Why do we do that? Is what the child did really that impressive? No, it is usually not. However, we want to show the child that we are impressed with them. Why? Because it makes them feel good--feel special--feel valuable.
Small children are too young to figure out that we are usually putting on a charade of being impressed. When we become adults we are offended by such pretense. However, that doesn't mean we don't still bask in the praise when we feel it is genuine.
Being "cool" is being impressive. A cool person is someone who impresses people in ways that people admire and aspire to be themselves. (I might impress you with my ability to juggle running chainsaws, but that still doesn't make me cool because chainsaw-juggling mastery is not a quality you would ever desire to attain.) In short, this is what a cool person is:
- A cool person is someone who is usually good-looking. If they are not naturally good-looking, then they usually do something "stylish" with their hair, clothes or appearance.
- A cool person is someone who knows what's up. While they might not be the smartest person around, they certainly know about pop culture or what's going on in respect to the community of people they're a part of.
- A cool person is someone who other people love and want to be around. They usually have a crowd of people around them at most times, usually praising them.
- A cool person is someone who is funny. They know how to make people laugh.
That's right--if you are going to be impressive, it means that you aren't all that impressed with many other people. Only a select few if any.
How "impressed" we are with another person usually indicates how we view them. They aren't the same thing, but they are related. If we have the ability to look at people who aren't impressive to anyone, and see something about which to be impressed, then we are far along the road to loving them.
Now, I know what you're thinking. If you have unconditional "agape" love then you don't need to be impressed by someone before you love them. True. But this can also become a dangerous road to arrogant pity, too, if we don't learn to see the intrinsic value in these "unimpressive people" by considering them better than ourselves. (Please read my post The Arrogance of Agape Love.)
What happens when we have a "cool" Christian preacher, church-planter, worship leader, author or missionary? It usually means that they aren't that impressed with other preachers, planters, leaders, writers or missionaries. It also usually means that they aren't very impressed with the people they're serving but are very interested in making people impressed with them. It usually means that while they would love to sign people up as their supporters or followers, they really don't think these people could do what they're doing half as well. And it shows.
I think it would do us well to take a look at the people around us. Are there people impressed with us? If so, is it because they are worshipping a talented-cool person? Or is it a reflection of the fact that we're impressed with them and they therefore feel valued by us and special in our eyes?
Which do you think is more transformational?