Message from President Beck A. Taylor
I was watching an NFL game not long ago when one of the defensive players on a team that was down by 24 points with two minutes remaining performed a spontaneous and over-the-top herky-jerky dance after tackling his opponent for a loss. I thought to myself, "Really?" Then I remembered that the way to stardom, or so our culture often teaches, is to draw attention to yourself and make sure others know just how very special you are. For the moment, this player had forgotten how horribly his team had played as a unit, the disappointed fans who were left in the stadium, and his fallen comrades who had been removed from the game due to devastating injuries. At that moment, it was really all about him.
In his book The Road to Character, author David Brooks prosecutes the "Big Me" culture that seems so pervasive these days. One need look no farther than our politicians, corporate leaders, athletes, celebrities, or the Facebook and Twitter accounts under their names to see how this nefarious culture is undermining many of our society's most enduring and revered traits. Where's humility? Where's self-sacrifice? Where's serving something greater than myself(ie)? To make his point, Brooks cites study after study that report how we perceive ourselves differently than people did in past generations.
For example, compared to high school seniors in 1950, among whom only 12 percent considered themselves to be very important persons, the Gallup Organization reported that 80 percent of students in 2005 saw themselves as such. In another example, recent respondents to so-called narcissism tests scored 30 percent higher at the median than those who were surveyed only two decades earlier. And in a 1976 survey, when people were asked to rank fame among a list of their life goals, it came in next to last, ranking 15th out of 16 outcomes. Thirty years later, 51 percent of young people ranked fame as one of their top personal goals.
So what is the antidote to the "Big Me" culture? As Whitworth considers this question, we need to look no farther than the person of Christ. Jesus embodied humility and selflessness, sacrifice and service. So as Whitworth equips its graduates to "follow Christ…", we must be attentive to reinforcing moral virtues, quick to pointing out scriptural imperatives to love neighbor as self, and resolute in leading students through an educational journey that opens minds and hearts to the needs of others.
Despite the ubiquitous self-aggrandizement in our world, I see a markedly different and refreshingly sincere posture among Whitworth's students. Perhaps it's because we attract a different kind of student to Whitworth, or perhaps it's because our programs and culture promote a sense of otherness that flows through our students. Regardless, I speak with students each and every day who are curious about how to serve the world in ways that honor their gifts and passions and meet the needs of others. These students are concerned about the world, and not just about their own place in it. They are attempting to follow a "Little Me" life.
And as I travel across the country and meet Whitworth alumni, I again get a sense that they are about things bigger than themselves. They are not just curious about the world, but they also question how they are being summoned to serve it. During September, Whitworth highlighted on its website and through social media a number of alumni and friends who see service as a key attribute to living a summoned life. Their stories were inspiring. The Whitworth Serves campaign, a campaign of service to complement our fund-raising Campaign for Whitworth, asks our graduates to tell us their stories of service so that we can celebrate the ways in which Whitworth has been a contributing factor in their heartfelt attempts to live "Little Me" lives.
To "honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity" is to refuse to live a "Big Me" existence. Rather, it is to embrace a life of service to others, to give credit to others rather than hoard it for ourselves, to live life with humility and grace, and to discern how God might be summoning us into the world. Rather than asking what we can get out of life, we are asking how life is calling us.
That's my prayer for the Whitworth family as we approach the holidays. May we be known as a people of generosity, of service, and of selflessness.
As always, please keep Whitworth in your prayers.
P.S. I wrote this message before I thumbed through this issue's content, which, ironically, features an article on ME and a peek into MY October calendar. Sheesh! Paging Little Me!