Did the Bold Children become the Meek Generation?
Have you ever had one of those experiences where you suddenly hear something, that you have heard your whole life, but never really heard?
For example, when I was a child we never talked about pooh. At least not by that name. Instead, we called it load, or even more oddly, in verb form, big load.
Parents and children alike could be heard saying things like,
“Can you please get out of the bathroom I need to do a big load,”
“Careful everyone, a dog just did a big load in the garden and I accidentally stepped in load.”
Children being children, we would use it in our name-calling,
“You’re a big load.”
“No I’m not you are.”
“Shut up or I’ll throw some load at you.”
At which point one of our parents would say,
“Stop that now, don’t be bold.”
And there it was, the word I heard my whole life without really hearing it.
“Don’t be bold.”
“Have you been bold?”
“That is very bold.”
“You are a very bold child.”
“You are being very bold.”
“He/she is a very bold boy/girl.”
All these years later I finally hear it.
Of all the words that could have been used to describe misbehavior, the word of choice was bold. Really?
My grandparents lived on the other side of the city and they used the word too. So it wasn’t even some weird idiosyncratic thing my parents used, it was common.
Progress . . . of sorts
My grandmother was born in 1902 and her upbringing was Victorian in style. One of her frequent admonishments was,
“Children should be seen and not heard.”
I can only imagine the effect on a generation of people who grew up being told they should be seen and not heard.
Perhaps the repression was too intense, because certainly in Ireland, after 700 years of brutal colonization, we made ourselves heard and gained our independence in 1921.
Similar revolutions were going on in other parts of the world around the same time possibly in reaction to that same Victorian oppressive unconsciousness.
It is so odd then that the very thing that was required to break free of those shackles – bold action – was now being used to inculcate a whole new generation away from being bold.
Being bold was demonized.
When I made my holy communion at age eight, part of the process was going to confession for the first time. I don’t think humans are naturally inclined towards the idea of sin, so we had to have it explained to us. There was something fundamentally wrong with us, original sin, and it came out in lots of ways that we had to ask God forgiveness for.
We were basically trained to feel bad about ourselves.
The mind worm of guilt was placed in our ears and while it was borrowing into us, we were schooled in what to do during confession.
We were given some sample sins to get us started.
Something we could tell the priest when we couldn’t think of anything else.
Top of the list was,
“I was bold to my Mammy and Daddy.”
It makes me wonder if part of our current situation might have come about because we were told not to be bold. It is uncomfortable to look at, but the opposite of bold is meek, and while I never considered myself a meek person perhaps I am, perhaps my whole generation is, and perhaps that is why we are where we are.
Surely now more than ever we need boldness. The challenges we currently face in the world are grave and serious yet full of potential for radical change.
We need boldness, particularly from the quiet people, the people who grew up being told not to be bold.
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people are full of doubts.”