“You know Kari, your brother barely finished one of his classes. He’s a smart kid, but if he doesn’t believe in or respect the teacher, it’s like pushing a rope. He just ‘won’t’ work for them.”
My Dad revealed this to me over dinner earlier this summer, shortly after my brother’s high school graduation. Without pause, I looked at him and pointed out, “Yes, Dad. But if everyone was like that, then the major corporate frauds would never have happened.”
My Dad had fallen into the same trap in which so many of us get caught: we view the rising generations through our own world view.
This is common in the spiritual community—for instance, when we speak of specially-gifted “Indigo,” “Crystal” or “Rainbow” children. Then a little later on, we’ll find ourselves complaining about how entitled youth today are.
We want them to change the world—if only they could do it without us having to actually change the way we view it. But if we pay close attention, we can see that the younger generations are putting our own spiritual teachings into practice.
Here’s something I hear adults say frequently:
Kids nowadays are so entitled. They want the prize, but they don’t want to put in the effort to earn it.
Many in the spiritual community love to reinforce the importance of being in the “flow” of life. A quick search returns pages of articles written on the concept of surrender. And yet when we see youth practicing this principle of surrender through their firm belief that things should be easy, we quickly judge them and call them entitled.
On one level, we’re right: to believe that everything should happen easily is a fixed mindset, and it limits our belief in growth and the ability to reach their full potential.
But where do we find the balance between control and allowing space to evolve?
True surrender is somewhere in the middle of effort and no effort. It’s in the space of “Yes.”
I learned this lesson when my first article for Elephant Journal received some negative comments. My first response was to go against the flow of the review and argue with the commenter—I needed to make sure that they knew that my intent was not to be offensive.
The exchange was a lesson for me on letting go. When I stepped back and allowed for the fact my choice of language was offensive, I realized the commenter was correct. Once I surrendered to this, then I was able to make appropriate changes so the tone of the article reflected my intentions.
Eckhart Tolle notes this balance:
“True surrender… does not mean to passively put up with whatever situation you find yourself in and to do nothing about it. Nor does it mean to cease making plans or initiating positive action. Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life.”
So the older generations are focused on trying to control everything, and they dig in their heels. The youth are balancing it by trying to control nothing, and throwing up their hands. Yet I’m confident we’ll find our poise in the middle, as both groups learn to respond to life with “yes.”
Some common assumptions about the millennial generation:
“Millennials change jobs every few years. Back in my day we kept the same job for 30 years and retired with a pension. There’s no company loyalty. Millennials are selfish and only care about themselves.”
“The younger generations fail to value tradition.”
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey examined how we center on life on areas outside of ourselves, and how this can cause dysfunction. He defines a work-centered person as follows:
“Their fundamental identity comes from their work—‘I’m a doctor,’ ‘I’m a writer,’ ‘I’m an actor.’ Because their identity and sense of self-worth are wrapped up in their work, their security is vulnerable to anything that happens to prevent them from continuing in it. Their guidance is a function of the demands of their work. Their wisdom and power come in the limited areas of their work, rendering them ineffective in other areas of life.”
It’s easy to see how being overly work-focused can interfere with a healthy lifestyle. And—as I pointed out to my Dad—it can lead to someone so afraid of losing their job that they act in an unethical manner.
We can be unhealthily focused on other things too: family, spouse, money, possessions, pleasure, church…even ourselves
Covey goes on to state,
“People who are family-centered get their sense of security or personal worth from the family tradition and culture or the family reputation. Thus, they become vulnerable to any changes in that tradition or culture and to any influences that would affect that reputation. Family-centered parents do not have the emotional freedom, the power, to raise their children with their [the children’s] ultimate welfare truly in mind.”
Many of us were raised to believe selflessness is the supreme virtue. It’s ingrained in traditional religious teachings. We often heard the scripture John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” In fact, we were taught that putting ourselves first was one of the most un-Christ like things we could do.
But now we have modern teachers speaking of the dangers of focusing too much on others?
Millennials are much better than the older generations at limiting their external centers, and this plays out in the fact that they are less likely to go to traditional churches, they change jobs more often, and they’re willing to forgo family traditions (often disowned by their family-centered parents who are unable to handle the bruises to their identity). So in a way, the younger generation is on the right track with their self-focus, as it enables their identity to be less vulnerable to things outside of their control.
But how do we find the balance? When does self-centeredness overtake self-focus?
My friend explained it to me in this manner, “When you place your wants before someone else’s needs, then that’s selfishness. When you place your needs before someone else’s wants, then that’s self-care.” She went on to point out that there were some of us who were raised with such a misconception of selflessness, that they fail to comprehend their own needs, making self-care difficult.
I encourage each of us to truly understand our needs and wants fully, so then we can move toward striking the balance between self-care and self-centeredness.
“The younger generations don’t know about connection. They always have their head buried in their phone. I try to talk to them, but it falls on deaf ears. What’s so hard about talking to someone in person?”
Here our spiritual lesson is a chance for us to practice the Platinum Rule: treat someone in the manner that they want to be treated.
This applies to communication as well. You might think you’re communicating better by calling or going in person, but if your communication isn’t in a manner that they hear it, then you’re wasting your time.
Let’s practice stepping outside of our beliefs of the way we think communication is “supposed” to happen and meet them where they are. When they don’t answer our phone calls, hang up and send a text. We need to stop resisting that technology is a main part of how they communicate. If they’re always on their phone, then include the phone in your interactions. Start a meme war, have Google search races, do timed activities where they need to use their phone as a stopwatch, get a Facebook account and be the crazy aunt that likes all their posts and makes embarrassing comments.
Be sure to use emoticons. 😉
Maybe we’ll learn a new way to communicate and discover there is a way to connect through it.
Here’s one final communication tip: Be honest! I can’t emphasize this enough. The younger generations are overwhelmingly empathetic and sensitive, which basically makes them human lie-detectors. They can tell when you’re being insincere, and it’s a quick way to lose the respect of people. Once you lose respect, good luck getting them to do anything…which, as I pointed out to my dad, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Author: Kari Zahar
Image: The 10th sign at Instagram
Editor: Renée Picard