A note to a boy I’d like to see become a man.

“I give up.”

This is what I read on a recent social media account of a family friend. I’m sitting here in hospital next to my daughter who has complications from several medical issues while they make preparations to take her in for a spinal tap.  So when I read, “I give up,” in a Facebook post from an otherwise strapping young man, whom, as far as I know,  is a strong, healthy and physically capable 17 year old high school graduate, I really wanted to reach through the computer screen and wring his neck.

I’ve known this young man since he was in his mother’s belly, and have watched him grow these last 17 years into a tall, physically strong young man. His parents – two good friends we’ve known since the early 1990’s – have provided for him in every conceivable fashion; more recently giving him several cars, most of which he summarily wrecked.

He has been afforded the trappings of a well-fed middle class home, devoid of the inner city troubles of gangs and violent crimes and lives out here in north western Oregon where the biggest problems we have are frequent elk crossings and where to put all the rain. Not much has been withheld from his hand; food, shelter, several game consoles, a cell phone, computer and a car all provided to him free of charge by two loving parents who recently set some boundaries and have followed through with them.

It’s so rough, he’s giving up.

Well, let’s be honest. It’s not about giving up. It’s about pity. He’s just like so many other young people; coddled in the relative comforts of a middle class home from an early age and brought up in the protected enclaves of a modern America. When faced with a real performance requirement, it’s time to throw a tantrum.

A social tantrum – whining on display for all to see. He wants pity. He’s trolling for likes and soothing words to assuage his poor injured ego all because he’s got to either continue with school, or go find a job. Much difficult, many angst. So horror.

He’s crying on the collective shoulders of those he considers and thinks of as admirers. You know, the people who can’t wait for him to post yet another smiling ‘selfie’ and dote over every written word he posts. Social whining is a symptom of the self-pitying, somewhat emasculated ranks of emotionally weak and psychologically fragile boys making their belly aches known on oversharing central at an international level (aka Facebook.) In this case, like many, he sees himself a victim – “things are unfair,” he declares. And has declared over and over again. Why? Rules.

Those uncaring adults and their rules.

Rules like, if you aren’t going back to school or actively working to get a job, then we’re taking away your toys until you do. It’s just so unfair.

Sleeping around with other teenagers hasn’t satiated his fragile ego, and he clings to some notion that he’s going to join the marines. Perhaps he hasn’t bothered to read the “A few good men,” moniker on the recruitment posters. Men, that is. Texas steel. Why men? Because boys don’t follow orders, boys shy away from hard work and effort. Boys will run at the first shot and boys cry on social media that their lives are unfair and miserable.

Boys give up.

What my young friend hasn’t figured out is that being a man has little to do with a functional sex organ and more to do with self-discipline. Unfortunately, he’s in good company these days. And by good, I don’t mean wonderful, I mean a goodly amount – numerous, many; legion.

Unfortunately it’s not all his fault, really. If we wanted responsible, productive and disciplined adults capable of taking care of themselves and others then we’d discipline them as children at home and at school. Too often, it’s one or both of those places where discipline is poorly, wrongly or never applied. Failure to discipline children is the same as failing to provide an education. A child raised without being taught to read and write still won’t be able to read and write as an adult. It’s not magic.

We are a product of what we do or don’t do today. Instead of coddling ‘Jonny’ with participation awards, perhaps giving the real winner a real prize will drive the others to try harder next time. It’s a mistake to award mediocrity.

It’s a far bigger mistake to shield children from the consequences of their bad decisions and withhold discipline. Parents, while loving their offspring, are also stunting their child’s development by attempting to be the omnipresent guardian – pulling them away from each and every little mishap before it happens, replacing items willfully smashed, or getting in the way of school discipline when it’s been handed out or simply refusing to do it themselves.

The real world is eating these children up. In the real world, there are consequences for bad decisions and consequences have a nasty propensity to accumulate and become quite terrifying and complex to get out from underneath them. There are no second place or participation awards at a job interview. Mortgage and rent payments don’t care if you’re sick this week. You can’t pay for groceries with a printed selfie and a note from Mom excusing them from work because they needed a ‘mental break.’

We’re producing a generation of hopeless children addicted to instant gratification, mothering and video games and quite dependent on handouts from parents and welfare. They’re unmotivated, slovenly, entitled, give up easily, haters of truth and anyone that would dare tell them that they need a swift kick up their ass. I see this in people of advanced age – in one traffic stop after another, there’s often a whiny, self-indulgent child at the wheel who can’t handle the consequences of their actions. “I didn’t know it was only 35 here,” or “I didn’t see that stop sign,” or, “Can’t you just give me a warning?”

If it were only that simple – I know of at least a few other men that would volunteer to stand with me and administer those swift kicks if only it would correct the manifest issues at hand. But it won’t.

Unfortunately, for many, until and unless the consequences of their poor planning, poor decisions and poor performance fall on them, they won’t change. Pain and suffering aren’t desirable and that’s what makes them great motivators and behavioral change agents. Like most, I’d rather see motivation come from envisioning success and the diligent, disciplined approach to achieving it. That means seeing something in your mind – like where you want to be in 5 years – then setting up a plan and a series of milestones and getting to it.

Getting to it, as in working for it – earning it – and learning the true value of something achieved.

None of us like to see our kids suffer, but rescuing them from the consequences of their poor decisions is really bad parenting.

So, young man. If you’re reading this, understand two things. First, I care enough about you that I’m not going to blow smoke up that skirt you’re apparently wearing. Second, I’ve taken a number of hours out of my day to write this in the sincere hope it will someday get through to you. Nobody’s going to hand you success. Nobody can MAKE you happy. Mommy and Daddy love you, but it’s time to grow up and start to become a man.  This whiny, self-indulgent, and spoiled boy we see posting on Facebook is not a man, not even close to one.

If you want to join the ranks of the 40-somethings still living at home playing video games living off the meager earnings of retired parents and thinking that someday they’ll become rich, win the lottery or be recognized for the brilliant move they made on level 122 of that game, then stay where you are. It’s a sad, uninspiring existence – only a small percentage ever actually make it to 40. A lot of them commit suicide or die from heart disease. Those that do are working only to their own demise; fooling themselves that it’s OK to live off Mom and Dad. Fooling themselves that someday it will be different because the government will rescue them.

If, on the other hand, you want to live the life God has planned and set out for you, then it’s time to put away the toys, the little girls dropping their panties for you and man up. You can ask for help, you can seek career advice and I’d recommend that you do just that. Discipline yourself to get up in the morning and either find a job to carry you through higher education, or start one as a career and build on that career through learning job related skills and gaining experience. In order to change, you must make good choices and act on them. And not just for praise and group hugs, but for your own sake. Hoping Mommy or Daddy will make the right choices for you won’t produce anything. It’s only by doing the right thing that right results are produced.

Wake up. It’s time to leave that boy behind.

Psalm 119

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