By Macey Phillips
“Kids these days are lazy and self-absorbed.”
“The millennials don’t know what it means to be polite.”
“Get off your phones and get a job!”
Millennial has become a dirty word. I hear it all the time, and there is usually a scoff and a scowl attached with it. As a millennial, it breaks my heart.
What I Hear
Google the word millennial and see what kinds of articles pop up. You might read descriptions like “cheap, lazy, entitled, disillusioned.”
Ask one of the older generations to describe a millennial. You might hear grumbling about a generation expecting a participation trophy or ribbon for everything they do.
Ask a cartoonist to draw a typical millennial. The caricature might look something like a bearded individual wearing flannel and a beanie in a coffee house with his nose buried in his cell phone, spending his parents’ money on an overpriced coffee and pastry.
What I hear about millennials from social media, from talking with older generations, and from reading articles is almost exclusively bad. People think we are lazy, self-absorbed, obsessed with technology, lacking in manners and logic, and impolite. We have big dreams and goals but never want to work hard to achieve them. We are the “gimme” generation. I hear and see this evaluation on a daily basis.
That’s not what we are though. From a millennial’s perspective, here is what our generation is—the good and the bad.
What We Are: The Good
We want to make a positive impact on the world. Oftentimes we support causes that we believe in by volunteering our time, donating our money, or even pursuing careers in social work and welfare. I am a teacher in a school district that serves quite a few impoverished families. Millennials have flocked to this school and others like it. We not only work hard to make a positive impact on these kids and our communities, but we also enjoy doing it. So many of my friends from high school have grown up to become nurses, teachers, and social workers. We ache to help others and make a difference in this world.
We are generally really good with technology and have a global reach that has never existed until now. Yes, our generation is connected at the hip to cell phones, tablets, and laptops—but look at where that has gotten us. In church I can pull up an app that has the sermon for that Sunday on it, complete with a note-taking section and the Bible verses that we are studying. I am also able to donate to the church through a separate app. If I can’t make it to church one Sunday, I can easily look that sermon up online and watch the video. Through social media sites like Facebook, Bible study groups can share different articles and readings, discuss pertinent topics, and generally connect with one another throughout the week. Technology has not only led to more connectedness within and outside of churches, but it has also allowed churches to have a global outreach like never before.
We are open-minded and more accepting of where people are in their lives. The Bible calls us to share the good news of Jesus Christ to whomever will listen. Jesus talked with and loved on the Samaritans, the prostitutes, and the lepers. So often today, Christians are unwilling to interact with those who lead very different lives. Millennials, on the other hand, interact with many lifestyles different from their own. We enjoy connecting with people of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs.
What We Are: The Bad
As with any generation, there are a few frustrations associated with us.
Plenty of young people, my friends and me included, are guilty of not putting forth long-term effort. We seek instant gratification. Perhaps the biggest downside of technology is the instantaneousness of it; and we have never known a life without it. While there are plenty of millennials who are willing to and who do put forth the long-term effort, I have noticed that this is not always the case. Dropping out of college has become much more accepted today. Divorce has become a norm. Millennials bounce from job to job. We have a harder time completing the mundane tasks that almost every job requires at some point. Even in my classroom, technology and fast-paced, interactive lessons have become a requirement to engage the younger, tech-savvy generation.
Some of us are terrible with confrontation. Growing up with social media, instant messaging, and texting has led to a generation who would rather post their annoyances on Facebook than have a personal conversation. There is a joke that the easiest way to frustrate a millennial is to call them and not to text them. While I don’t agree that we have gotten so nonconfrontational that we won’t talk on a phone, I must admit I am much more willing to text a person than to call them. This is much to the chagrin of my father, whose main piece of advice is “just call them.” The protection of a screen makes millennials and other generations much more willing to engage with people in a negative way, more so than if they were to say the same negative things face-to-face.
What We Need
From a millennial’s perspective, do you know what this generation needs? Prayer and guidance. I know so many young people who have turned away from the church because they feel unsupported and judged. They believe the church has become a place for Bible-thumping and bashing others who are different from us.
We don’t need people judging and condemning us. We need people praying for us. What if, instead of grumbling and griping about how soft this young generation is, we pray that God uses our love and acceptance of others to lead the lost to him?
What if, instead of complaining about our noses being in our phones, we prayed for the enormous global impact this generation could have through technology?
What if, instead of becoming frustrated with our instant gratification, we prayed for God to help us reach our goal of connecting with others?
What if older generations commit to set good examples of what it means to be leaders in the church and in the community? We desperately want to do good things in the world. Please help us use our strengths and overcome our weaknesses. “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).
Millennials want to do good in the world. We have our flaws, absolutely, and you have a millennial admitting them to you. Yet this millennial is also asking for guidance and a lot of prayer.
Macey Phillips is a language arts teacher and writer who lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband, Tyler, and puppy, Rosie.