"Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." Luke 6: 37-38, The Message
When my daughter turned thirteen, she began to reveal greater and greater evidence that she was in the throws of adolescence. Some mornings we’d wake to find the little girl we’d known since birth - kind, compassionate, responsive and delightful. Other days, we’d wake to someone else. This other person looked like my daughter, but there was fading evidence that she was the person we’d known for the last 13 years. This “kidnapping” is common with adolescents - a normal part of development. Their bodies, emotions and thoughts get hijacked without any notice. Their systems are flooded with hormones that wreak havoc, resulting in growth pains, acne, elevated emotions, irrational thoughts and extreme moodiness.
This transformation often involves a child who was instinctively other-centered becoming more self-centered. A youngster who was generous and compassionate can become entitled and unaware. Melissa and Sissy wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Raising Girls, and titled this stage of development “The Narcissistic Years.” We experienced that language to be right on target.
The end result was that our daughter, in this moment of her development, could be emotional, critical, and impatient. We couldn’t fast forward her out of the stage, though I (sometimes daily) wished that were a possibility. We could, however, love her in the midst of it, and challenge her self-involvement when appropriate.
My friend, Julie, told me when she was this age, and became critical of others or absorbed with herself, her mother would make her bake cookies and deliver them to a neighbor, a sick friend, or a nursing home. As an adult woman, she laughs in saying, “I made hundreds of dozens of cookies between 13 and 16. There’s no telling how many people received my baked goods during those years.”
Her wise mother knew how to put that passage in Luke into action. She didn’t lecture her daughter for endless hours about how self-centered she’d become, she didn’t argue with her sense of entitlement and criticism, she simply steered her toward other-centered living and generosity.
How could you more creatively combat entitlement and nurture other-centered living?