Being looked down on.
It’s something that many young people struggle with at work, in the world, and especially in the church.
Even though I’m almost thirty, I still fight this negative attitude when dealing with family and even in my church (which I love, by the way).
Being looked down on because of your age can often be frustrating. Sometimes older people think that young people are immature, inexperienced, and that they don’t know what they’re talking about. We talk about how black lives matter and how blue lives matter, but how often do we recognize stereotypes–even discrimination–toward young people? That young lives matter too? Often young people are passed over for opportunities, their ideas are passed up, and their thoughts are ignored.
What’s often forgotten is that young people today are the those who will succeed us when we are older. The younger generations are the future of our church, our government, and our society. Everyone deserves opportunities. Everyone deserves to be heard. Sure–sometimes it is best to take the advice of an older, wiser, more experienced individual. That should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Where we make mistakes in dealing with the younger generations is in not giving their ideas validity, in ignoring what they have to say, and really in just flat out disrespecting them. Everyone deserves respect.
Instead of looking down on young people, invest in them. Here are a few ways that you can invest in the young people in your community:
- Teach them. Instead of disregarding their ideas, teach them what you know. While many concepts change, there is a lot of wisdom that is timeless. Teach them what you know so they don’t have to figure it out on their own. I like to teach etiquette classes to the young girls at my church. Not every child gets the full run-through of proper etiquette at home, from how to set the table to how to be a good friend. I love being able to teach them things they otherwise may never learn but that are incredibly important.
- Listen to them. Even if you find young people annoying, take the time to listen to what they have to say. Listening is a sign of respect, and everyone deserves respect. Whether they just need to talk or if they have grand ideas, truly listen to them. This will help them to develop confidence that their ideas matter.
- Encourage them. This is so important! It’s rare that anyone can succeed without encouragement. Whether they are beginning a new venture, struggling in school, going to university, or just deeply entrenched in the daily grind of parenting, give them hope and a kind word. Uplift them and let them know that their work is important no matter what it is. Also, encourage them to teach themselves! If they want to go to university, support them! University is such a valuable experience for young people, as it is often the first time that they need to look after themselves without the help of family or friends. It can provide them with many valuable life skills, such as how to make new friends and how to budget. Financing is often something that young people need help with, so if you do know a young person about to go off to university, give them some advice. For example, they may not realise they need insurance for their student accommodation, so you could point them towards this review for toggle insurance to help them understand what living away from home really requires.
- Invest your time. There is an older woman at my church who often asks if she can take one my children out. She has taken them back to school shopping, out to breakfast, and out to dinner. She provides them with one-on-one attention that they don’t often get and makes them feel loved and valued. Time is one of the most important gifts that you can give to someone. By investing your time in a young person, they learn that they are important too and develop confidence they otherwise may never have.
- Let them teach you. One of the most important things you can do for a young person is allow them to teach you! You are never finished learning, and the young people in your life may just have some valuable information that will help you. The young people in your life can teach you how to use Facebook, show you how to set up a website, share with you something they learned from a book, and even teach you a thing or to about how to communicate with others their age. These are just a few examples, but younger generations have a wealth of knowledge that you can learn from, just like they can learn from you.
One of my favorite Bible verses comes from 1 Timothy 4:12:
“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
This verse was directed to Timothy in his dealings with the church, but I think this applies to all young people in all different aspects of life. Help the young people in your life to understand this: despite hardships, continue to push forward in life as an example to others. Love others. Have faith. Stay pure.
Take the time to make a difference in the life of a young person today.