Millennials are: lazy, stupid, screwed, the worst, narcissistic, broke, godless, entitled, and the list goes on.
Do a quick internet search on millennials and these are the kind of descriptives that come up. There is a general perception on the millennial generation that is severely skewed toward the negative and that perception is not entirely wrong. However, it is not entirely right either. There are some characteristics of the generation as a whole that are negative, but there are a lot of characteristics of this generation that are positive.
First, let’s define who makes up the millennial generation. Up until about two years ago the definition of the millennial generation ranged from beginning with those born in the mid-eighties to beginning with those born after 1995. Researchers now have narrowed down the term some (though not entirely) to range from those born in the mid-eighties to those born in the early two thousands. This is the generation immediately following the “X” generation.
Now that we have that sorted out let’s discuss how this generation came to be the way it is. The millennial generation grew up with constant change.
Technology changed so quickly that my sister (who is three years younger) remembers a whole different set of technology than I do. I remember floppy disks and dial up until I was in high school and she remembers flash drives and WiFi by the time she was in sixth grade. I didn’t face the struggles of social media until I was a Sophomore in high school, but by the time she was in junior high the majority of her friends had a Facebook.
Today I have a laptop that is almost exclusively connected to WiFi and costs almost as much as my car, I attend college online and have never even seen the campus in person, and every detail of my life is available online. This constant change has left them in a place where much of their energy is spent trying to keep up with all of the latest-the latest technology, gossip, politics, trends, media, and more.
For millennials there are few secrets kept from the world. It is no wonder the millennial generation looks messy and screwed up because every mistake that they make has been made public by the pervasiveness of the internet and particularly the pervasiveness of social media. This generation faces a unique challenge as it has had every mistake they have made as teenagers and twenty-somethings spread across the internet where the whole world is watching. Each day they are bombarded with articles and opinions on how the are or should be living; they are told what to buy, how to eat, how to dress and talk; and what their political and religious beliefs should be. They live in a world where we cannot talk about issues being “black and white” because it might have a subversive racial connotation.
As for the selfishness of the millennial generation how do you think they got to be this way? Did they wake up as six year-olds and decide that for the rest of their lives they were going to continue to be selfish, narcissistic, and entitled? No. Their parents generation decided that they didn’t want to see their kids cry, so they were given participation trophies and ribbons even if they sucked. The kids who won the science fair were the ones whose parents had clearly done a majority of the work. As children they weren’t taught that life doesn’t work that way. Unless someone in their lives instilled the value of hard work and mutual respect in them they continued on in their selfish, childish behavior because they certainly didn’t learn those values at school. So yes, millennials do have many characteristics to overcome, but that is not all that they are.
Millennials are also creative, inquisitive, open-minded, adventurous, cultured, smart, well-equipped and more.
The internet has played a difficult and frustrating role in millennials’ upbringing, but it has also left them well equipped to function in an ever-increasingly globalized world. They have all the information out there available at the touch of a button. They look at the world and all of it’s different cultures and traditions and gain a better grasp on how the world functions and are more open-minded because of it. Many millennials make travel and adventure a priority before they are willing to settle down and have a career and/or a family because they realized how much the world has to offer. Millennials have the knowledge and the creativity to change the world, but the world continually looks at this generation as if it has nothing to offer because of all the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media.
Many have said that the millennial generation is godless, but I believe that millennials are as (if not more) open to and in search of something greater than themselves. I sincerely believe that the millennial generation more than anything wants an honest, firm presentation of beliefs. They have grown up with and have become sick of the facade of perfection that comes with the prevalence of the internet and social media and they are in search of authentic, firm beliefs. They have walked away from the church because Christianity, as a whole, has distorted the Gospel by focusing less on God’s perfect grace and redemption and more on minor details of doctrinal, denominational beliefs. However, this is not to say that Christians should abandon Biblically-based convictions because that is exactly what the millennial generation is sick of. Instead Christians must stand firm on their convictions and allow millennials to either “take it or leave it”. Millennials want to see a faith that is unwavering in the face of the constant change so indicative of the world they have grown up in. They will not be convinced by a well crafted argument because they have heard every argument under the sun, but they might be convinced if they see Christians living out the doctrine that they preach.
What if instead of tearing the millennial generation down with the self-fulfilling prophesies of failure we encouraged them to reach their full potential with all the resources that they have at their fingertips? What if “the Church” quit talking about how millennials are walking away from the faith they grew up with and instead tried to figure out how we can encourage them to find God? What if we found a balance between law and grace and stood firm on the foundation of our core beliefs and quit debating the minor, insignificant issues?
“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” (1 Timothy 4:12)