The Prior boys’ childhood bedrooms are adorned with a fair number of trophies and prize ribbons. To be honest a number of these awards were bestowed upon them for “showing up”. Don’t get me wrong–there is some ‘hardware’ in their rooms that they earned for their accomplishments. Yes, they are unquestionably a part of what is often referred to as the Trophy Generation. This term is often used in a negative connotation for giving every young person an award for being there.
On the one hand, I appreciate credit being given for participating. For a whole host of reasons more and more folks do not like to join in or show up for things. I think it’s great to acknowledge someone for their willingness to jump in, especially if they have no prior experience, and try something new.
On the other hand, if everyone gets affirmed for everything then I believe we miss an important foundational fact of life: we are all uniquely created and uniquely gifted. In fact that is central to our Pentecost narrative. The Holy Spirit, as we hear in the Acts of the Apostles, “pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17). And Paul consistently reminded the early faith communities, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” 1 Cor. 12:4-7).
I do wholeheartedly believe our gifts need to be affirmed. In fact, I think one of the primary reasons we gather as the people of God is to discern, affirm and encourage each other’s gifts. “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ…” (Romans 12:4-6). Different gifts–but all for the greater body.