It’s been a guilt-filled morning for me, but I think in a good way. I was reading one of the guest posts at morethandodgeball.com, and it spoke truth into my life. This guy, Mark Cox, was writing about an almost-encounter he had in Wal-Mart recently. He describes walking down an aisle and overhearing one person say to another, “Today’s teenagers just don’t have any respect for anyone these days. It’s a problem with the whole generation.”
He goes on to rant (just a little bit) about how, as someone who is technically part of “the whole generation” in question, he took offense to this person’s comment. He states, quite correctly, that teenagers in general do not have a blatant disregard for authority, or a sick sense of pleasure in ruining the established order. They are simply still learning how do “do life”, and the last thing they need is discouragement and negative affirmation. As I read, I began to realize on how many accounts I’m guilty in this whole situation. Let me list them out.
I’m guilty – Of being part of “this whole generation”. I will turn 25 in a couple of weeks, so it has been awhile since I’ve been a teenager, but I’m still part of the Millennial Generation (graduating class of 2000 and onwards). I grew up with MTV. I can’t clearly remember life before cell phones. I spend a (probably more than) reasonable amount of time on the internet, watching TV, playing video games, and listening to music.
I’m guilty – Of bashing “this whole generation”. I have always gravitated towards those who are older and more mature than myself. As a result, I sometimes forget that I’m a part of the same generation that some older folks like to bash. I’m on the front-end of the generation, but that’s no excuse. Like Cox says in his blog post, I should be leading the way for those who come behind me.
I’m guilty – Of not leading the way effectively. If the middle and tail-end of “this whole generation” turns out crappy, I am at least partially to blame. Why? Because mountains of research back up the fact that, even though on many levels parents are still the primary influence on adolescent behavior, peer groups are an ever-increasing influence on the lives of young people. If the people who are only a few years younger than me are screwed up and worthless, then at least part of the reason for that is that I have done a poor job exerting positive influence on them.
I’m guilty – Of not recognizing that to characterize “this whole generation” as anything is shallow and near-sighted on my part. Including people that I went to middle/high school and college with, people I pastor now, and random teenagers I’ve seen in traffic, the mall, etc., I might actually have encountered 5000 young people (my middle/high school experience was about 3000, about 1000 in college, and probably less than that since then.). For me to make a judgment about an entire generation of more than 40 million people based on my encounters with, let’s get crazy and call it 10000, is ludicrous. The same thing happened in the late ’60s. People look back on that time and think about how powerful and influential and pervasive the “hippie culture” was. Hippies accounted for, at the largest estimates, no more than 1% of that generation. I don’t have any data to prove this, but I would be willing to bet that a vast majority of “this whole generation” don’t live up to their stereotype as disrespectful delinquents.
So that’s it. Guilty as charged. I’m a well-adjusted, responsible, thoughtful citizen. I have made mistakes, but have learned from them, and am still learning how to ‘do life’ better. I’m a Millennial. And I’m proud to be one.