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The Vanishing American Adult (Part VII) – Chapter 5: Embrace Work Pain

Productivity is essential to human flourishing. We often fail to see this. Among our young there is an outsized sense of entitlement without any corresponding notion of accountability. This is because we often see freedom the wrong way. Ben Sasses was president of a college for five year. While there he conducted a survey wherein he asked students what they enjoyed the most. They said things like partying, sleeping in, skipping class, and so on. Almost nowhere did student surveys reveal that they had eyes to see “freedom to” categories like the freedom to read, to learn, to be coached, and to be mentored.

What is more, there is a fetish with authenticity among the young that hinders their ability to mature. Many young people think it is “fake” to act mature. But it is not fake to begin imitating desired behavior even before it is a full and fair representation of who you are in the moment. That is the only way people grow.

In sum, our kids view freedom the wrong way and don’t know how to mature. A lot of this is because they haven’t been exposed to work that would train them to see the value of being productive and show them how to grow and mature. Whereas young people in the past used to be trained in trades, our young people now spend a lot of their time in organized games (sports). Both parents often work and there is no energy to train kids to work at home. As a result kids aren’t learning anything useful and helpful, but rather things that tend to increase their own pride and vainglory. Sasse believes that instead of putting fun first, we ought to put work first. Our children live in a world of celebrity driven pop culture, secularism, consumerism, and hyper-sexuality. Much of American life seems to be focused on the goal of finding more efficient ways to shirk responsibilities. But the fact is, nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty. We need to teach our children to swim upstream. We need to teach them to learn how to embrace suffering and to embrace difficulty. We need to teach our kids that hard work, not the absence of work, will help to make them happy and good.