How Do You Get Attention?

I am a child of the fifties. Graduating from high school in 1955 and from college in 1959, I saw the period that has been popularized in everything from Grease to Happy Days. My most overpowering reaction to media presentations like these is, "That's not the way it was."

That fact remains, however, that every generation has had its share of people who had bizarre ways of getting recognized. In the fifties, it was the music, the car, and the dress that led to the title of "cool cat." As time progressed, drugs and booze became an addition made by some of the fringers and behavior became more extreme. As we move into this new century, violence seems to be the latest addition to be made. The farther on the fringe people are, the more likely it seems to be that a terrible act of violence will be committed.

I would like to suggest that the solution to the turmoil in our society does not lie in the educational or political arena. No law is going to stop violence and aggression. The most it can do is to shift the way in which the violence is expressed into some other form. Instead of guns, it may be expressed with axes, knives, or bombs, but it will be expressed. No amount of teaching is going to address the hurt, anger, and frustration that lie in the hearts of so many people.

The more fundamental issue in this matter is the question of self esteem. A monstrous percentage of our children have grown up in a loveless, depreciating, demeaning environment during the nineties. Family connections have been shattered or never existed, and failure has been emphasized far above success. Those of us who teach in the public schools contend with this on a daily basis. One of my discipline techniques over the years has been to take a disruptive student out in the hall and ask them why they are conducting themselves in the way they are. I usually ask them questions like, "Do you not like me? Do you not like the other kids in the class? What is it you don't like that is causing you to disrupt the class?" An astronomical percentage of the time, the student will say, "I don't like me!" If they refuse to answer me, I sometimes ask them if they like themselves. That question will frequently unleash a flood of tears.

A large percentage of our behavior is done to get attention. The bully or overbearing person is in desperate need of having control over others. Sometimes people even steal, hoping to get caught to get attention. The insecurity of people in our day is epidemic in magnitude.

This is not new. Jesus repeatedly taught against doing things religiously to get attention. Consider the following passages:

Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites be honored by men (Matthew 1:1-2).

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men (Matthew 6:5).

When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting. (Matthew 6:17-18 ).

Throughout the Bible, there is continual emphasis on focusing on God rather than trying to gain recognition by human beings.
The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile. So then, no more boasting about men! (1 Corinthians 3:20-21).

We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God,.(1 Thessalonians 2:4).

The point of emphasis here is that, if our relationship to God is what it should be, we have no need to do things to get the attention of human beings. This is the reason that church evangelistic outreaches have been so spectacularly successful in changing the lives of people. We have all read or been involved with hardened criminals, drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, gang members, etc., who have been radically changed by help from the religious community. If our sole focus is to please God, exhibitionist behavior that attempts to elevate us in the eyes of humans around us is unnecessary. This is why and how people can have radical changes in behavior due to a commitment to Christ. If we are not what we want to be behaviorally, perhaps a first step needs to be a strengthening of our relationship to God. Recharging our belief by looking freshly at the evidence for His existence is a good start. We offer you through this ministry an opportunity to do that free of charge through our video and audio tapes, books, courses, and periodical.

"How do you get attention?" might first of all be changed to "whose attention do we try to get?" The first step toward being what we want to be is to build a faith that can sustain us. We hope we can be of service to you to that end. -John N. Clayton

--John N. Clayton

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