It must be fun to bash Millennials.
I haven’t tried it yet but based on the number of articles, comments and even infographics I’ve seen about how terrible we apparently are, it must be.
But are these people right about us Millennials? Are we really a bunch of lazy, entitled narcissists?
You’re probably expecting an impassioned defense of Millennials right about now. But there’s an issue here that’s even more concerning than whether we really are selfie-stick-wielding, screen-fixated softies with mom and dad’s “emergency” credit card in our back pockets.
You see, when someone writes one of these Millennial-bashing articles, makes a comment about how [fill in the blank] Millennials are, they aren’t just throwing ugly words at us: They are writing us off as a whole and, in the process, are cut off the possibility for meaningful interactions with us.
Let me show you just two examples.
Millennials, statistically speaking, are more accepting of diversity than other generations (e.g., interracial marriage acceptance rates by generation). When someone writes Millennials off, they miss out on the opportunity to hear—and take seriously—our perspectives on accepting people who are different from us.
They may also miss out on the chance to shake up their own work-life balance by watching—and not scoffing at—how highly we prioritize our personal lives. It’s well documented that this generation will sacrifice more pay and promotions to maintain a healthy family and friendships.
Ironically, those who jump in on Millennial-bashing often only end up hurting themselves.
And this makes me wonder if we, are guilty of committing this same crime? What sorts of lessons or relationships are we depriving ourselves of because we are writing off other generations?
‘Kids These Days’
Do you remember that video that went viral last year of those younger girls taking a whole bunch of selfies during a baseball game? You know, where the announcers overlaid the 1:05 long video with comments like “Oh Lord” and “Can we do an intervention?” Now, let me ask you something: Did you watch those girls and think something like “this next generation is hopeless?”
Because I sure did.
It is incredibly easy to fall into the trap of writing off younger generations. We know more about life than they do and can easily see the error in their ways. But, there’s a huge difference between seeing unhealthy behavior in a younger person and (1) attributing it to that particular person and (2) attributing it to the generation as a whole.
Imagine a fortysomething man having to slam on his brakes because a twentysomething is texting at the wheel. Is it right for him to direct his anger towards twentysomethings in general (“kids these days are so irresponsible and selfish”) rather than at the actual offender? Of course not!
In the same way, we should be careful not to attribute the unhealthy actions of a few people older than we are to their whole generation. Because if we do, we we end up blinding ourselves to valuable lessons and cutting ourselves off from meaningful relationships with people in that generation.
But this unhealthy aspect of writing off other generations doesn’t just work down the timeline.
Have you ever worked for a workaholic Baby Boomer that caused you to write off the advice of all Baby Boomer bosses? Or, did you have a grandparent who unreasonably resented technology and that caused you to disregard the advice of others in the same generation because “they just don’t get it”?
Instead of throwing out all the advice you’re getting from that generation, perhaps you need to discern the healthy from the unhealthy and then heed the advice of the healthy. Your Baby Boomer boss telling you that you need to work harder may be exactly what you need to do right now. Or maybe you should heed the advice of your other grandparent and text less and interact in person more.
What This All Means
The next time I am wronged or inconvenienced by someone from another generation, I have to remember that I am dealing with one person and not that entire generation. And you need to remember that, too.
Let’s stop writing off entire generations based on the unhealthy actions of a few people. We aren’t just hurting them, we’re hurting ourselves. Yes, some Millennials are probably lazy, entitled narcissists. But not all. But all of us are individuals —just like the members of every generation.
Stephen is a husband and father of two and blogs at Practical-Christianity.com about Christian issues and the intersection of science and faith.