There seems to be a lot working against the (slow) development of healthy relationships today.
We live in an instant society. We want things and we want them now. And yet, most of us can remember a time not too long ago, when things weren’t so “instant.”
That’s not the case for the majority of our students however…
They’ve always known fast, until it was replaced by faster… and then faster yet.
And with all of the blessings that come with advances in technology, I fear we are fundamentally losing our ability to wait. To be patient. To go slow. And so are our students.
But the struggle to wait isn’t just in lines, or for food to cook, or files to download… but in more important areas; like waiting for character to develop, maturity to grow, faith to deepen and relationships to slowly develop over the course of time.
Our students are struggling to identify the problems with “instant” everything.
The hookup culture prominent among many of our students is a sad, but perfect, example of what I’m talking about. I need it now! He needs to “feel like a man,” and she needs to “feel loved, accepted and/or beautiful.” And they can’t wait. Or they won’t wait. Because they don’t have to. And so they jump in — hooking up and having sex before they possibly even know each other’s name. No expectations that anything more will come of it. And should they happen upon each other again — at another party or social event — maybe they’ll “choose” each other for another “casual encounter.” And no one really knows how it quite happens from there, but for a small percentage… they will actually back their way into some kind of relationship — possibly going on a first date several months after first having had sex with each other.
It’s a relationship, yes… but how healthy could it possibly be? And what are the ramifications of starting a “relationship” this way? With an obscenely high divorce rate in our country as it is, how will the participants of this current hookup culture ever manage? What chance could they possibly have?
Then there’s also the readily accessible pornography that our students now have access to wherever they can connect to WiFi or find a 4G connection. On their notebook, tablet or smartphone… anywhere and everywhere they go. In an instant they can be in “fantasy land” — virtually and/or mentally finding acceptance, love, romance, significance, escape — from an image or movie… that countless other people have used in the same way.
Our students are harming themselves in ways they cannot comprehend — and in ways that we can’t even fully comprehend. Emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, spiritually… they are warping their minds, their hearts and their souls.
And for what?!?
A moment of pleasure. A fleeting feeling. An instant of ecstasy… that truly lasts but an instant.
What then? Likely varying levels of pain, confusion, shame, guilt, regret and despair.
So how do they cope? How do they “right the ship?” For most, they fall right back in to the practices and patterns that have become routine and commonplace. They need help.
I don’t think we dare resign ourselves to the ‘wait and see’ position.
We must take action. Our students are counting on us — whether they realize it or not!
I think we need to re-introduce our young men and women of faith to the discipline of slow. Yes, I said discipline. I know, slow isn’t one of the traditional spiritual disciplines we oft hear talked about. But in our current age of “instant,” there’s nothing more counter to the culture — and we all know how God likes to work in things that are counter to the culture.
We need to help our students to see the value in taking things slowly. In choosing to engage in the long, tedious work of character development. To make the kinds of choices that lead to growth and maturity. To wade into the waters of faith — deeper and deeper — and allow God to work in God’s own time. And to wait, and allow relationships to unfold in more natural (in the traditional sense) ways, that will lead to something meaningful, significant and healthy.
And we need to convince them that they can do it — even if no one else around them seems to be doing it. And that they’re worth it! And that they should want to be with someone who wants these same things — in themselves and in the person that they’re going to be with.
And when it’s all said and done… I’ve got to believe that the students that we can help to learn, and engage, in this discipline of slow will be much better off. They’ll be in the hands of the Father, a work in progress (and not stuck in a demeaning and degrading cycle of “instant” gratification) — who is healthy and (hopefully) able to be healthy in all of their relationships.