By Ron Price
In church recently, I spoke with someone about the house her daughter and son-in-law were building. She remarked that she and her husband both thought it was much larger than they needed. She then quickly added that her husband’s parents had said the exact same words to them when they built their first house.
Have you ever noticed that every generation takes issue with the practices, beliefs, and quirks of the next, or subsequent generations? My parents were of the Greatest Generation, and I’ve heard that in their youth they had contests to see how many people they could squeeze into a phone booth. Some of you are likely asking “What’s a phone booth?” I remember hearing of the indignity they felt with Elvis Presley’s swinging hips on the Ed Sullivan Show, and hey had no idea what to make of the British invasion which featured the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and other strange looking bands.
I sometimes wonder if we humans have a tendency to long for the past and wish somehow we could travel back in time to do it over again. Of course, we would only do so if we could know then what we know now. When we look at life through the prism of advanced maturity and experience, it is easy to regard the actions and behaviors of the younger generation as foolhardy if not outright dangerous and absurd. And, while it is easy to criticize, is it not likely true that you and I engaged in similar pursuits when we were that age?
While cross-generational critiquing is nothing new, it does seem to have increased in intensity regarding the millennial generation. We should also realize, however, that much of the criticism goes to the parents who produced, raised, and perhaps enabled that generation. The same can likely be said for all preceding generations, but you can relax. The focus of this column is not to affix blame on any- one. We’re all in this marvelous adventure of life together, and I need not remind you that none of us is perfect. You can be glad that you’re not perfect because if we found out you were, we’d have to nail you to a cross.
All generations have their good qualities along with those that are less commendable. One key is to be content with who you are. Once you are there, you can much more easily accept those who are different from you in various ways.
A second key to consider is how you might impact the succeeding generation for their, and ultimately society’s, good. Rather than grumbling about their lack of ambition or direction, look for someone you can take under your wing and help guide into a productive, satisfying life. Deter- mine to view the younger generation in as favorable a light as possible. Try to see each one as an individual who wants the same things as you do: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As Christians, we must certainly hope for and treat them as if they want a close relationship with Jesus and eternal life with Him.
There are numerous ways you can get involved with the next generation or generations. At church or on the job site, reach out to befriend a younger person. Don’t start in coach- ing or correcting mode, but look to earn their confidence that you care and have wisdom from which they might benefit. Focus on building the relationship and then look for opportunities to mentor.
For younger children, consider being a mentor through Big Brothers/Big Sisters or in a school. Please don’t waste the life lessons you have learned. While no one can help you remake poor decisions from your past, you very likely can help some young people avoid making those same mistakes themselves.
While I stand by my suggestion that you look for opportunities to impact younger generations for their betterment, I also encourage you to look for opportunities to allow them to do the same for you. We are all in this marvelous adventure of life together, and each one of us, regardless of our age, has something to contribute to others.
In the words of Dale Carnegie, “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain—and most fools do.” Then he went on to say, “But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” Please keep that in mind the next time you encounter a millennial or anyone who is different than you in meaningful ways. Rather than be critical, ask God what He might have you learn from them, and/or what He might want you to do for them. It may not be as much fun as criticizing, but I have it on Good Authority that it’s a much better way to live.
Ron Price is a member of the RMC executive committee from Farmington, New Mexico. Email him at: [email protected]