I have an embarrassing story. Last spring, on a Sunday morning, I spent an unusually long amount of time fixing my hair. Do you know what I was doing? Putting my hair in a center part. Then a side part. Then a center part again to see which one looked better.
Then, if that insanity wasn’t enough, I carried the preoccupation with me to church. As I settled in our usual spot, I watched the women. Younger women, older women, seeing which ones had center parts and which ones had side parts. Suffice it to say, my mind was not exactly where it probably should have been.
Here’s the weird thing, I didn’t really care. I was mildly amused by the center part/side part debate. What struck me was that despite not caring, these debates and clickbait headlines were still affecting me. That’s when this post came to my head.
Now, I know it seems like I am being way too serious about something silly but, indulge me. My distraction and briefly altered behavior that morning got me thinking about the generation wars popping up over the last decade or so. Examples: the criticism of millennial work ethic, backlash insults by saying “okay boomer” to older people, the Gen Z one-upmanship, and the Gen X eye-rolling at all of it.
I just don’t think it supports anyone’s mental or emotional health to be intentionally seeking out (or told) why other people suck. Let’s explore.
How the “Generation Wars” are Working Against Us
Younger Generations: Adults have been frustrated with “kids these days” since there were kids. In truth, much of this criticism results from their unique journies to adulthood in the context of their generation. The people who had children in the ’40s thought ’50s kids were wild. Many ’50s parents thought hippie kids were losing it. And, you can be sure Gen Z kids will get frustrated with their children as they navigate the experimenting, independence, and light-to-moderate rebellion that is developmentally normal for young people.
Are there kids making big mistakes or being selfish? Yep. But, the majority of them turn out alright. Are there young people operating differently in work and social settings? Yep. But, they are also using unique and powerful ways to connect and create change. Are we missing out on encouraging them, getting to know them, affirming them, and mentoring them by believing our way must be better? For certain. We can’t effectively raise the next generation by only telling them how they are different from us. We must also seek the beauty in what they are doing and spur them on.
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Tim. 4:12
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Jer. 1:7
Older Generations: Now, I don’t know who started it, older people criticizing younger ones or younger ones fighting for their validity. Regardless, we now have a strange pattern pointing out how previous generations messed up, are incapable of using technology, or can’t adapt to new ideas. In an effort to establish our generation as “the most right” we seem to have sidestepped the beauty of learning from those who have lived long lives, gained great wisdom, and have something to teach us.
Are there older people who messed things up? Yep. But, part of the reason for that is because they’ve lived long enough to make big mistakes. We need to be careful with our stones. Are there older people who are slow or refuse to learn new things? Yep. But, they’ve also seen plenty of advances in their lives and they might have some wisdom about what matters. Focusing on how older people “don’t get it” often just makes us miss the countless ways they do. We are missing out on a rich well of wisdom by thinking Google has all the answers.
Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. Job 12:12
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, Ps. 92:14
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. Ps. 71:9
The Vulnerable: Okay, last one. When we pit generations against one another, no matter how lightheartedly, it creates tension and division. And, while you may be able to set this banter aside, not everyone can. Those vulnerable to a critical spirit, jealousy, defensiveness, or family strife are negatively impacted. It may be a joke, but these “generation wars” have real-world consequences for the unity, peace, and appreciation that would likely do us all a lot more good. Some people just struggle to separate jokes and satire from truth.
So, there’s my offer for the day. As amusing as the side-part vs. center-part generation battles can be, there is a bit of an underbelly that seems to be working against appreciating the beauty every generation brings to the table. May we seek the good in one another and use our wisdom to raise one another up, rather than tear one another down.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, Heb. 10:24
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thes. 5:11
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Prov. 27:17