“Youth was not made for pleasure, it was made for heroism.”
Our recent article “A Strange Case of Rich Aunt Syndrome” received so much attention and commentary that a few words of clarification are in order.
First, the article was certainly meant to encourage discussion and thought. However, it was not meant to be hurtful, nor was it modeled after any one person in particular. While living in several places across the country, I have noticed varying degrees of these behaviors in many young adults, including myself. The main point of the article, as imperfectly as it may have been stated, was that we all have selfish tendencies that must be fought on a daily basis.
Second, the mindset portrayed in “Rich Aunt” is present in both men and women. The main reason for the emphasis on women in “Rich Aunt” is a simple one. In my experience, women are more likely to have their careers in order before men. This ambition is certainly commendable, and should be encouraged. However, it also leaves open the opportunity for the inordinate self-indulgence that is promoted by the world at every turn.
Third, some readers took the example of excessive travel to imply that I am somehow anti-travel (or anti-travel for women). That is not the case. The point was that travel is one area that can quickly become narcissistic, interfering with and replacing what should be higher and more noble pursuits. The key word is excessive. Traveling can certainly be worthwhile, especially in the service of some goal, such as learning about history and other cultures, learning a foreign language, or philanthropy.
Finally, many of the responses to “Rich Aunt” were along the lines of “Sure, these things may be true. But you are neglecting the role played by men in all this!” And it’s true. There is a flip side to the issue that must be addressed in order to have a clear understanding of the state of affairs between today’s young men and women.
Intimately connected to Rich Aunt Syndrome is the crisis of manhood in modern society. The world has convinced men that pleasure and comfort are preferable to duty and sacrifice, constantly denigrating traditional masculine virtues and roles (“toxic masculinity”). As a result, far too many young men have abandoned the pursuit of a virtuous manly ideal, failing to prepare themselves on even the most basic material level for their future vocation. They are content to work jobs that provide enough income for a comfortable single existence, but not enough for a family. Without a clear vision of the manly ideal one wants to achieve, why bother with the effort? And so many young men remain content to indulge their own selfish lifestyle, choosing to spend their time and money on partying, cars, sports, or video games, just to name a few of the usual suspects.
But even more important than failing to live out a vocation on the natural level, is the failure to live out one’s vocation on the supernatural level. This is all too common, not only among those neglecting their careers, but also among many who are high achievers. They separate and compartmentalize their lives, leaving their Faith as an afterthought, like a potted plant in the corner that requires only a cursory watering each Sunday. The practice of the Faith has to be made a priority in action, not just in a theoretical “I’ll get to it later” sort of way. This is a deeply problematic trend, and it must be reversed if Christ is ever to reign again in society. We see many otherwise capable men who “aren’t ready to settle down,” and it seems that the root cause is a lack of spiritual maturity.
The failure of young men to live up to their masculine calling is part of a vicious cycle. This lack of initiative in men creates an imbalance in the dating scene, which leaves a void in the lives of young women who are looking for a virtuous husband. But every void needs to be filled, and some women will attempt to fill it by embracing their own self-centered lifestyle. This is a somewhat understandable, but ultimately futile response to the problem. The end result is a stalemate that is disheartening and detrimental to both sides.
So, what do we do? First, we must realize that our lives must be lived as a unified whole, directed toward God at all times. We don’t somehow enter “duty of state mode” when we clock in at work, and then exit that mode when we get home and binge watch Netflix, or go out clubbing on the weekend. Also, we need to understand that while our ultimate vocation may not unfold on our preferred timeline, we must nonetheless continue to live our lives in a generous and selfless manner. Frustration and pain are a part of any real growth, but the process is not automatic, and we must respond positively to capitalize on the opportunity. If we prioritize what is truly important, and act accordingly, we will discover that God is not outdone in generosity.