By David Hegg
Recently, I finished a great book recounting the exploits of Dog Company, the group of Army Rangers that led the assault up the cliffs on D-Day and accomplished the invasion’s toughest mission. Their story is one of grit, strength and great sacrifice, and it reminded me that America once had a culture of honor.
It is devastating to realize, as we read and listen to today’s news, how far we have fallen. No longer do we prize those who shoulder the burdens of life and just go on resolutely running the race set before them. No longer do we count it as honorable to persevere through the slights and disappointments of life with a tough-skin attitude. No longer do we teach our children the reality that others will not always appreciate their point of view, and that insults, criticism and disagreement are part and parcel of living in this chaotic world, and they had better learn how to let things just bounce off them.
Simply put, we’ve stopped believing it is better to be controlled by who we are and what we believe, than to be forever responding with outrage to every little grievance that hits us.
We’ve given up a culture of honor to become a society of victims. While we used to be a people that soldiered on through the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, we now applaud those who cry out as victims against any and every thing that hurts, disappoints, or offends them.
We’ve become so soft, so sensitive, so emotionally sunburned that the cries and whining of the offended have become our battle song. Gone are the days when we knew we were never promised a rose garden, and understood the necessity of being tough enough to persevere through the inevitable challenges life brings.
But not today. Today, the most pronounced right many hold and fight for is the right to never, ever, be offended, or in any way slighted, hurt, or ignored.
I think our dreadful slide into this silly narcissistic shallowness of character began years ago when we insisted that self-esteem precedes accomplishment. I remember, when my children were in elementary school, how every child got an award and was told they were outstanding. Generation after generation grew up believing they were the center of a universe that was now responsible to make sure they never had to encounter any pain, or in any way be disadvantaged or offended. And now we are reaping the soul-weakening results of that ill-conceived philosophy.
Are there people in our world who truly are victims, who actually need to be helped? Of course, and the burgeoning field of pseudo-victims is a huge threat to them. The societal power that once was delegated to those true victims who persevered through their trials with grace and honor is now being co-opted by those who manufacture offenses and masquerade as the wrongly wounded.
At the bottom of our surging society of victimhood is an ethical breach. Those who truly suffer should be helped toward restoration. But, sadly, now victimhood has become the stuff of reparation. To be offended and claim suffering today can be the means to money, power and status, regardless of how sincere the claim may be.
As I read Dog Company by Patrick D. O’Donnell, I felt a sense of pride that America had produced such a fine group of courageous, humble men. I also had to fight down the dread that we’re no longer doing so. But all is not lost … yet.
My hope is that this era of pseudo-victimhood will be short-lived. I continue to believe rank-and-file Americans understand that one key to a healthy society is the ability of individuals to flush the small stuff, bear the daily onslaught of circumstance courageously, and above all, replace the selfish desire to gain from others’ mistakes with a passionate desire to fix our own. Call me idealistic if you will, but history is on my side. Over time, strong character, honesty, courage and selflessness almost always wins out. Let’s hope the trend continues.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.