I was sitting with a group of (lovely) ladies a few weeks back and the topic of teenagers came up. Perhaps forgetting that I actually choose to work with this vicious species on a daily basis, they described them in less than complimentary terms. One lady piped up “Well, you must remember, we’re living in the age of the narcissist.”
I don’t necessarily disagree with her premise, but her accusatory tone made me feel surprisingly defensive of this generation that is both loathed and feared by much of society. Teenagers, beneath their narcissism and behind the luminous screens of their smart phones, are precious individuals who are finding their way in the world and forging a new path for our future.
Teenagers hold our future whether we like it or not, and before we despair or shake our fists, we do well to look at where they came from. If a teenager is narcissistic, who did they learn it from? If they can’t function without technology, who gave it to them? If they are undisciplined or entitled or lacking respect, who is the generation who raised them?
The last thing that teenagers need is our condescension. They are not the enemy, and if we treat them as such we draw battle lines for a war that will have no victor. Teenagers need the love and support of society. They need freedom and boundaries, encouragement and discipline. Our condemnation foolishly despises that which we, as a village, have raised ourselves.
Ever been told you’re awesome? If you’re Gen X probably; if you’re Gen Y, definitely; if you’re Gen Z, daily.
It’s the catch cry of our culture. When you preach that God is dead, you need a heck of a lot of self-esteem boosting to make you feel like there is any purpose in life, so that’s what we’ve done. We’ve made it our job to ensure that young people know just how good they are; that they can do anything; that there’s no one better than them.
When I grew up I was shocked at how deeply I fell into melancholy when I found that mindset challenged.
I was flying by Mount Everest.
Those Himalayan Mountains are the biggest things I’ve ever seen, and as I flew over them I was conquered. For my whole life I had been the conqueror. I was human. I was the top of the food chain. The world was my oyster!
Those mountains weren’t.
As I looked at them, I knew with absolute certainty that I could never climb them. I knew that many who had tried still lay there entombed in the ice, and, more than ever before, I knew I was very, very small.
And I was gutted.
But what a good thing it was for me to be reminded that my glory is very small. I had to remember that there is One who is infinitely bigger than the mountains, and my identity must be found in Him.