A few years ago, I heard a lecture on the Millennial generation by Christian Smith, author of Souls in Transition: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. One thing he said that really stood out to me was that past generations viewed life as something to be made, whereas Millennials viewed life as something to be discovered. Being a near-Millennial myself (Millennials are said to have been born between 1980 and 1995), I tucked away that thought and moved on.
But in his article, “The Millennial ‘Adulthood’ Delusion,” Chris Martin (also a Millennial) explores this same idea. Taking a look at an article in The Huffington Post, which claims that adulthood is not a threshold of maturity one passes through but rather a journey into self-discovery, Martin draws this conclusion about the Millennial mindset:
Millennials are often labeled as the self-centered, ‘Me’ generation, and I’ve always hated that stereotype because I didn’t really see it.
Now I do.
Millennials think adulthood is more self-empowerment than self-sacrifice. This explains everything.
We avoid marriage because we aren’t allowed to beta-test it first.
We avoid children because it’s hard giving piggy-back rides up the corporate ladder.
We value living by our own standards and standing for our convictions but despise others for doing the same.
I’ve always been fascinated with the two primary Millennial stereotypes: 1) Millennials are self-centered and 2) Millennials aren’t growing up. I never understood where those come from. Now I get it: they’re intertwined and they’re deep within the Millennial understanding of what it means to flourish.
And the understanding of what it means to flourish is exactly what is behind this mindset. It does explain everything. Marriage and parenthood don’t top the list for those in their 20s and 30s. I’m in the throes of parenthood, and I wouldn’t say I feel like I’m “flourishing” right now — more like being pushed to my limit in every way. But if my definition of flourishing is regularly putting another’s needs before my own and building a life and family that honors God, well then, that I am doing. (Not always well, mind you.)
I’m surprised to find how much of this Millennial mindset I’ve adopted — that self-empowerment (being the best version of myself) is what makes life worthwhile. Plain and simple, it is not. And I’m glad it’s not. Because, let’s face it: Many things in life can get in the way of that goal — sickness, a bad job, a rough financial season, a strained marital relationship, children. And the thing is, selfishness isn’t new really. It’s been in motion since Eve took that piece of fruit and ate it.
While generations of the past may have been on the right track with their conclusion that life is something to be made, I think it goes even deeper than that. Life is something to allow God to make for you as you faithfully take the opportunities He provides (Proverbs 16:9) and learn to sacrifice your own desires for the sake of Christ and others (Ephesians 5:21). Just think of the difference it would make if every person started pursuing self-sacrifice instead of self-empowerment. We would all look a little more like Jesus.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. —Mark 10:45
HT: Tim Challies