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tim tebow
grade inflation
public sphere
self confidence
brian urlacher
detractors
A Tebow - Sized Lesson Worth Learning
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During my research for a recent article on Tim Tebow and his football credentials, I was struck by several of the interviews that he has given over the past few weeks. The man is unflappable. The owner of his team and his coaches are rather candid about his weaknesses and their concerns about committing to him as the long-term quarterback of their team. Meanwhile, opponents mock him on the field and downplay his talent, with the Chicago Bear's Brian Urlacher providing the most recent example when he called him a "good running back." Yet time after time, Tebow embraces these critiques, acknowledges his weaknesses, refuses to take any overt or subtle digs at his detractors, and goes on with his day.

Tebow is a rare example of a public figure who takes responsibility for his actions and constructively embraces criticism, seeing it as an opportunity to constantly improve. Sure, much of his perspective and self-confidence is derived from his Christian faith and his strong convictions about what matters in life, but even the most determined atheist should be willing to admit that taking responsibility for one's actions is a noble and essential enterprise.

Sadly, it is also a trait that is lacking in both the public sphere and also in the masses, especially in the current generation of recent college graduates. The latter group is without precedent in recent American history when it comes to aversion to accountability, which is perhaps a consequence of the fact that this generation has been coddled to an extent that was previously unimaginable. This generation of twenty-somethings has been repeatedly told that they are the best, a result of the "everyone is a winner" philosophy that has pervasively spread from its appropriate place in kindergarten art classes to Harvard economics classes (don't believe me? Two words: "grade inflation.").

The consequence of this continual back-patting is often a considerable overestimation of one's own talents, an overestimation which is perpetually nurtured by this philosophy until the time when it's not, and suddenly one is faced with the strange, stark form of his own shortcomings. Unaccustomed to this, the logical conclusion is that whenever something goes wrong, it is not his fault, and the opportunity to honestly evaluate himself is lost.

Unfortunately, this response of rejecting blame and responsibility is expertly modeled in the public arena. From adulterous politicians to baseball stars lying about steroid use, the resounding message is "shift the blame." So it is easy to see why young adults find it so natural to lie to themselves or others when faced with their weakness or their errors: they were never taught how to accept responsibility, and those who should have done so instead modeled the immature behavior of shrugging off any meaningful accountability for one's actions.

Yet to absolve young adults of all responsibility would be tantamount to supporting the very philosophy that this article is rebuking. Accepting responsibility is a tendency that can be cultivated, and a recent history of excess affirmation is not a license to refuse to learn this skill now. Indeed, this is where Tebow comes in. He provides a model of accountability; he shows his fellow twenty-somethings that everyone is flawed, and good things come from acknowledging and addressing one's weaknesses.

This lesson is vastly important. The truth is that one's twenties can be turbulent years. When one approaches all of the dramatic change that is bound to occur during those years with a passive, "it was beyond my control" attitude, it can lead to extreme unhappiness and possibly a pattern of destructive decision-making in the future. However, if one instead embraces the exciting changes that occur during these years and takes an active approach to his future, accepting responsibility and constructive criticism Tebow-style, then success replaces sadness, and he is that much closer to forming the foundation of a satisfying life.


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