But, I'm not writing to just define an age-group. Rather, I'm writing to pose a question to my fellow Gen-X-ers and the Baby Boomers ahead of us. The question is, why are these twenty-somethings getting so much grief from us? Honestly, I think I see an article every other day about how entitled and lazy and irresponsible this generation is. And the worst part is that it's my friends and colleagues writing and sharing this all over the internet! At the risk of sounding over-dramatic, I would like to say to my friends and colleagues who are doing this, respectfully, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. If you have jumped on the anti-millennial bandwagon, I want to offer you five reasons you should jump off ASAP.
- They're kids. So was I. So were you. I can't speak for you, but when I was 26, I was an idiot. I didn't know squat, but I thought I knew it all. Thank God for people in their 40's and 50's who took me under their wing to show me better ways to live. Thank God they didn't write me off. Neither should we write off a generation. They need us to take them under our wings and show them better ways.
- Not all of them are idiot kids. Many are light years ahead of where we were at their age. I want to brag on a millennial friend and colleague of mine. Mitch Little is a 22-year-old associate student pastor at Solace Church and the guy is literally years and years ahead of where I was when I was his age. My sons look up to him and I trust him completely with the influence he has with them. Sure, he may not know some of what I know now, but I'm twice his age. By the time he's my age, I can only imagine how far he will have gone. Mitch is an exceptional man, but he is not the exception to his generation. There are plenty of Mitch Littles in this millennial generation.
- You're vilifying an entire generation. I know you've had bad experiences with millennials, maybe especially in the workforce. I have too. But is this the only generation you've had a bad experience with? The whole truth is, we could vilify any other generation in history if we chose to focus only on their negative traits. Why are we choosing to cast a negative light on an entire generation because of some bad experiences we've had with some individuals in that age-range? That reflects much more poorly on us than it does on them.
- They're your kids, so it's your fault. Let's do some math. If someone is 26, that means their parents are anywhere from their mid-forties to late-fifties (roughly). Those are the exact people I see doing the bulk of the complaining. Hey, if they are our kids, and they are exhibiting poor character traits and a poor work ethic, who does that reflect on most? Maybe we should have skipped some of those "everybody plays, everybody wins" sports leagues.
- They will be handed the keys, regardless of what you think about them. More math. We're going to be retiring and dying before they do. If they will be holding the responsibility and authority of our nation in the future anyway, doesn't it make sense that we should dispense with the complaining and lean into the mentoring?
So, where does that leave us, who are in our 40's, 50's and beyond? I think it positions us with both a great responsibility and a great opportunity. Sure, generation gaps are real. But contrary to what we want to tell ourselves, they are generally created and almost always precipitated by older generations who want to dismiss the younger who are simply exploring their own identity just like we did! The Baby Boomers said Gen-X were a bunch of negative cynics. Gen-X says Millennials are a bunch of entitled sloths. Is any of that helpful? Of course not. But beyond that, I would argue that, by and large, it's also untrue.
If you've read this far, congratulations. If you're offended by this, I'm sorry. If you disagree, I'd love to hear why. It's very possible I'm missing a facet of the reality. If you agree, please share this post. Whatever your stance, the millennial generation is here to stay and they will assume more authority and responsibility, as time goes on. How we work to mentor, challenge and build them up between now and then is completely up to us and vital to our future and theirs.