A few weeks ago, my wife and I went shopping at a large Costco store. We were there with heaps of other masked ‘grey hairs' on a quest to find, among other things, toilet paper and hand sanitizer. While waiting in line for a take-out hot dog and cola, I spotted a millennial-aged employee. Curious about what she thought concerning all the drama going on with COVID-19, I started up a conversation with her.
I said, “I’m near the end of my career. I have been through the Cuban Nuclear Crisis, Black Monday, New York Bombings, and the 2008 market crash. You were not around or too young to remember those. This COVID-19 is your first real crisis. What do you and your peer’s thing about this? How are you coping with all the drama? Her answer was, “Well, we are just tolerating it and going through it. We hope it will pass.” I appreciated her short and simple answer.
In one sense, I am glad millennials are going through this crisis. Millennials need to experience the bumps, detours, delays, and crashes in real life, just like every generation before them. Please, don’t hear what I didn’t say. I hurt for all the families who have lost loved ones. I'm speaking conceptually here. Life is full of disappointments and difficulties, and all ages of people need to know how to get through challenges and obstacles. It will take more than I-phones, apps, eclectic food, exotic coffee, and esoteric rhetoric around a table or zoom session to make a better world.
In a real sense, parents desire the best for their children. If you ask them, what would be their future hopes for their children, most parents say they would want their adult children to be happy, secure, and self-confident. Those are beautiful things to say, but there is no guarantee of that, is there? Would a childhood filled with participation trophies and good grades guarantee that? Would experiences like travel and music guarantee that? Those are beautiful things, but do they prepare children for real-life scenarios? Well, partially.
But, what about the ‘COVID-19 times’ the next generation will go through in life? The problem is there’s no problem until there’s a problem. The most loved, educated, nurtured, talented, spoiled, and traveled person may be 'freaked-out' from fear, guilt, failure, etc. when real problems happen. We’ve seen insecure adults 'freak-out' in this current crisis, haven't we?
So, how does one raise a secure adult? How will millennials be prepared for both the up and downsides of life?
Psychologist Dr. Edward Hallowell says to feel secure, your children need to develop two crucial skills: (1) The ability to overcome adversity. (2) The capacity to sustain joy. He goes on to say, "Life is full of disappointments. Only by falling the first time and learning to try, try, and try again will a person get the most out of their abilities." In other words, the essential qualities are not external; they are internal. What one is made of (character), not just what one knows (education), will reveal their true self in a crisis.
You are familiar with the saying, ‘No pain, no gain.’ Today, many people believe the saying should be, ‘No pain. No pain.’ ‘No pain, no pain’ is reserved for heaven, not earth. You see, how much you grow depends on your ability to push through pain, which requires changing our perspective and behavior.
Here’s the formula for raising a secure adult, able to manage both good and tough times: "Growth=Change. Change=Loss. Loss=Pain. Pain=Growth."
Samuel Chand said that. People don’t grow in good times. There’s no reason to. People grow in tough times. No matter what challenge you have at present, remember, it's for your growth.
Why was the World War Two generation called ‘The Greatest Generation?’ It’s simple. The Great Depression built ‘The Greatest Generation.’ Their problems revealed the greatness in them. The internals of patience, perseverance, work ethic, an undefeatable attitude, and ingenuity they and their parents learned in tough times brought them into great times. Having less in the past opened the door to having more in the future. Did it cost something for this to happen? Yes, it did. Pain. No pain, no gain.
Here’s a word picture for you. Vines tend to get big, bushy, and bossy if not trimmed. They like the optics of that. The bushes' strength focuses on the externals of looking good. “Here’s my credentials. Look at my qualifications. See how many designer clothes I have.” While the optic is impressive to the sight and sound bunch, there is no fruit on the vine, which is why the vine exists. It takes internals to do that.
History shows us this principle. When form (being a big, beautiful vine) takes over function (bearing fruit), you can expect a pruning. Pruning is cutting back what's holding you back. Pruning is not punishment. Pruning is about producing more fruit. One more thing, the longer you wait to trim the vine, the bigger the cuts on the branches in the future. Ouch! Thanks to Pastor Ashley Wooldridge for his thoughts in this paragraph.
Perhaps this is what is going on in the world right now. Maybe it's pruning time for bigger, better, greater. If we can change and apply the fruit of internals rather than the sucker shoots of externals, we can have another ‘Greatest Generation.’
Millennials, Generation X, and Y, this is my challenge to you. Turn this crisis into a cause to become secure adults, ripe with the fruit of real character. Do this, and you will turn the world right-side up.