The Trophy Generation

The year was 2002. A tall blonde girl with colorful ribbons tied in her hair that matched her jersey stepped onto the basketball court for what would be her first and last season. She “played” in every game, yet never scored a point. In fact, she only attempted two shots and rarely even touched the ball since she would duck and scream every time a teammate made the unfortunate choice to pass it her direction.

“Shoot it! Shoot it!” We screamed idealistically. Game after game. Alas, it was not to be.

If you are expecting a great comeback story or a tale about the triumph of the human spirit, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The truth is, this kid just wasn’t good at basketball and she couldn’t have cared less.

League rules required that each player participate for a minimum amount of minutes per game, so she was guaranteed time on the court. League rules also guaranteed a trophy at season’s end – win or lose – for every player. So the girl proudly stepped forward, posed for the team photo, and accepted her prize.


For what? Attendance? Heavens, give me the trophy. I’m the one who drove her to practices. I’m the one who sat through loss after loss with the forced smile and the “you’ll get ’em next time” attitude. I’m the one who organized the team snack schedule. I’m the one who avoided making eye contact with the parents of kids who actually knew how to catch and throw…Where’s my trophy?!

We’ve all heard the saying “If everybody’s special, then nobody is.”   Well, that’s only partly right; no, everybody can’t be special at EVERYTHING, but everybody can be special at SOMETHING. The key is to find out what that something is. And not all somethings give trophies, but that’s okay.

You see, the ribboned girl who was miserably bad at basketball would have much rather have been home playing piano or reading a book. So, not surprisingly, those are the areas in which she has excelled.  She’s earned numerous awards for music, writing, and academics. But you know what? She tends to question their significance. “Well, there were only ten other entries.” “I don’t think they must have been scoring very hard.” “I’m not really sure I deserved this.”

What have we done? Perhaps the “prizes for all” approach has more damaging effects than we imagined.   Perhaps giving trophies for everything affects our perception of accolades for anything. Maybe those early “wins” designed to spare littles’ feelings have resulted in making them feel that there really aren’t honors to be earned, but rather that every certificate, ribbon, and medal lacks true significance because so many are simply tokens of participation.  Not only are legitimate prizes devalued, but often the work needed to achieve an actual goal is undermined.

I get it. We don’t want six-year-olds to cry. But perhaps we should worry less about hurting their feelings and more about preparing them for life. In the real world you don’t get a trophy for showing up. In grown-up land, you are expected to show up and accomplish things.  In fact, you are PENALIZED for not doing so. Better to learn this lesson early.

I fear that society is already reaping the rewards of the “trophy for participation” generation.

I work with young adults who want to enter the teaching profession. To be fair, some of the twenty-somethings I work with are really, really impressive. For example, I supervised a young man last year who was bright, articulate, responsible, wise … oh, yeah, all while battling leukemia. He never made excuses. He never missed a deadline. He was never anything other than mature and competent.

Give that kid a trophy.

Actually, he doesn’t need one. He’s got something better going for him. He’s earning a living and establishing his professional reputation. How? By being really good at what he does every day. By showing up when others don’t, but not expecting any special recognition for doing what people have been expected to do for generations – their jobs.

Sadly, this young man seems to be a rarity among his peers. It has been my experience that many twenty-somethings expect to be given an “A” for effort… and sometimes not even that. They don’t seem to realize that when they don’t show up, complete the work, meet the deadline, or work well with others, it reflects badly on them and affects other people. They expect to be told “great job” regardless of how many mistakes they make. They want a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum academically or professionally and sometimes even CRY when their errors are pointed out. Seriously.

They seem to believe that “really wanting something” is the same as “really earning something.” It’s not.

We would do well to teach this generation about working hard and that includes expecting failure from time to time and growing from those experiences. And maybe we should think twice about just giving them all trophies so that they will know what it feels like to actually earn something of worth… so that when they do, it will actually have value and mean something rather than just being another mass-produced token of nothingness.

As the old Smith Barney ad used to say, “We make money the old-fashioned way. We EARN it.” Hmmm…maybe they had something there. We can’t afford another entitlement generation. Something’s got to change.

Oh, and don’t be surprised if you see a teacher-of-the-year named “Jake” in a few years. Because there are still good reasons for trophies. I’m okay with that.

Image Conscious (part 4)

fruittreeDiscontentment is nothing new.  In fact, it’s the oldest trick in the Book.

We all have a tendency to focus not on what we have, but rather that which we have not been given.  It’s been this way from “The Beginning.”

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of  good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that  you eat of it you shall surely die.’” – Genesis 2:16-17

But then… the distortion began, the questioning, the tempting.  “Did God REALLY say…?” 

And suddenly Eve, no longer content with the perfection God had provided, was enticed by the allure of the one thing that He had withheld.  Satan twisted God’s words, challenged His goodness, undermined His instructions.  And Eve bit.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”  – Genesis 3:6

She had everything, but risked it all by following an empty promise that she could have more.  In doing so, she traded life for death, perfection for a curse, Truth for a lie.

“The Enemy succeeded in getting the woman to value physical appearance more highly than less visible qualities, such as trust and obedience.  The problem wasn’t that the fruit was “beautiful” – God had made it that way.  Nor was it wrong for Eve to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.  The problem was that Eve placed undue emphasis on external appearance.  In doing so, she believed and acted on a lie.”  – Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free

Let’s be honest, is your heart any different?  What lies have you believed?

  • I will never be beautiful because I am not perfect.
  • My value is defined by a clothing size or a number on the scale.
  • My appearance tells others who I am.
  • What I have/what I look like matters most.
  • The way I look is a mistake.
  • In order to be acceptable, I have to look like everyone else.
  • I am unworthy if I don’t fit the world’s current definition of beauty.
  • If only I were/had ____________, then I would be happy.

Yes, our struggles are more than skin deep: they reveal our idolatrous hearts.  Like Eve, we can be easily enticed by the allure of what we don’t yet have, believing that true happiness depends on gaining just one thing more.  And, like Eve, we have been deceived.

So, what’s the answer?  Take a good, long look in the Mirror.mirror

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” – James 1:23-25

Focusing on the Truth of God’s Word will help you to remember who you are and WHOSE you are.

  • Never forget that you are God’s wonderful creation!  (Genesis 1:27, Ephesians 2:10)

God knows you, loves you, and purposely created you exactly the way you are – and He doesn’t make mistakes!

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.” –
Psalm 139:13-16

“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’”  –Romans 9:20

  • Change your beauty focus.

Focus on developing heart traits, such as modesty, self-control, a gentle and quiet spirit, rather than putting an emphasis on externals.  (1 Timothy 2:9-10, 1 Peter 3:3-4, 1 Samuel 16:7)

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
– Proverbs 31:30

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John  2:15-17

  • When tempted toward discontentment, renew your mind.

If your thoughts are constantly focused on the world’s values, your mind and heart will easily be influenced.   Your true value comes from God!  If you look to anything else in this world for your worth, you will tend to find yourself discouraged and focused on all the ways you don’t measure up.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:1-2

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8-9

  • Speak truthfully.

Your words can build up or tear down both yourself and others.  Be careful what you say – you might convince yourself of lies!

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”  – Proverbs 18:21

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” – Proverbs 12:25

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14

  • Trust God with all of your circumstances

Don’t wait for “perceived perfection;” rest in the knowledge that God is in control of every aspect of your life!

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” – Isaiah 26:3

  • Remember that Christ redeemed you at a great price.

If you are a follower of  Jesus Christ and know Him as your Lord and Savior, you are His chosen bride, covered in His perfect beauty!  When you allow yourself to become dissatisfied, you are focusing on yourself rather than His righteousness.  It’s really not about YOU!

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

“Do you not know that youare God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Where is your focus?  Is it on your image or His?

We have many voices vying for our attention, but focusing on the wrong ones can fill us with dissatisfaction in the riches we have been given and distract us from the promise of paradise yet to come.  I pray that we will encourage each other to keep our eyes on what really matters and not on the temporary, superficial issues of today.

“…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18

Image Conscious (part 2)

As I was working on part 2 of this series, a headline caught my eye:

“‘Biggest Loser’ finale: Is the winner too thin?”

According to the article, “this season’s winner, Rachel, 23, went from 260 pounds to 105 pounds, losing 60 percent of her body weight.” (Ending up at an underweight BMI of 18.)
Full story here: Winner too thin?

While this article questioned whether her weight-loss on the popular t.v. show had gone too far, in a post-win interview on the Today show her appearance was praised by the hosts who exclaimed, “Congratulations. you look amazing!” and “You look fabulous!”

Watch: Biggest Loser Winner on Today Show

While medical experts would argue that this young woman has potentially traded one set of health concerns for another by allowing her weight to drop to an unhealthy low, she simultaneously received praise for her new look.  So, which voices should she listen to?

More importantly, which voices do YOU listen to?

The statistics are sobering.  Did you know…?

  • 24% of women would sacrifice 3 years of their life to be thin.
  • 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance and more than 90% of 15-17 year old girls want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance. 
  • More than 30 percent of women surveyed agreed they would consider cosmetic surgery in the future.
  • Nearly 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2007.  The overall number of cosmetic procedures has increased 457 percent since 1997. Women had 91 percent of cosmetic procedures.
  • The average American woman is 5’4″ tall and weighs 140 pounds, while the average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds.  Most American models are thinner than 98% of American women. The average size of the idealized woman (as portrayed by models), has stabilized at 13-19% below healthy weight.
  • More than 50% of 10 year old girls wish they were thinner.
  • More than half of teenage girls are, or think they should be, on diets.  They want to lose some or all of the 40 pounds that females naturally gain between the ages of 8 and 14.  A disturbed body image is a significant component of eating disorders and plays an important role in the development and continuation of eating disorders
  • Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die.  With treatment, that number falls to 2-3%.

“Ideals” are ever-changing, but our focus on appearance is nothing new. 

Whether it was squeezing into the internal organ-crushing corsets of the 19th century,

Corset          woman in corset           corset xray

or trying to achieve the boyish, flat-chested flapper look of the 1920’s,


we have a long history of measuring ourselves against a societal view of “beauty” – often at great costs.

We live in a world where physical “perfection” is emphasized…

Where we are subtly coerced into believing that we are not good enough.

We are bombarded by images and information

all competing for our attention

and telling us the age-old lie that we can be happy

         if ONLY…

(To be continued…)

Here we go… Image Conscious (part 1)

Not really sure any of this year’s Super Bowl commercials are going to stick with me.  Actually, the image that most caught my attention was some guy just behind the goal post waving a Canadian flag.  (We saw that guy a LOT during the first half…just sayin’.) I have no idea how much he paid for those seats, but advertisers might want to think about that strategy for next year, because I kind of want to go to Canada now.

Back to the commercials.  Oh, sure there was that ridiculously cute puppy/horse one (Stahp it, Budweiser; just STAHP! ) and a few that made me smile (“The 80’s called…” Well-played, RadioShack).  But none, in my opinion, compare with what is arguably the greatest SB ad of all time:  Volkswagen and a mini Darth Vader.  You can enjoy that creative gem again here:

So, while I was mostly underwhelmed by how “meh” most of the zillion dollar ads were, I was pleasantly surprised that the majority were family-friendly.  (Except Butterfinger.  :/  Why? Just… why?)  And there was a noticeable lack of bikini-clad supermodels; for that, I’m grateful. Partly because I didn’t have to worry about how those images might affect men, but also because I didn’t have to worry about how they would affect women. Yes, women.

You see, those images have more impact than we might realize.

I’ve been doing some research as I prepare to speak at a women’s conference next month on the topic of “body image.”  Why that topic?  Well, when attendees were surveyed at previous conferences, that was one of the issues mentioned most often.  It’s a problem.  A big one.  And media plays a role:

  • 80% of women say that the images of women on television and in movies, fashion magazines, and advertising make them feel insecure.
  • Media exposure has been found to constrain young women’s conceptions of femininity by putting appearance and physical attractiveness at the center of women’s values.

You might think this is only a “young women’s issue.” You’d be wrong.  In fact, in a 2011 survey, women in their early 60’s and in their late teens were surveyed about body image.  The results might surprise you. The responses to questions such as “Do you like your appearance?” and “Have you ever considered plastic surgery?” were almost identical between the two groups.  You can see the survey results here: Body Image Statistics: How Women Feel About Their Looks

That’s what I’m working on right now, so that’s where I’ll start.  It’s an issue we all deal with in one way or another so I hope you’ll stick with me.

Because it’s really not a physical issue.  Nope.

(To be continued…)

Oh, and if you live in the Phoenix area and are interested in attending a really great women’s conference, you can get more information and register here:
I’ll be there.  🙂