I'm a bit concerned that the Millennial generation is becoming an angry generation. Not every young adult is hopping mad, of course, or even the majority of them. It does seem to be a significant and vocal minority, though.
Last weekend I ran across this open letter from a recent high school graduate. The Millennial author complains about constantly being told that her generation is a bunch of lazy whiners who think they deserve special treatment just for being born. She places the blame for her current situation squarely on the shoulders of the Baby Boomer generation, who in her opinion wantonly consumed the world's resources and then placed unrealistic expectations upon their children and grandchildren.
If that letter were the only sign of this growing anger, I'd chalk it up to the ravings of one disillusioned young woman. However, I've also seen it popping up on my Facebook news feed. There's no doubt that the current economic climate is tough for recent graduates. Many are having a hard time finding jobs or making ends meet. As a result, I've been seeing some angry comments written by frustrated young job-seekers who are tired of rejection and anxious about their futures.
Here's the truth: If you're graduating from college right now, the odds are high that you're in for a tough road. My generation -- the infamous Gen X, another group pegged with the "lazy whiner" label -- was probably the last generation for which high-paying corporate jobs were a reasonable expectation upon college graduation. The economic climate has dramatically shifted in the past 15-20 years. Right now, there are simply more college graduates than there are good jobs.
So anger and cynicism and bitterness could be considered a normal and expected response to the current reality of your life. After all, you face a less certain future, in many ways, than your parents or even your older siblings. For your entire life, you've been promised that a college degree would result in a good job, and unmet expectations are frustrating. The loss of control, or at least the illusion of control, over one's future is terrifying. And in some cases, the generations preceding you (including my own) have been completely unsympathetic and unhelpful.
It occurred to me this week, though, that my grandparents' generation faced many of the same challenges that Millennials are currently facing. The 1930s and 1940s weren't fun times for most people. The current unemployment rate is between 8% and 15%, depending upon which pundits you read. In 1933, unemployment rates hit 25% - 30%. Ouch.
It was during those years that my grandparents went to high school and college. Shortly after college graduation they faced a major World War, as well. If anybody had a reason to be angry, cynical, and bitter, they did.
Yet we don't remember their generation for their anger or bitterness, but for their resilience and perseverance. We remember them as a generation that chose to face their challenges with joy and courage, creating a better life for their children and grandchildren. Crummy circumstances, great attitude. That's why we still call them The Greatest Generation.
Lest this sound like one of those "shut and stop yer whining" speeches, let me make my point clear. I think the challenges faced by the Millennial generation can become a springboard to unbelievable opportunity. I think this generation has the potential to distinguish itself as a generation of perseverance, integrity, hard work, and strong character. I think you have the chance to be remembered as another Greatest Generation, depending on how you face the challenges life is dishing out to you today. In fact, I'm optimistic that your generation will be remembered as a stronger and more productive one than my own, or than my parents' generation.
Of course, all of this hinges upon the attitude Millennials take as they meet the world that awaits them post-college. Bitterness, anger and cynicism might be justified, but they're simply not productive. For the Christian students (who constitute a large percentage of my blog's readership), consider passages like Ephesians 4:31: "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." Or Romans 5:3-4: "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope."
Will your children and grandchildren tell stories of a generation who allowed trials to shape them into men and women of character and hope? Or will they remember a generation who allowed themselves to be crushed and defeated by uncontrollable circumstances?
To be honest, I can't really offer you any hope of a near-term economic recovery. I wish I could say that you'll eventually achieve the American Dream of a well-paying job, a house in the suburbs, and a couple of nice Hondas. But that might not be your future. I really don't know.
I can say, though, that God is more concerned with your character than with your circumstances. When you reflect on your life in 40 or 50 years, you'll remember your hardships either as the events that crushed your spirit, or as the events that drew you closer to Jesus. You'll become a person of hope, or a person of bitterness. I'm curious which one it will be.
For those of you in the Millennial generation, how are you dealing with the poor economic prospects of your generation? What suggestions do you have for those who want to allow trials to shape them into men and women of hope?
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