The first time I heard someone speak about the state of my generation, I was actually pleased. Finally, I thought, someone is addressing out loud some of the major character issues with people my age.
You've seen it, you know. Millennials, or people born between the 1980s and mid 90s (current 18-30 somethings), are hailed as being entitled, adolescent, dependent, uninspired people. We're the ones you see glued to our iPhones, working at the local coffee shop and living at home. Our expectations about what life will give us are impressive, yet we don't expect it to come at much cost. Because, well, we're awesome. Nor do we always see the disconnect between the digital world and the real world. We post selfies on Facebook at an insufferable rate. We don't have plans to settle down any time soon. We're still finding ourselves, and at times our maturity.
And yet, a couple years and what seems like a few hundred articles later still picking on us, I have to say something.
I know that people my age can be frivolous and entitled. I know that we walk to the beat of one interesting hipster drum. I'm not excusing our behavior. But realize when you are mocking us that you're making fun of a nearly fatherless generation. Understand that we graduated into one of the worst economic downturns since the great depression, with record-breaking college loans not far behind. Hear us say that we were promised the world as children, not prepared for reality. Those things become part of a person.
But you know what?
I think it would be hugely constructive solution, rather than enumerating the ways that we have been disgraceful, to get to know us. Are you older and wiser? Great! Mentor us. Know our stories. Inspire us with your own. Go to those places with us relationally so that we can hear you rationally. Then teach us the things our families didn't. Disagree respectfully with us, and in fact, show us what that looks like. Model healthy relationships, stimulating discussion, and good life practice for us. Tell us when we're off track, but tell us with love. Chances are, when you've taken the time to do all those things, we're a lot more likely to listen.
You might say that's not your job, and you would be right. Where are our parents? You might ask. But the truth is, we are the next generation. And more than some of the generations ahead of us, we haven't had a lot of people in our lives to be frank and honest with us about life (re: fatherless and broken homes). But I can tell you this, more than anything, we need the people who are older and wiser than us to instruct us, not to insult us.
So next time you're tempted to let it rip about millennials, ask yourself first: How many young people am I currently and intentionally investing in? If the answer is zero, consider keeping your commentary to yourself. Because the truth is, if the answer is zero, then you're not doing anything to help the situation, so you've little ground to complain about it.