Sunday, May 3, 2009


If you work with small children you have undoubtedly had the experience where they do or show you something and you respond with, "Wow!"

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. A cool person is someone who is funny. They know how to make people laugh.
One more thing about cool people: They aren't impressed with much.

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?


  1. Hmmm...I had not thought of it quite that way. While I have some 'cool' friends and know some 'cool' people, they are not 'arrogant cool', just 'regular cool'. I am not impressed with 'arrogant cool' and in fact take issue with such people (as mentioned in my post on Friday...).

    Ok, I actually have a big problem with arrogant people, especially when it's directed at me. One of the things I realize I need to 'overcome' so-to-speak.

  2. Sorry, I'm not cool and am not impressed with cool, lol! Too old for that I think! When our children brought me something they had made I did not give them a WOW, but instead stated something about the object or picture or asked a question - just stopped what I was doing to interact for a while. Telling them that I loved them was not tied into the things they created or the work they did.

    I am, however, impressed with someone who hunkers down to talk with someone in a wheelchair - to be at eye-level or even below. I'm impressed with someone who sees a person sitting alone at a gathering and goes to involve that person in conversation. I'm impressed with one who sees someone struggling with an object and quickly jumps to lend a hand. I'm impressed with one who never toots his own horn but I've heard about his generosity from the one he blessed!! I think that is more transformational. It's always about the other person and not me. But I, too, loved receiving an e-mail that said, "You are loved, respected and appreciated. Thank you for being there for me." That leaves lasting ripples of love!

  3. Koffijah,

    I think that is a slippery slope. There are people whom I consider to be "cool", but how I define cool is probably very different from the average person. I love this quote:

    "If you see in any given situation only what everybody else can see, you can be said to be so much a representative of your culture that you are a victim of it."
    -S. I. Hayakawa

    I have made the mistake of dimissing certain people because they are in the spotlight (pastors specifically) and assuming that they are self-centered and narcissistic. But that is not always the case. I think people can use the "cool" status to reach a wider audience; to help others who do not have the platform they do. It's how you proceed from that point that shows the content of your character.

    And for the record, I think you're incredibly cool.

    Here's the post I was referring to yesterday:
    It's all a matter of emphasis

  4. hey...i was just reading a few of your older posts on language learning and it's so true what you said about forcing yourself to go out and talk the local language! definitly helps... interesting blog :)