“They are fame-obsessed: three times as many middle school girls want to grow up to be a personal assistant to a famous person as want to be a Senator, according to a 2007 survey.”
“They’re so convinced of their own greatness that the National Study of Youth and Religion found the guiding morality of 60% of millennials in any situation is that they’ll just be able to feel what’s right.”
“…they are lazy.”
“This generation has the highest likelihood of having unmet expectations with respect to their careers and the lowest levels of satisfaction with their careers at the stage that they’re at.” Sean Lyons
These are just a few examples of what they are saying about the Millennial Generation, people born between the years 1980 and 2000. It’s mostly negative, which as the Time magazine article entitled “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation”, points out is common throughout history: older generations ripping on younger generations and all their weaknesses.
There is definitely truth in many, if not all, of the statements above and the hundreds of articles and studies and books that are out today reflecting on the misgivings of the current teenagers and young adults. While there may be truth, this truth does not determine this generation’s destiny.
No generation is doomed because of its weaknesses; if it were, there would never be any breakthroughs, growth or success.
Over the past two weeks that I have been doing this series, “The Beautiful Process”, I have reflected on the lifelong process of refinement and growth that we as human beings go through. It’s inescapable, but it can be done well or quite poorly.
Then last week, I showed an example from the Bible about Joseph and his beautiful process. It took 22 years for a dream to become reality, and in the meantime, he went through struggle and challenge, as well as success and breakthrough. Nonetheless, 22 years developed Joseph’s character, and in one critical moment, he represented the character of God in a beautiful way.
Now today, in the third and final part of my series, I want to talk about Millennials – my generation.
Millennials, or Generation Y, is a fascinating generation. At the bottom, I have linked several articles that I have been reading (and referencing) if studies on generations are as interesting to you as they are to me.
As I have been studying and reading, though, I have realised that unless our generation is aware of its weaknesses and ready to confront them and learn from them, we run the risk of having a very slow moving process, potentially lacking the beauty God intended.
“The first thing is just realise that when you were told, ‘Believe in yourself and anything was possible’ that you were lied to. And if you’re angry about that, you’re not the only one. Realize that, however, believing that you can go out there, work hard and have an impact, that actually is true. But it’s not about self-belief. It’s about motivation. And it’s about hard work, and it’s about starting somewhere.” Dr. Jean Twenge
I read this quote above about Millennials, and I think she is really hitting the nail on the head. What I have noticed in myself, and what I see in others in my generation is that we want to skip steps. We don’t want to go through the process. We don’t want to be developed. Because we think we are special, we think we are the “exception” to the rule. When we don’t get what we want when we want, when others don’t see us the way we think they should, we quit. We move on. We find something else and hope that the people there see it.
“Not only do millennials lack the kind of empathy that allows them to feel concerned for others, but they also have trouble even intellectually understanding others’ points of view.”
When I first started in missions, I had it in my mind what it would look like, and I started doing that in the beginning. Then after that first year, God shifted my plans, and although I was still a missionary at YWAM Newcastle, my function day-to-day suddenly looked really different. After the “honeymoon phase” of something new, however, I got really antsy. I was getting frustrated, and after my initial 1-year commitment, I wanted a change.
I didn’t change, though. God kept me there.
As I continued in that same area, I went through frustrations, and one day, I recognised something about myself that is true of so many my age. For the past 5-6 years, I had only been doing things in 1-year bits. I had never committed to doing the same thing for 2 years or 5 years. I was a 1-year gal, and even that sometimes felt long.
During my second year doing the same thing (gasp), I started to see something – believe it or not, I, as a human being, was growing. Maybe my day-to-day wasn’t changing, but my character was. That’s when I had one of the biggest revelations of my Christian life to date:
God is so much more concerned with who we are becoming than what we are doing.
Every quarter, one of our elders, Fred, and I teach the students coming back from outreach about re-entry – going back home, going into the next thing, etc. As I have done this several times over the past couple years now, God has really developed this message, and now with every opportunity, I find myself getting more and more passionate about it.
When students get back from outreach, much like when they graduate high school or college, they get asked “What are you doing next?” That question overwhelms many of them. It certainly overwhelmed me as I was finishing Uni. What I have realised more than anything over these past few years, though, is that God is committed to our process. He is committed to our growth.
Unfortunately, this generation does not like doing the same thing year after year. Where you would see previous generations committed to the same position at the same company for 20 years, the average 26-year-old has already had six to seven jobs. (Stein)
We see that in missions as well. Fear of commitment, linked closely to fear of missing out, is paralysing this generation. Instead of becoming people of character, of learning and growing and developing, of seeing the wisdom and value of older generations and their experience, we hop from thing to thing, searching for our “Special” place.
What we have done has become more important to us than who we have become.
So what does all that mean? What is the takeaway for myself and my generation?
Commit to something.
Don’t be afraid of 2 year commitments (or even 5 or 10 year commitments). You aren’t going to miss out. I do think you will miss out, though, if you don’t commit to anything. You may see a lot and go a lot of places, try a lot of things, but you’re missing the opportunity to be developed. You are missing the opportunity to go through some hard stuff and come out the other side victorious. You are missing becoming really strong in one, or a few areas, rather than having a 20-page resume of 6-month stints.
“…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
I used to get so frustrated at these verses because honestly who wants to go through trials and sufferings? Looking back over the past 13+ year of being a Christian, though, I see the times that I embraced the struggle as the times that God worked in me and produced the most fruit. Go through it. Let your heart break and let God heal you. Let God teach you. Let God refine you.
One fair assessment of our generation, with all our smart phones and technology, is that we have it pretty great. So much is accessible at our finger tips, and thus, working hard isn’t something we are accustomed to. Dr. Twenge said it right when she said, “…it’s about hard work, and it’s about starting somewhere.” Don’t try to be the CEO’s best friend on your first day in order to be promoted tomorrow. Relish in serving someone as an assistant. Don’t try to lead without first learning yourself. Learning and assisting, serving – those take hard work. They require selflessness and humility. We desperately need more of that as a generation.
Ask God what He’s trying to teach you.
One thing I have noticed is that the norm in our culture is to point the finger. I don’t even think this is a generational thing necessarily, but it’s a commonality. Something goes wrong, and our first inclination is to look to the left and the right and see “who did us wrong”. Stop first and ask God, “What are you saying to me about this situation? What do you want to teach me?” Yes, sometimes people will be in the wrong, but if that’s always our first thought, maybe we need to take a few steps back.
More than that, though, we need to have a commitment to our own growth. There is always something to learn. There’s always more ways that we can grow and be more like Christ. Be committed to that no matter what it takes.
So as I wrap up this series, which I honestly feel like I could learn and write so much more on, I feel encouraged. I feel encouraged to keep learning and to keep provoking and to keep seeing breakthroughs!
Let’s be a generation that defies what defines us and changes the world.