Important Books: Generation Me
Today's book is a little less scholarly but every bit as potent a read as the other books. It's Jean Twenge's Generation Me, a study of the Millenials, who Twenge terms "GenerationMe" due to the unrelenting narcissism and self-interest of my generation. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, writes from what appears to be a Catholic background and thus brings a strongly moral outlook to her subject. Her book reviews pop culture, primarily, to identify the key attitudes and ideals of my generation. In sum, Twenge finds that we are consumed with ourselves. We've been raised on the sunny optimism of the Boomers to believe that we are all extremely special and talented and that noone and nothing should come in the way of our dreams. It is most important not that we conform to moral standards but that we express ourselves. It is most important not that we confess truths but that we express honest opinions at all times, for honesty (obscenely) trumps morality for Generation X. The book is both revealing and convicting.
I found myself reflecting on my own experience as a GenXer as I read Generation Me and feeling somewhat disgusted at certain aspects of my own attitude. I too can think that I am owed everything in life, that I am extraordinary in every way, that I am the star of a movie that everyone else happens to have a guest role in. When it comes to work, I should have a job that brings me endless happiness and unceasing delight. When it comes to school, I am a student who cannot deserve anything but an A. When it comes to preaching or teaching, my gifts can stand the test of any scrutiny and prove all criticism dead on arrival. When it comes to conversation, I am by far the most interesting person at the table or in the group, and thus I should dominate conversation and give everyone else the privilege of basking in my light. When it comes to sports, I should show my talents and not let the cumbersome presence of teamwork and self-sacrifice deter me from justly demonstrating my true athletic virtue. When I was single, it was unthinkable that any girl should not throw herself at me, so ruggedly handsome, charming, interesting, godly (ha!), and noble a man was I. The very thought that I should be denied full and flowing praise and adulation in any one of these areas was dreadful. If enacted in my life, a stream of excuses, angry comments, and justifications would issue forth, and I would stand, smoldering, the wronged hero sure to strike his revenge as soon as justice gave him his day.
If you're reading this, and you're a member of my generation, you should know that you and I are not nearly as special as we think we are. We just aren't. We've been trained with relentless force to believe that we are all exceptionally talented and wonderful and that's just not true. Most of us aren't great looking, most of us aren't brilliant, most of us aren't charming, most of us don't have great character, most of us aren't nearly as interesting as we think we are. We would all do well to take daily doses of humility and self-awareness and to lay off the self-entitlement meds. We don't deserve an easy road; we shouldn't expect unceasing praise; we should welcome hardship and trial and work through it to forge character. This, after all, is the great price we pay for becoming self-worshippers and easy victims of a mean and self-crushing world. We lose opportunities to grow and change and face down trials and move mountains and crush foes and forge character that lasts and endures. If you are a member of my generation, know your weakness. Resolve to shrug off the worldly narcissism and self-entitlement that you may well be cloaked in and commit yourself to the formation of character for the rest of your days. We all need to stop whining, start working, and work to fashion some true godliness through the fires of life. The Lord Jesus Christ did not have an easy way. Yet He found great reward for holiness. So will we. Let us fight on, and lay off the worldliness that so desperately beseeches us to whine and whimper and fall by the side, victims of our own listless character.