Five Traits for the Younger Generation
Throughout history, there has been the back and forth dialogue between the younger generation, full of zeal, and the older generation, full of experience and wisdom. The youth tend to be excited and desirous for action. The older tend more circumspect and cautious because of life experience. At times in history, the differing perspectives of old and young have caused strife with each other.
For a Biblical example, consider Rehoboam. Rehoboam was a younger king who needed wise counsel. He sought the counsel of the older generation first and then that of his companions. Unfortunately, he choose the counsel of his companions, which led to ruin.
On the other hand, we consider the example of Timothy. Timothy was a young man, yet a leader among older people. Paul instructed him on how to work with others: “1 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (I Timothy 5:1-2). Timothy responded to Paul’s instruction. Paul and Timothy worked together as a spiritual father/son in the Kingdom of God.
I have worked with older people much of my life. When I was in high school, they called me a “young man with an old soul” because I tended to identify with older people. This is even more true now that I am in the insurance industry. There are qualities in the older generation I have come to admire and specifically target in my own life for improvement.
The younger and older Generations don’t have to be at odds with one another. In this segment, I point out five things that younger people must do to gain the confidence of the older generation. It requires that younger people recognize the values and experience of older people.
I believe this is a huge key in seeing the younger and older generation work together for the Kingdom of God. These five traits are valuable in all aspects of life, even outside of the gospel work.
- Keep Your Word – The older generation grew up in a time when a specific saying was prominent: “Let your word be your bond.” This means what you say is what you mean and you intend to do it. They lived in a time when a hand shake or verbal agreement was trustworthy; they remember the time when we didn’t need large written contracts and armies of lawyers. Don’t tell someone that you are going to do something and then not follow through with it. If you are not sure you can do something, then don’t volunteer for it.
- Be Committed – If you decide to help, don’t give up after a few tries. If you accept an assignment from a church leader or anyone else, stick to it. Don’t commit to something and then become distracted. When you are young, you want to explore the world and live life to the fullest. You don’t fully know what you want to do in life. On top of this, your peers are pulling you in different directions. To this end, it can be easy to become distracted. Don’t accept a commitment unless you fully intend to follow it through until completion. Learn to schedule things so you stay on top of your commitments. Very much tied to commitment is loyalty. In our fast-paced world, it can be easy to be “flighty” in our commitments. In other words, you might be working for one ministry and see what you perceive as a “better opportunity” with another ministry. This can cause you to forsake previous responsibilities with your present ministry. Don’t church hop looking for better opportunities to advance self. Find somewhere you can labor and be loyal; stay committed.
- Be on Time – Timeliness is very important. Everyone understands a few minutes late, but when you are consistently 15 or 30 minutes late, or not showing up at all, you have no credibility with the older generation. Plan your life to be there at the proper time.
- Listen – When we are young, we all think we have it figured out. This happens to nearly everyone. Realize that older people have been young before. They were not born older. Human nature doesn’t change, despite the time period we live in. Learn to listen to what the older have to say, as they have made mistakes in life they are trying to save you from. At the same time, they are trying to guide you in areas they already have received victory. Some lessons are borrowed, others are paid for. Borrow as many as possible. “There’s nothing new under the sun”; you don’t’ have to reinvent the wheel. Take correction and follow through.
- Prioritize Your Life – “Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich” (Prov. 21.17). Don’t spend your life in vain pursuits. Younger people like to be active in recreational activities, like sports, but don’t let that be the sole purpose of your life. Take a serious interest in your relationship with God, your financial future, and the above mentioned attributes. Recreation comes after the important items have been addressed.
I think it is imperative that the older generation encourage younger people in these areas and affirm them when they see progress. Use both correction and affection in appropriate measures and at the appropriate time.
While the young want to act, they need the direction of someone older. The younger must listen. At the same time, the older cannot act in a way where caution leads to inaction. Don’t be so afraid of releasing the youth to action that they become disinterested. Find ways to channel it.
I want to affirm that this blog is not a polemic against the younger generation; I am not bashing or coming down due to a specific event. No external event has triggered this blog. It came by revelation. I am simply pointing out characteristics the older generation values to help younger people and older people connect in a more meaningful way.