When Did I Become Outdated and Ineffectual?

Jeffrey Zaslow wrote an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal detailing how the younger generation places less value on the advice of their elders. 

When Amy Turek informed her parents that she wanted to have a destination wedding—on the beach in South Carolina—they gave her their best advice.

“They told me, Don’t do it. It’s too inconvenient for guests, too ‘vacationy,’ too selfish.”

Her parents and other older relatives “were actually horrified,” says Ms. Turek, who is 28 years old and lives in Wheaton, Ill. Ms. Turek disregarded her elders’ advice and is getting married later this month by the ocean.

“The older generations totally mean well,” she says, “but they’re giving advice based on things they did in the past, when times were different.”

We do totally mean well you young whippersnappers! Totally! I have to admit that I was amused as I read this article. Serves us right since my generation was the generation of don’t trust anyone over thirty. We rocked with The Who and sang these lyrics.

Things they do look awful cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)

Sadly, like every generation since the Garden we did, in fact, get old. Zaslow continues.

Older people have always offered advice to younger people, with words of wisdom culled from their memories of youth. And, of course, in every era, young people have found advice from elders to be outdated and ineffectual. These days, however, given how fast the world is changing, there’s been a clear widening of the advice gap.

It’s rooted in a devaluation of accumulated wisdom, a leveling of the relationships between old and young. On many fronts, people from Generation Y—now ages 16 to 32—assume their peers know best. They doubt those of us who are older can truly understand their needs and concerns.

Zaslow reminds us geezers and geezerettes not to get our feelings hurt.

As for those of us who are older, we should resist feeling offended if young people shrug off our advice.

I am not offended at all if you youngins think advice from my generation is outdated and ineffectual. We were right there with you just a few decades back. I have read Ecclesiastes so I know there really is nothing new under the sun. Technology and culture change but human nature remains sadly consistent. So I don’t care if you don’t seek my advice on clothes, cars and jobs. No worries if you could care less what I believe about politics or investments. Paul had some words to Titus about how we older folks could and should influence younger men and women.

Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives.

But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around. (Titus 2, The Message)

So if we follow Paul’s advice the onus falls on us (and me) to demonstrate and model the truths of God’s Word. If we demonstrate dignity, wisdom, healthy faith, love and endurance then the young men and women might be inclined to listen now and then.

My words to a young Christian man or woman would be simple.

  • Your identity is not your job. Your job is the way you pay bills. Your identity is in Christ. You are a saint because you have been declared righteous as a gift of grace. Remind yourself of that every day.
  • Living out of faith pleases God. Your actions don’t gain any favor with Him apart from faith.
  • Love your spouse. There is no better testimony in this culture.
  • Love your family and show it by making time for them. I have to confess that this advice comes out of regret.
  • Treasure your friends. They are the ones who provide community to live out this journey and that is how God designed it to work.
  • Live in the moment. Satan loves to have us regretting the past or fearing the future. God desires to be with us in the moment.
  • Model grace and truth. That balance will gain an audience with all ages.

So I am resigned to not being the guru for Generation Y. My advice may not be in great demand. But if my teaching is incorruptible and my words solid and sane (tall order) then God can use even an old fossil like me. I am trusting Him for the strength and grace to live out these truths knowing that God will do the rest. I am confident that living out these truths in grace is never outdated and never ineffectual.