This is a follow-up post to the Personality Theory post I wrote yesterday.
We are presently in the Bahamas, serving Jesus under the hot, hot sun; daily obligated to swim in the turquoise waters and walk the majestic beaches in order to draw closer to our Lord. We taught here from 2005-2008. The school is attached to the church I’m speaking at on Wednesdays and Sundays.
This morning Rhonda took Cameron to participate in the K3 classroom. During their recess, I walked around with Graham. It was comical listening to 3, 4, and 5 year olds come up to us with: “Hey, watch this!” And then go and hug a tree, or turn around in a circle, or jump in a spot (all activities, by the way, of which I could do way better, but I digress). Afterward, Rhonda provided some singing time in the Grade 2 classroom earlier that morning. After the singing, the students were asked if they had any questions for Mrs. Rhonda about her singing or her guitar. All the hands shot up, of course. One student shouts, “I have a question. I took guitar lessons one time. I’m pretty good.” We laughed at this because it’s a ridiculous response, and yet it was completely unfiltered and honest.
I love this about kids. They don’t have the social filters and haven’t played the game long enough to know what cards to play and what to hold so they just lay them all out on the table for all to read, oblivious of our ability to see their hand.
As Rhonda told me about this moment and as I witnessed these kindergarten students clamouring for our attention to show us something completely facile, I was reminded of Donald Miller’s “Genesis Theory” (his name for the Personality Theory) and how since the Fall, we’ve been looking anywhere and everywhere for affirmation to pacify our souls. And because they’re kids, and because they have no filters, we are provided this too common occasion to witness the conspicuous pining for affirmation from absolutely anyone – including complete strangers on the playground. Sorry, that’s not true. Notice they weren’t trying to impress their friends in the same way. In fact, with us adults in their immediate vicinity, their peers seemed to not exist. In the context of the Genesis Theory, from the vantage point of the kids, we adults were much higher up the ladder. To receive affirmation from someone as high up the ladder as us adults would be a far greater accomplishment than any affirmation a mere playground peer could provide. It wouldn’t be a stretch to interpret this as an attempt to associate with us who are near the top, and dissociate from those other lowly kindergarteners incapable of twirling in a circle or hugging a tree.
Despite the comical nature of the whole thing on the surface, it’s desperately sad in the context of our condition as humans. Who told these kids they were naked? What I mean is, who told them they had to be self-conscious? Who told them they were not sufficient as they were? Who deceived them into thinking their value needed to be affirmed by anyone and everyone? The sinful nature that old school preachers talk about all the time is really just different terminology for explaining the pursuit of affirmation of our value in order to satisfy our souls.
I don’t think I like to think about these kids’ seemingly innocent actions as sinful because the term has obvious negative implications and you sound like a crotchety prude if you start calling out kids for these kinds of things. But at the same time we have to because there are negative implications to pining for attention and affirmation that can and will ruin us in time. Sin kills – it’s what it’s notorious for (See Gen. 3:3). Perhaps the best we can do, in addition to pointing our kids to Christ, is to provide the most affirmation possible as parents, recognizing that it too is ultimately fleeting but that it is at least controlled, provided in love without a sneaky agenda, and can hopefully curb the incessant need for seeking validation from less healthy sources.
I’m not sure what else to say about this. I suppose it was all really just interesting to consider these kids’ actions in the context of the Genesis Theory – a perspective that adequately provides the why to the question behind the deep yearning for attention and affirmation.
Perhaps you have other thoughts or insights on this? I’d be interested in hearing them. Please share below.