Day 16: Generation Next

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.  I Timothy 4:12

I noticed the other day that of all the music CDs in my car, none had been recorded after 1984 – more than 30 years ago. When I was younger, I always swore that I wouldn’t be “that guy” who only listened to the music of his youth. But I guess despite my best efforts, I turned into that predictable old man. I’m unashamedly a fan of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Although I like a few modern bands, I tend to gravitate to music from a certain era.

Nostalgia — the idea that the things of our youth are superior to the present reality — can be a dangerous thing, however. There is a tendency among middle-aged people to think the worst of the generations that follow them. Twenty years ago, culture was seeking to come to terms with the quirks of the age cohort known as Generation X. Today, there is a lot of handwringing and consternation over “Millennials.”

Frankly, the criticisms – that they are lazy, disloyal, opportunistic, shallow, and lack values – have been lobbed against every generation. And as people age, and begin to take on mortgages and fight wars and start companies and become mayors and governors, suddenly we see that they weren’t as awful as we thought.

I have an idea – how about we stop attributing certain characteristics to vast groups of people in the first place? In the average high school, there may be a future world leader, business tycoon, and career criminal in the same math class. Is it fair to paint all of them with the same brush?

Generational conflict is convenient because it provides one more opportunity to blame a specific group of people for complex problems. Blaming millennials for certain negative cultural developments is as easy (and wrong) as blaming women, Asians, immigrants, or anyone else you can view as “the other.” Can we train ourselves to stop doing that? I hope so. Generational conflict serves only to build up more mistrust and negativity in a culture that needs more cooperation and empathy if we ever hope to survive.

Read: I Timothy 4

Prayer: Help me to develop an appreciation and love for those in the generations behind me — and respect for those in the generations before me.

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