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Abandoning Narcissism This November
A Closer Look at Friendsgiving
By Sarah Komisky
“And then he told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.’”
– Mark 16:15 (NLT)
Millennials. We’ve been the dubbed the “Me Generation” for our narcissism (aka self focus). This thinking is prevalent from our selfies to our focus on our feelings. It’s clearly all about us. And now with Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s made me think a lot about how this attitude is spilling into the holiday season. But before you get upset, please hear this millennial out.
For years, I’ve looked forward to eating family recipes, watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my Dad, and laughing at the table with people who share my humor (wonder where I got it from?). And like you, my family is not perfect. We have glitches. Struggles. Hang-ups. Hey, we are human. But, what has made it memorable over the years (with all our quirks and variations in personality) is the simple fact that we are family.
Now I am not dissing Friendsgiving, I love the potluck, the giving thanks and gathering of friends, the simplicity, the added festivities, the no fuss of paper plates. I am all for it minus the getting drunk part common in secular circles. However, it’s not the holiday that I’m not for. It’s the mindset behind it that has me a little uneasy.
Eric Klinenberg, a New York University sociology professor and the author of “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone” says it best when it comes to the holiday in an article from The Daily Beast.
“Many traditions are up for grabs these days. We used to have clear, pre-established paths we followed during our life course, and these days, there are all kinds of options for how to live,” Klinenberg explained. “We see that reflected in the way people spend their holiday time, as we do in how they spend their everyday life.”
Friendsgiving is a reflection of our culture’s desire to be and do whatever they feel and want. And if that means they “feel” like not being with family, then they won’t. They will just reinvent the holiday to do what feels best for them. So why does that have me uneasy? Well as a Christian, it goes against the very thing God wants me to do.
You see, Jesus said the greatest thing to do after loving God was to love your neighbor and that includes our family. No, I am in no way saying that you should put yourself in an unhealthy/toxic environment or situation. I don’t think that is what God would say either. However, I am saying that we as millennials shouldn’t simply dismiss our family because it’s uncomfortable to engage with them or because they are not easy to love. What if God in fact is using Thanksgiving as an opportunity for us to reach out to those very people in love and grace?
See that goes completely against the grain of the millennial, Friendsgiving mindset. Most articles on the subject encourages skipping out on your family. In an article from the Los Angeles Times, reporter Chris Erskine writes, “A Friendsgiving is Thanksgiving with no baggage, no family tensions, no aging relatives you fear might expire right there on the couch.” In an article from Bon Appetit, Andrew Knowlton writes, “Find at least three other people to make this thing official, and call your parents to tell them you’re not coming home this year. (You can do it! You’re a grown-up!).”
A reporter from USA Today in 2014 interviewed various millennials and professionals on the subject. Here is what they said:
“Friendsgiving is kind of a Thanksgiving that you get to have on your own terms- with only people I like, with only food I like, for as long as I like,” says Kimberly Hurt, 28, of South Louisville.
“Friendsgiving is a way to celebrate the holiday with the ‘family’ members of your choosing…With friends, perhaps you can let your hair down, laugh a little too loudly or drink a little too much without the ‘judgmental reaction’ you might receive from family members,” says University of Louisville sociology professor, Bob Carini.
Jason Dorsey, a researcher who studies millennial behavior and trends, also concludes that Friendsgiving is reflective of a generation doing the traditional markers of adulthood, like getting married and having kids, later than previous generations. He concludes, “A traditional Thanksgiving doesn’t really fit their lifestyle.”
Speaking as a single millennial, this point was really something I disagreed on. Going back to our self-serving culture, it really made me think, “is it really all about us?” I don’t think so. If we don’t get along with a family member, we opt out. If I am single, well then I can’t relate to them, so I opt out. Yep, it’s the easy thing to do. But as a Christian, is it what I am meant to do? Jesus made it very clear that as followers of Christ, we are not of this world. In essence, our thinking isn’t defined by our culture, but by the truth of Jesus Christ. So, if Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel (good news of who He is), then doesn’t that mean it’s not about us? Yes, I know, totally contradictive to the “Me Generation” school of thought. But maybe it’s time we reach beyond our likes, feelings, and thoughts and actually doing things that make us feel uncomfortable to reach those who need to experience the love of Jesus.
This November, consider dropping the narcissism rational of the holiday. Friendsgiving can sometimes be an excuse to get away from anything that makes us uncomfortable because we just want to be happy and have fun, yet a comfort-free life is not the life God calls us to. He calls us to live beyond our selfish desires to help those in need.
Please know I am not minimizing hurts. A part of the appeal of Friendsgiving is that you don’t have to interact with family. I use the word “appeal” because more people than ever before have fractured families and don’t want to be with family members because of the hurt. But if I can so gently say, if you find yourself in a place where that exists (whether you have injured another or find yourself the one who was injured), consider making amends. You could play a part in bringing family together instead of apart this season.