I’m one of those people that fit into a nondescript generation. You have the Baby Boomers, the Greatest Generation, the Millennials, but, for me, I’m just one of those non-labelled folks. I’m told that I am a Gen-Xer, but, as of yet, nobody has been able to tell me what that means. In a way, I kinda like not having a generational label, because nobody really gripes about people my age.
At Christmas this past year, my brother and I were talking and the subject of the millennial generation came up. He falls into that generation, as does my sister. He said, “You know, it’s not like it was our idea to have all the participation awards. It’s not like, as five-year olds, we gathered up and demanded participation trophies and graduations for everything. Those weren’t our ideas. Maybe we aren’t to blame for everything.”
I could see that this clearly upset him and I had to concede that he made a good point. All the things that we, as a country, gripe about millennials are because they were brought up in a culture that fostered that in them.
I’ve pondered what my brother said for awhile now. It’s gotten me to think about millennials from a different angle and to look at them more closely. As I’ve been thinking, I’ve realized something about them: They are truly looking for something authentic, they just go about it in very different ways. From what I can gather there seems to be two sets of camps. Both camps reject nearly everything from before them, it’s just one camp goes in a more positive way while the other takes a more negative route.
Let me give an example: Both camps grew up seeing proclaimed Christians around them. What they noticed, though, is that these proclaimed Christians didn’t seem to live any different than a non-Christian. They lacked joy, passion, and didn’t seem inspired. Those in the negative camp looked at this and decided that if Christianity were really true than these people would be better. They would look different. They would be full of joy and love. They concluded that because these proclaimed Christians don’t seem really changed by it, than Christianity must not be true.
Those in the positive camp look at these proclaimed Christians and decide that they must not be living Christianity right. Both camps reject a lot in the areas of religion, politics, tradition, and beliefs. I think this is because they have witnessed so many people before them living out their lives in a shallow, hollow existence. Both camps are searching, it’s just that their searching leads them down different paths. On the one hand, we get those that reject all truth and spiral down into a dark abyss. This is where we get all the nonsense about “your truth, my truth” and “there is no absolute truth.” This is where we get the Nones and the Relativists.
Then there is the other camp, which actively seeks and craves authenticity. This camp gives me hope. We can already see the growing trend with many millennials to reject superficial, watered-down, bland, unoriginal things and ideas. In an effort to find the unique, they search out interesting restaurants, one-of-a-kind experiences, and houses with character. They are tired of chains and cookie-cutter everything. I’m right there with them. But, on a deeper level, they are becoming more pro-life in recognizing that life matters and is sacred. Those that do get into their faith, get into it with fire and passion. The missionary work of millennials is something to be admired.
Also, I see disdain for the two-party system, because, well, it’s broke, folks. It’s time to stop propping up the two political parties like the dead guy in Weekend at Bernie’s. Millennials can sniff out a fake, disingenuous politician pretty quick and I think they understand that when something is dead it’s time to bury it, not puff it full of hot air to keep it inflated. I see a lot of millennials aligning themselves as Independents and I can respect that.
Another positive note is that many millennials seem to be less interested in materialistic stuff. You hear a lot about this group moving towards a minimalistic lifestyle. Not all, but a good majority aren’t as interested in keeping up with the Jones’. This is another good thing to encourage, because over the years we have become consumed with consumerism and, I feel, we are literally drowning in all our stuff.
Another interesting observation: My husband is in the military and he has told me numerous times that with the millennial military crowd, awards are not motivators at all. I think this is because they have been given so many awards for every little thing that awards don’t mean anything to them anymore. They just see it as another participation trophy. It’s like the line from The Incredibles uttered by Syndrome: “When everyone is super, no one is.” My husband says that what does motivate them in their work is if they feel like they are really making a difference, if they really have a purpose.
This is all very interesting to me and, like I said, it gives me hope for much of the generation, because as they get older they will crave more and more truth. They already crave authenticity, it’s just some of them don’t quite know where to find it. The fact that they are searching is a good thing. Those of us in different generations need to stop putting them down so much and start encouraging and lifting them up. If you set a low bar for people, they will come down to it, but a high bar always seems to bring out the best in people. If we continually blame millennials for all of life’s problems, they will become bitter, resentful, and disengaged. Each generation has their own faults and issues, yet they all have their good points, too. It’s so easy to look to another generation and chuck all the blame on them, refusing to look at ourselves and what responsibility we may have in the game.
If we see millennials doing good things, we should praise their efforts. Often, we get so used to putting someone down that when they finally do something good, we can’t see it. There are a lot of millennials doing and believing some concerning things, but those kinds of people are in every generation. Most importantly, there are millennials trying to bring back authenticity and bust off of a path laid out for them full of chain stores, bland Christianity, cookie-cutter houses, and bad political parties.
What gives me hope is that I can see that so many are trying to find things that are true, good, and beautiful. In the beginning stages of this process, one often turns to those very tangible things around them–houses, experiences, food, etc. Then you move into seeking more deep and meaningful ways to live your life–traditions, belief systems. Lastly, you move into finding the supreme truth which is God. If you really go searching for authenticity and truth, you will eventually wind up getting to God. It may take some time, but I think millennials desire more than what they’ve been handed by previous generations. For the rest of us, it means not relishing when they fall, not belittling them at every opportunity, and working to live authentic, genuine lives of truth, goodness, and beauty. If millennials are searching and having a difficult time finding these things, it’s because those before them have neglected to make it apparent.