The Downside of Instant Gratification

Last week I asked the high school students to consider this: You can’t reach the summit without climbing the mountain first.

One of the biggest downsides of our modern world is the culture of “instant gratification”. Working in a high school, I see it all the time. We have become so accustomed to things happening instantly that we are losing the ability to wait patiently, to work with sustained effort, or appreciate the old cliche that “good things come to those who wait.”

I mean, how many times have you been frustrated by being asked to park at Maccas? Having to wait three or four minutes for food to be cooked for you… outrageous!

I’m not a fan of “back in my day” stories because I prefer to look forwards rather than backwards, but back in my day we actually had to wait for things. Wanted to buy something and didn’t have the money? I had to save up. By walking into a bank. And giving another human being my money and a deposit slip. And they would want to talk to me!!!

Don’t get me wrong. I love being able to stream movies and TV shows on a whim, and sending photos and videos of my kids to my parents, and putting a brand new Lego set on Afterpay. It’s part of why I think we live in a great world, but I sometimes wish we had to work a little harder for things.

Teaching high school kids, I see the instant gratification culture come out in them all the time. I see them looking ahead to the finished product and not wanting to have to put the time into learning how to get there. Even worse, I see them losing their self-confidence because they can’t do something first go. I have talked a lot to my Senior English class about the fact that they can’t write top-quality HSC English essays first go. It’s something they have to learn, put time into, and have the patience and resilience to keep going when things get tough. I remind them all the time that it’s my job to teach them and it’s their job to learn – if they could already do everything, I’d be out of a job!

So what can we do as teachers and parents? Probably not do what I’ve just done. It’s no good telling them “back in my day…”, they don’t live back in the day, their day is now. The world is a different place to the one we grew up in but that doesn’t mean it’s worse. Instead I would encourage all of you to work with your kids on developing hobbies and interests that require time, patience, and failing often.

Things like learning an instrument, building things with your hands, art classes, and playing sport, are wonderful things to do with your kids. There will be times that they suffer through boredom, failure, or lack of progress, but these are important things for our kids to experience.

As Romans 5:3-4 tells us: “suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.” I love the chain reaction within that passage that shows us that suffering leads to hope, but it’s important to note that it doesn’t happen instantly. There is a process and it takes time.

So if we can slow things down, have patience and know that things aren’t always going to be perfect first go, then I think we will all be able to see what an amazing world we live in… although, I think I’ll always be annoyed when they ask me to park at Maccas!

From the High School Coordinator

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