Thursday, July 11, 2013

Good Pressure, Bad Pressure- "Spotlight Anxiety" and Generation-i

This post is a result of many recent conversations where I keep hearing the same thing over and over. This observation has been shared by parents, teachers, administrators, coaches, and those involved in teaching fine arts.

Our young people are under duress unlike anything these mentors have seen before. There is a quiet fear that is robbing middle school and high school students from ever grasping life and squeezing out all the marrow. There is an unhealthy pressure that could likely produce depression and feelings of regret when they look back on their waste of youth. It is a fear that has always existed but is either greater in intensity than when we were teens, or the students themselves are weaker to stand to the pressure, or (likely) a combination of both.

Of course we naturally think of teens and 'peer pressure' and this is a type of peer pressure- but sometimes this term is too generic and mis-understood. We ALL live under peer pressure. Most psychology textbooks will spell out a life truth that human beings begin longing for peer approval OVER parental approval around the age of 14. Being accepted by your peers is more important than any other circle of influence in your life.

I'm still that way in a sense. It is one thing for my wife and children to tell me I am a good football coach- it is even better for my players and parents to believe I am a good coach- but I receive my greatest professional endorsement when my fellow coaches tell me I am a good coach. There have been times when an opposing coach has mentioned how hard it is to get ready to play my teams, or publicly say that I am a skilled coach- and that has always been extremely satisfying.

But this is different in kind or degree to what I am trying to write about.

For the last 10 years I have noticed a trend where there is a growing fear of Jr and Sr High students to stand out from the crowd. They do not want to stand out negatively OR positively. They want to be a part of the masses with very little individual attention in public.

I'm not saying that they mind private conversations that edify or criticize- but single a kid out in front of their peers and the most common response is sheer discomfort and anxiety.

This has always existed. I remember a friend of mine who purposely bombed a test in 4th grade because he was told he was going to be put in 'the nerd class' if he did well (that's what he called it). But my friend never worried about being a stand out in other ways.

What I am trying to describe is a common, systematic, and tangible anxiety where students avoid any position, honor, or activity where they may be singled out by an adult and extolled for virtue or behavior.

I have seen it growing in athletics. When I started coaching QB's 22 years ago- EVERY young athlete wanted to be the QB. When we had camp and kids chose their positions, often the QB line started as the largest and we had to whittle the position down and encourage them to try other positions.

It is almost the opposite now. Most of the time, there is only 1 QB per grade and some grades you have to ask a kid to try the position. Another coaching friend of mine is a baseball coach and he said he noticed the same thing happening to pitchers.

Our theory is that there is too much of the 'spotlight anxiety' over those positions. When you are on the mound- the game is literally in your hands- and more and more kids do NOT want to be in that predicament.

Where are the kids who want to take the last shot to win the game? They are becoming a rare commodity.

Teachers are telling me the same thing. Students actually fear being singled out for academic achievement among their peers. I had a student tell me that the worst day of the year is Honors Day because she is harassed about winning a class award or receiving commendation for academic achievement.

And that statement is a key piece of evidence about the reason for 'spotlight anxiety'.

My working theory is that our students are finding their peer group as treacherous as any we have seen, partly because sarcasm/taunting is now a form of entertainment and partly because kids are more vulnerable/fragile to it.

This a multi-faceted and difficult issue- but I want to explore many of the variables that come into play within this dynamic environment.


Crude humor and the put-down has ALWAYS existed. But it wasn't the only avenue for entertainment and humor. A lot of the humor I enjoyed as a young person had some healthy dimensions- especially 'witty' word play and the quick comeback.
And OF COURSE- there was always the taboo joke telling about any uncomfortable subject. But there was also interjections of irony and tame chuckles as well.

Saturday Night Live is actually a great study of the subtle change that satire has undergone. There is an obvious DEGREE of difference between Chevy Chase overdoing the stumbling Gerald Ford and Tina Fey's more personal barbs against Sarah Palin.

Our youth culture is saturated with attack humor- it is really the only type of humor they respond to outside the bawdy bedroom or bathroom references. Even the seemingly innocuous Disney Channel sitcoms lead with having a laugh at the expense of someone else.

The average teen in today's culture lives in real fear of becoming the target of such humor.


The fuel regarding the veracity of personal attacks is supercharged by the brashness, pervasiveness, and ease of anonymity in social media.

I have to be honest- though I participate fully in social media- I don't think my adult experience fully apprehends the dominating impact insta-gram, twitter, snap chat, facebook, and vining has on this generation.

Cyber-bullying has been documented to be a major contributing factor in many recent bully-cides.


This is a difficult issue to articulate- but the gradual erosion of a consensus of values and truth has contributed to a mass confusion of what value virtue has, what value life has, and leads to dark/sinister/empty thought processes in the life of many youth.

I have seen this change as a football coach over the last 22 years. Fifteen years ago, most of my players articulated goals around team objectives (winning region/state titles- winning games) but there has been a clear shift in the mind of today's athletes. Their ultimate goal? To sign an athletic scholarship. To showcase my talent.

When ultimate goals have a self focus- young people will give up when they don't see their skill set as being the dominant one. They define success as self adulation and have little to lean on in tough times. I sweated and hurt because I did not want to let my team mate down. There is less motivation to endure when it is up to you to declare worth based of merely utilitarian concepts.


Our society has reacted in such drastic measures to any perceived danger, that most of our young people never experience risk or pressure. There was a benefit to jumping off a diving board or climbing a rope to the ceiling.

Instead, we have created the bubble existence. No dirt, no danger, no boo boos- and our young people are more fragile than any I have ever seen.

The affluence and leisure has resulted in soft bones, little muscle, and rare feats of fortitude.

An Oak Tree grows strong in the storms of life- potted plants cannot survive even a day without water.


Fortunately, ALL IS NOT LOST. There are still pockets of promise and places that stand out like an  oasis in the desert.

Though we still feel the impact of general societal ills- the community of traditional gospel directed families, schools, and churches produce leaders and well adjusted young people for the most part.

When the Biblical world-view is taught, modeled, and lovingly defended- it creates a much better pressure, a healthy motivation to persevere and succeed.

I have seen this first hand. I have experienced the joy of seeing students discover the freedom when they reject the emptiness of this world and learn to enjoy life as God directs them. I have had the privilege of experiencing this as a parent, teacher, coach, and administrator.

We have more good examples that we are led to believe- it is just not as interesting as the bad examples.


The biggest problem is that so few folks understand that kind of freedom- that it is often misunderstood and ridiculed.

But, we have to be honest. If you have a son or daughter who sells out to living with passion, fight, unselfishness, energy, and vocal leadership- you need to pray hard and coach them hard.. they are likely choosing a very lonely path. It is our mistake, if we do not honestly address these realities.

I had a girl in my office in the last few years who was in tears. She was being harassed for being a good student. This wasn't the jeer of 'teacher's pet' complaints that we recognize- this was a coordinated and continuous complaint that this girl was "such a sell out". She had few friends who ever invited her anywhere and and others who made up lies about things she said.

I worked hard to re-orient her perception to love, forgive, and find girls who had the same heart desires. hough it was not easy, she handled it well and FORTUNATELY there were those like minded people there.


If we want to see this so-called generation-i make it- there has to be bold leadership and godly mentoring/discipleship to keep teaching the Judeo-Christian worldview. We have to be honest with the influence of privatization, consumerism, secularism, and hedonism that is increasing in our culture.

We have to combat the constant message from culture with interesting and timely applications of God's truth in Scripture and boldly defend the Christian gospel and Biblical virtues. We must be willing to fight... in love.. and stand firmly on those principles that hold us together.

Do not give into the culture war- keep lifting Christ up and He will draw all men to Himself.

It will not be easy- G.K. Beale said that ''worldliness is what ANY culture does to make sin seem normal and righteousness seem strange."

If our students step out for Christ- it means they are stepping into a harsh spotlight and we have to be ready to support them in the fray.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A 'TAG ON' Jesus Always Falls Off

If I am honest, I will say that I sometimes get tired of the 'challenge' that I feel from Christ. I am one who would rather be soothed and comforted by ear tickling treats of teaching that are so full of grace and mercy that I walk away unscathed in the process.....'whew! I'm okay and you're okay! Praise the Lord!'

Don't push me preacher or teacher. Don't water down my salvation by grace through faith by adding in some sense of duty. Don't weigh me down with checklist Christianity.

Then I run headlong into obstacles. I find the challenge is not coming from teachers of the law. The challenge is coming from Jesus Himself. And I want to run and hide from Him when He does this to me.


In 2008, I read the story of Ernest Gordon, To End All Wars.  Gordon was a British Army officer captured by the Japanese during World War II and assigned to the building of the Burma-Siam railway. Each day Gordon joined a work detail of prisoners to build a track bed through low-lying swampland. If a prisoner appeared to lag, a Japanese guard would beat him to death or decapitate him. Many more men simply dropped dead from exhaustion, malnutrition, and disease. Ultimately, 80,000 prisoners died.

In the book, he recounted the horrors of prison camp under the Japanese.

“As conditions steadily worsened, as starvation, exhaustion and disease too an ever increasing toll, the atmosphere in which we lived became poisoned by selfishness, hate and fear. We were slipping rapidly down the slope of degradation… The weak were trampled- the sick ignored. When a man lay dying we had no word of comfort for him. When we cried we averted our heads. Men cursed the Japanese, their neighbors, God. Cursing became such an obsession that they constructed whole sentences in which every word was a curse.

We had no church, no chaplain, no services. Many had prayed, but only for themselves. Nothing happened. They had appealed to God as an expedient. But God had apparently refused to be treated as one. We had long since resigned ourselves to be derelicts. We were the forsaken men- forsaken by our friends, our families, by our Government. Now even God seemed to have left us."

There are times I grow discouraged when I look at the shape of our nation and culture. But I never get mad at God because I fear that we have often done the same thing.

I have to confess that Jesus many times is the catch-all tag on I add to my daily life to make sure I have covered all the bases. He is the insurance policy that I am a good man doing good things.

Deep inside though I know.

He comes as King or He doesn't come at all.

And Kings demand what we don't want to do.... bow and fully submit to their wishes.


Have I not read the Word?

Colossians 1:16 : For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

Every piece of this life is His anyway! It was made BY HIM and it was made FOR HIM.

My body........BY HIM AND FOR HIM.
My wife.........BY HIM AND FOR HIM.
My children...BY HIM AND FOR HIM.
My job...........BY HIM AND FOR HIM.
Football..........BY HIM AND FOR HIM.
Food...............BY HIM AND FOR HIM.

When I submit to the LORDSHIP of Jesus- I am merely acknowledging what is true anyway. My problem is that I often don't believe He is good and trustworthy. And when I doubt His goodness, it is always good evidence that Satan and sin have been present.


I recently heard a report where someone mentioned "The Stanford Marshmallow Test".

The Stanford marshmallow experiment[1] refers to a series of studies on delayed gratification in the late 1960s and early 1970s led by psychologist Walter Mischel then a professor at Stanford University. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward (sometimes a marshmallow, but often a cookie or a pretzel, etc.) provided immediately or two small rewards if he or she waited until the experimenter returned (after an absence of approximately 15 minutes). In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores,[2] educational attainment,[3] body mass index (BMI)[4] and other life measures.[5]   -  SOURCE WIKIPEDIA

What was so interesting about this study was the report on how the two different choices were predicted by the behavior of the children when the researcher left the room.

The children who ate their marshmallow sat and stared at it eventually giving into the temptation and suffering loss.

The children who 'waited for the reward' often got up and looked away or covered their eyes- finding convenient distractions to dampen the desire for immediate gratification.

This has made me re-think what "Integrity" means. My new definition now goes like this tweet I wrote:
Jay Mathews
"Integrity" is a willingness to say a 'HARD NO' so that your life and words line up with the truth. You cannot have integrity with YES only.
When Christ challenges me- it is a good challenge- not to harm me, but to remind me that only He can protect and provide. Here is the problem... I don't have that kind of integrity. And that is where my pitiful self ends and God's gospel begins.


Lord, please forgive me when I run and hide from You. Thank-you for NEVER stopping in pursuit of my heart. You know I cannot live for You as I need to, so I plead for Your Holy Spirit to so fill me that I respond to all your challenges and requests. Please cast down the darkness that causes me to question Your intent.

You are NOT an expedient. You have NOT abandoned us. You are Lord and we often abandon You.

Every day is a new opportunity to begin again.


Look what happened in Ernest Gordon's life!

Gordon could feel himself gradually wasting away from a combination of beriberi, worms, malaria, dysentery, typhoid, and diphtheria. Paralyzed and unable to eat, he asked to be laid in the Death House.

"The floor in the hut was a sea of mud. And there were the smells; the tropical ulcers eating into flesh and bone, overflowing latrines, unwashed men, sick men. Worst of all was the sweet, evil smell of bed-bugs by the million, crawling over us to steal the little fresh air that still clung to our bones. The swarming flies struck me as obscene."


This time death seemed so much more matter-of- fact. I was resisting the idea.
When? For me was NOT NOW.
ERNEST: Doctors are naturally pessimistic. They are wrong. I am not going to die.
REASON: In case you kick the bucket- leave your affairs as tidy as possible- write your parents what to do when you die. There is no escape.
ERNEST: Life has to be cherished. I’m not one to surrender. But what do I do about it.
THE VOICE OF FAITH: You could live. You could be. You could do. There’s a purpose to fulfill. You become more aware of it each day you endure. This is your task and your’s only
ERNEST: GOOD ENOUGH- I’ll get on it.


A Christian named Dusty appears in the Death House- talked, cared, comforted, washed, soothed, salved- “ I’ll clean out the pus”- fed- served- sacrificed- indomitable optimism- gets Ernest to a clean hut


“On occasions we marched into the countryside on labor details- we saw the difference in Christian natives, we saw the differences between the Christian way and the Oriental one.
Usually we were treated with indifference and contempt. Our plight meant nothing to the yellow –robed Buddhist priests. Why should it? They were on their way to salvation by non-attachment… there was no place for mercy in their philosophy.

But we once came to a village where we received a treatment so different it astonished us. There was mercy in their eyes. We were given cakes, eggs, bananas, medicine, and honey. Later we learned that this village had been converted to Christianity by missionaries. The Japanese found out about their friendly behavior and punished them severely for it.”


One event in particular shook the prisoners. A Japanese guard discovered that a shovel was missing. When no one confessed to the theft, he screamed, "All die! All die!" and raised his rifle to fire at the first man in the line. At that instant an enlisted man stepped forward and said, "I did it."

Enraged, the guard lifted his weapon high in the air and brought the rifle butt down on the soldier's skull, killing him. That evening, when tools were inventoried again, the work crew discovered a mistake had been made: No shovel was missing.

One of the prisoners remembered the verse, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Attitudes in the camp began to shift. With no prompting, prisoners began looking out for each other rather than themselves.

ERNEST: Why doesn’t God do something?
DUSTY: Maybe He does… maybe He does… but we just can’t see it right now. Maybe our vision isn’t so good right now. “for we see as in a glass darkly”. I suppose that eventually we will see and understand.

ERNEST GORDON BEGINS TO HEAR THE BIBLE- Dusty reads the Book of John out loud.

“I lay back on my sleeping platform and let my mind dwell on these words. There was truth in them. Both Dusty and Dinty exemplified it.

For the first time I understood. Each man had a faith that lent a special grace to his personality. It was a power and presence greater than themselves. There was a life infinitely more complex and beautiful that I had ever imagined. True, there was hatred… but there was also love. There was death. But there was also life.
GOD HAD NOT LEFT US. HE WAS THERE WITH US- He was calling us to live the divine life in fellowship. I was beginning to be aware of the miracle that God was working in the Death Camp by the River Kwai.


ERNEST: I can’t possibly do that.
“Our men think you can do it. They know you are a fighting soldier and you’ve been to the university”
ERNEST: What good will it do?
“Perhaps we haven’t understood Christianity right in the past. We need to know if it’s absolute ‘dingo” or not.”

“I had to throw out the doctrinal expression that Christianity was only for nice people who had been brought up in nice homes and gone to nice schools where they had learned to do nice things. Heaven for this group was a kind of perpetual tea-party with thin cucumber sandwiches and smoky-tasting tea served in fine bone-china cups.”

At each successive meeting the numbers grew.

Through our readings in the gospels we gradually came to know Jesus. He was one of us. Like us, He had no place to lay His head, no ffod for His belly, no friends in high places. He too had known bone-weariness from too much toil; the suffering, the rejection, the disappointments that make up the fabric of life.

As we read and talked, he became flesh and blood. He was suspended on the cross and tormented with the hell of pain; but he had not been broken. He remained free and alive, as the Resurrection affirmed.

We experienced His love…passionate, other-centered…in fellowhip of freedom and love we found truth, and with truth a wonderful unity, of harmony and peace.


Organized service teams- they start to minister and improve conditions. Assign duties- visit sick- listen- encouraged- diligently did our daily charge-

The cross became central- God was not indifferent to suffering- He suffered so we could serve. No one knew the answer to the mystery- but we saw that much of suffering was caused by man’s inhumanity- selfishness- greed- some suffering was inexplicable- but we knew that God was not indifferent to pain.
We stopped complaining- we were not absent from pain, but faith allowed us to walk through it. Suffering was no longer locked up in our house of self-pity.

Laughter was heard in the camp- Worship services were started- A school was started- language and music was taught. Christmas came to camp.



We were beginning to understand that there were no easy ways for God- so there were no easy ways for us.

Carloads of Japanese wounded begin to pour in. "The Japanese did not care a tinker’s damn for their own wounded. These men were in a shocking state. I have never seen men filthier. They were the enemy, more cowed and defeated than we had ever been."

Without a word most of our officers begin to help them.

An Allied officer screamed from another section in the train, “What bloody fools you are! Don’t you realize that those are the enemy?”

“Have you never heard the story of the man going from Jerusalem to Jericho?”

“That’s different- that’s in the Bible- these are swine!”

“We are called to the least of these whether we like it or not.”

"It was time to let Jesus be my Savior and my LORD."

“As I journey with those of the Way I see the victory over the impersonal, destructive and enslaving forces at work in the world has been given to mankind because of what Jesus has done. This is good news! God, in Christ has shared his suffering. He has not shunned the responsibility of freedom. He shares in our saddest and most painful experiences. He comes into our Death House to lead us through it.”


Monday, July 01, 2013

Summer Maintenance and Sabbatical

Those who have contacted me- I will be starting new material sometime in August.

If you haven't noticed- I have started re-posting some of my most read or commented material on a wordpress blog- The Best of Jayopsis:

My 20 personnel offense on blogger is going to be taken down and any football stuff will go on Football by Jayopsis:

A lot of change and 're-tooling' is going on in my life right now. I know God is preparing me for a new phase of growth.

This 'in-between' time can be frustrating.... but I just take it day by day.

As far as writing:

My plan is to always post NEW stuff on

I will continue to re-package old stuff on the Wordpress- Best of Jayopsis. It has given me a new audience to reach out to.

All football stuff will go on Wordpress.

Eventually, I want to publish an e-book with my football stuff on it.

So--- until August- enjoy some time off!