This week, I attended a conference and during the few days I was there, I heard the same question over and over. What is wrong with these Millennials?
If I was to answer that question, I'd say, "Absolutely nothing!" That is not to say that Millennials are without faults or perfect in every way. Rather, it is to say that as a generation, we have unfairly maligned them. It wasn't until this weekend that I understood what a significant blunder this has been.
I was reading through Genesis 37 again and going over the part about Joseph and his dreams. I have always read these words and even taught them from the perspective that Joseph was a snotty little kid who was totally out of line in his actions. I believed him to be a self-important, lazy young person who was sheltered by a father who overdid favoritism. So, we read about obnoxious little Joseph coming to his brothers and sharing the dreams, and we immediately join his brothers in their response, relating to the desire to throw Joseph into a pit, then kill him, only to later decide it would be better to sell him into slavery. I believe many people of my generation, and the generation that preceded mine, treat Millennials the same way Joseph was treated by his brothers.
Think about this with me for a moment. Joseph's dreams were clearly from G-D. Did G-D make a mistake in timing and send the dreams early? Or is it possible that Joseph had a vision exactly on time and shared it exactly when he was supposed to share? What if the problem was not young Joseph the Millennial, but rather his older brothers' attitude toward Joseph and his dreams?
Because what I believe is a revelation concerning Millennials, my heart and understanding of them has changed. I hope after reading this article, you will come to the same conclusion.
At some point, every teenager looks at the world and all of its problems and decides they are going to do something to make the world a better place. They see the world as they are receiving it and realize it is a mess. The world they are being handed is filled with wars, hatred, famine, suffering and more. I know that when I was a teen, I had these thoughts. I was dead-set that I was going to do something to leave the world as a better place for my children and grandchildren. I set out to join with others to help cure cancer, diabetes, bring world peace and so forth. But like most people my age, I laid down my vision to repair the world around the time I got married. It wasn't that I no longer saw the problems or that I didn't want to be part of the solution. It was simply that the expected next steps of maturity and adulthood were get a job, complete education, get married, have children, buy house, but a car and more. So I did what was expected and I became a mature adult. Or, at least I became what was a mature adult using the traditional measuring stick of adulting.
Because I became an adult, I put aside my vision and dream of being a part of repairing the world, my world became smaller, including my family, friends and faith community.
You may ask, "What does this have to do with Millennials?" Here is my answer. The Millennials are the first modern generation whose members are not willing to put down their vision and dream to see the world change. Instead, they are changing the measuring stick of adulthood and maturity. It isn't that Millennials don't want the same as previous generations wanted. They want education, jobs, spouses, children, homes and cars. They are simply willing to defer that gratification until they participate in the progress of fixing the world. They are willing to take the bus, sleep on a couch, live with their parents, work for less money and have fewer things.
But, it isn't because they are lazy, lack maturity or don't want to be adults. It is actually the absolute opposite. They are being mature adults and are far from lazy. They just measure maturity differently. They measure it by completing, or at least being willing to participate longer at working to see their vision and dream come to pass. Millennials fight the urge to have the instant gratification that caused too many people of my generation to give up on our dreams and visions for a better world.
So, I want to formally and publicly apologize for every joke and comment I have ever made about Millennials. I choose not to be one of Joseph's brothers any longer. I not only want to view Millennials in the right way, I want to hear their dreams and join in to help them when I am able. What is wrong with Millennials? Absolutely nothing. They were born for such a time as this.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry and #Man Wisdom: With Eric Tokajer.
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