Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Simon Cowell got it right…

Last night as my wife and I were getting ready to go to bed just after having watched a tape delayed television show, I happened to see some familiar faces as guests on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The guests were Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest, and Simon Cowell from American Idol. Cutting straight to the point, Simon was accused of being particularly cruel or mean when he has provided his professional opinion of the wanna-be American Idol’s. If you’ve never seen this take place, just think of a cranky British man telling someone the bare-naked truth (with a bit of biting sarcasm) from his perspective and expertise in the music and entertainment industry.

Simon’s reaction to this accusation was true, I think. He said that he blames the parents of these contestants for how cruel he is. Now, I don’t think that he can blame them for any of the actual words or demeanor that he has, but I think that he is referring to the fact that he is the first person to have told this young person the truth about their lack of significant talent in their lives. Now, he can be condescending, but I’ve also heard him say to people that they have nice voices, but nothing that is dazzling or that would set them apart from every other decent singer.

I really think that Simon hit both a nerve and the pulse right on the head with his comment. What I mean is simply that parents (educators, coaches, etc) are told to be encouraging and say things like, “If you really want to be [insert superstar-like quality or profession here], and you believe that you can, then you can do it.” The problem is that there is a reason why there are only a small number of NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and other professional athletic organizations as well as why there are a small number of truly remarkable and memorable (for better or worse) musicians and actors. The reason is that specific talent on the level of superstar or icon is so rare, and potentially more rare because many times the talent does not coincide with hard work and determination, because it is partially the rarity of it that makes it so distinct and attractive to people.

This no-nonsense determination to tell people the hard truth about their “talent” shatters the foundation of the their dreams and goals that were, evidentially, built upon a foundation as solid as a unicycle on quicksand. I don’t think that it is the young people themselves who primarily bear the blame for this tragic, although it is somewhat comical as it plays out on American Idol, display of utter delusion. I blame the parents, grandparents, teachers, and coaches who have only done half of their jobs right. Yes these individuals are to encourage and build up the children in their care, absolutely. But, along with the encouragement, there must be the time for truth and reality to be instilled in children. For if children grow up never hearing or being exposed to reality as it relates to them and their talents, dreams, and goals – we are setting them up for disappointment and distress.

Dennis Prager, Jewish conservative talk-show host, made a comment a while back that I really think is true. His comment was basically that you can either experience pain now or you can experience pain later. It is one or the other; but all people will experience pain. He was specifically referring to being told that you are wrong about someone or something.

If I believe that I can sing as good as Luciano Pavarotti, but only for a few weeks, before I find out that I cannot, there is some degree of real pain sorrow in this realization. However, this pain is only compounded if the time-frame of my delusion is lengthened by many years and is decorated with the continual praise and un-wavering affirmations by those closest to me.

Again, we parents need to encourage our children in their endeavors. But we must never encourage them to a point that is harmful (i.e. beyond reality) with the reason of loving our children. The real love is gently and lovingly encouraging them to do their best while not brain-washing them believe that they can act, sing, dance, or play sports when in reality they are tone-deaf, they have two-left feet, and fairly clumsy.

My parents always encouraged me to try my hardest and work hard at whatever I did. In school when I would sing, act, or be involved in various sports (or pseudo-sports), I always knew that my parents were supporting me 100%. But, even though I had dreams of being an actor, a singer/songwriter, and a fullback in the NFL, I knew that they were just that, dreams.

Self esteem means having an inordinately or exaggeratedly favorable impression of oneself, and that is what is being inculcated into generations of young people.

1 This is ultimately destructive in the truest sense because it destroys the foundation of the gospel. The gospel is built on the truth that we are not good people, we are bad. The bible is clear that we are not good, and that it is only when we see how unrighteous we are and how truly desperate our situation is before God that the gospel makes any sense. Because, did God come to earth to save good people who were okay in God’s eyes anyway? No, Jesus came to die so that He might give “Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Galatians 1:4)

As funny as it is to see the delusion of people and their self perception on American Idol, it is exponentially more tragic to see this delusion applied to a self perception in the light of God and His standards.

Do you think that you’re a good person?

1 I used the second of two definitions to this term because this seems to be the way that it is embodied in our culture. http://dictionary.reference.com/search?db=dictionary&q=self+esteem

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