Avoiding Us Vs. Them: What Millennials Could Learn from The Greatest Generation

This is the first in a two-part series focused on reconciling The Greatest Generation and Millennials.

They’ve been called “The Greatest Generation,” and rightfully so. When Tom Brokaw coined the title I doubt he anticipated the sticking power that it brought. They’ve gone down in history as one of the most formidable groups of Americans since our country’s inception. They led one of the greatest economic growth periods in our history. They’ve been described as honorable, heroic, and sacrificial. While Jason Bourne was still a twinkle in his grandfather’s eye, these men were slaying Nazis on the beaches of Normandy. I, for one, am thankful for their sacrifice and contribution in economics, civil rights, and international freedom.

However, I’ve noticed that in the church there often seems to be a rift between those classified as “the greatest” and my generation, known as “millennials.” Millennials are usually defined as those born between 1980-2000. Older millennials, like myself, are out of college and are pursuing their careers, while younger millennials have just graduated high school. Whereas “the greatest” are called loyal and honorable, the descriptors of selfish and self-entitled often accompany discussions on millennials. We are a generation still defined by our immaturity. Like a wave crashing into the beach, no one is yet sure how we’re going to turn out.

Even with our weaknesses, there is still light on the horizon for millennials like me. We have already influenced the world for good and most of us are still coming of age. Nonetheless, my appeal to my generation is to take a quick survey of this greatest generation that has paved the road ahead of us. There is much that we can (and should) learn from them. Below I’ve assembled three ways millennials can honor God by mirroring “the greatest generation.”

By Growing Up

It’s shameful that we have become a generation known for sitting in basements and playing video games. When I talk to members of “the greatest” it seems like they have a different idea of adulthood than do many millennials. To be physically and legally an adult yet to act like a child seems like a foreign concept to them. Boys became men and girls became women. They began contributing to society at a young age. They used their free time to help their neighbors rather than to chase the wind. Millennials should desire churches and societies where it is socially and spiritually unacceptable for us to stay on a closed-circuit loop of immaturity.

By Valuing Commitment

Maybe it’s luck (by the way, I definitely do not believe in luck!) but I’ve never been let down by a “greatest.” When they tell you they’re going to do something, they do it. They’re not wishy-washy and noncommittal. They stick to their guns and follow through with their promises. Maybe commitment comes with age, or maybe millennials really are selfish and self-absorbed. Either way, I know the “greatest” value commitment and, as a result, are respected and adored.

By Focusing Our Finances

Millennials (generally) burn through money like it’s kindling at a campground. “Oh, there’s a new iPhone that’s exactly like the iPhone I currently own except the earphone jack is located 1/64 of an inch lower than the current position? AND I can space out the $500 cost over 24 months through a nifty payment plan? Please allow me to throw my money at you.”

I love my generation but we’re sometimes ridiculous. Many of us could learn a lot from the financial stewardship and generosity displayed by many of “the greatest.” I watched my great aunt cry in her living room as she contemplated that there were children in her community going to bed without a meal. She was living on a limited income but resolved in her heart that no child should be hungrier than she was. She was sacrificial in her giving, we should be too.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The church has unfortunately become a generationally segregated community. It shouldn’t be like this. Although “the greatest” certainly have their faults, there is much that we millennials should learn from them. Admittedly, our parents may not have done a stellar job at preparing us, but none of that matters any more. There comes a point where there is no one to point to to justify our excuses except ourselves. If you’re a millennial, know that we can all improve and a great place to look for inspiration is in the lives of those Christians older than us.

Watch for part two titled “Avoiding Us Vs. Them: What The Greatest Generation Needs To Know About Millennials”Av

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