that item to become their main monetary goal and priority.

    But there's really no easy answer. Talking to our children, exposing them to the reality of poverty at home and in other countries... it all helps. Obviously your daughter is getting the message and that's encouraging.

    Christmas blessings to you and your family, Jody. Enjoy your break.

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    1. Hi Carol,

      Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I appreciate it. I love your points about simplifying our lifestyles and resisting pressure. It's sometimes hard to know what "simple" is anymore in our culture. And while I think we've tried, I'm sure we could do better. It's something maybe we'll have to talk about as a family and see where we might improve!

      Merry Christmas to you, too, Carol! Blessings!

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  13. I came to your blog as a result of just finishing "The Preacher's Bride". I downloaded it to our Kindle in November when "Inspired Reads" offered it free through Facebook, but hadn't really had the chance to read it until this past weekend. While the review says that it loosely follows John Bunyan's second marriage, I have to tell you that it has certainly brought me to a new appreciation for the religious freedoms I have today. Thank you for sharing your written word!

    Your blog post is so precious. When I read the words of your daughter when she came to you saying how she would like to use the money she had saved tears started streaming down my face. Thank you for being parents who are consistent in training your children...desiring to bring them up in the nuture and admonition of the Lord.

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! I'm delighted that you enjoyed "The Preacher's Bride" and that it inspired you to appreciate our freedoms today! I love hearing that!

      And I'm also touched that the blog post was meaningful as well. Training our kids is one of the hardest things we'll ever do! But also one of the most rewarding, especially when we get those glimmers of hope. :-)

      Merry Christmas!

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  14. Merry Christmas!
    My kids are still younger and though I wouldn't be shocked if they wanted an electronic advice, I also wouldn't want them to think they were entitled to it.
    Thanks for the practical post. You've given me something to chew on. :-)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jessica! I've missed chatting with you! :-) Yes, my younger two are still fairly content with inexpensive toys for Christmas. But as they get older and "out" of toys, they started gravitating toward electronics. And those get expensive! Hope you had a Merry Christmas! :-)

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  15. Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy, successful new writing year.
    I've only recently come to your blog, and have opened previous posts to find them well crafted, helpful, and encouraging. Thank you. I'm glad I'm aboard your train.

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    1. Hi Donna,

      Thanks for coming by! I'm glad you're finding some helpful posts! Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you too! :-)

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  16. Hi Jody, Thank you so much for your most enlightening post. As a Christian, I place more emphasis on the true meaning of Christmas, but also realize that there are children who will expect a present on this day.
    Some of the children I'm talking about don't expect a 100, to a 200 dollar present, but do expect something. I'm thankful that their wishes can be met.
    We have evolved into a very technical society, therefore, there are those who would expect electronic "toys." If one can afford to bless someone in this regard, I say, "Go for it."
    Hope you had a great Christmas. Happy New Year!
    Blessings.
    http://www.parrillaturi.wordpress.com
    http://www.patilla37.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Johnny! I love the idea of focusing on the true meaning of Christmas as well as looking for ways to keep it simple. Wishing you a Happy New Year!

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