how to heal the millennial soul, part two.

(Part One)

Like I said, there’s something missing from our conversations about the millennial generation — what is all this unsettledness doing to our souls?

They say one key trait of the millennial generation is entitlement. We want everything, think we’re capable of everything.

Entitlement + An unsettled feeling = A very jealous soul.

In my parents’ basement sits a box of ballet and tap trophies. (Because ballet was a competition or something?) We all got a trophy for coming to class and then participating in the recital at the end of the year. Every one of us got one — and the same one too, for the star dancer and the kiddos in the back row. The Trophy Generation indeed.

But we don’t get trophies anymore. Rather, we sub in other things — achievements, milestones, travel, job titles, the list goes on.

Growing up, a common refrain in my home was “You can do anything.” My parents constantly encouraged me to reach for not just the stars, but the moon and the planets too. (And I’ll never stop loving them and thanking that, for the record.) But in that encouragement, I must not have heard correctly.

They said I could do anything; I heard that I could do everything.

Anything is empowering; everything sets us up for defeat. In this is both the heart of the problem and the start of the solution.

So when I hear of an acquaintance or a friend who is absolutely rocking it, my gut instinct is happiness. I’m genuinely joyful for what they’ve accomplished. But after the joy, the second emotion sets in. It’s a raw, defined, pointed jealousy. And these feelings aren’t unique to me; they’re feelings in the souls of so many in this generation.

This jealousy creeps into my heart. It reminds me of the scene towards the end of the Little Mermaid. Ursula, the octopus-esque villain, suddenly grows and grows, oozing out this black filmy liquid into the sea around her. Her voice deepens and she clutches the Sea King’s scepter. Bow to my power, she shouts. And what an echo it makes.

It’s an illustration of jealousy manifested. It’s an illustration of the state of our hearts when we allow that jealousy to grow, unchecked.

Easier said than done, right?

And capable we may be. But only if jealousy doesn’t eat us alive first.

Maybe, right in the crux of the problem, lies the solution. Recognizing and embracing our humanity is where our unsettled souls can begin to find healing.

Reality sets in and we cannot — physically cannot — do everything. Sure, we can do a whole lot. We can accomplish crazy-wonderful things. But not crazy-wonderful everything.

Enter grace. Grace for others, grace for ourselves, grace for our world.

Grace takes shape when we grasp our humanity. We can do so much and impact our world and accomplish great things, no doubt. And because we are human, we can’t do everything. So it’s up to us to find the joy in what’s happening and what’s working and shed the rest.

No matter how shiny-beautiful my life is, at any given moment, there’s always someone to envy. And what we’re envious of, furthermore, is usually a fraction of that person’s full picture. Millennials, friends, we so rarely know each other’s whole stories.

Grace doesn’t rank.

Everything else in the world — everyone else in the world — ranks us. To a Fortune 500 company, a business major may be of more value than, say, a sociology major. And to an animal clinic, a veterinary medicine major will be of more value than an engineering major.

To a man, his wife or girlfriend will be (should be; that’s another blog post) of more value than a woman he passes on the street. To a woman, her husband or boyfriend.

Grace doesn’t play games. Every one of us is of equal value with grace. Grace says you are just as important as I am. Grace says the company executive is worth just as much as the janitor who cleans the building each night.

Grace, at its core, is the first step towards peace for a very unsettled Millennial generation. Grace is the first step towards building an identity that’s bigger than any participation trophy, any unmet expectations, any dreams set aside.

When we frame it in those terms, jealousy is a less formidable foe and a more equal partner to fight. 

Continue the conversation with me . . . would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments section.


3 thoughts on “how to heal the millennial soul, part two.

  1. Sarah – I’m not part of The Trophy Generation (missing you all by 3 years) but I get this. I sooo get this. Trying to do everything leads to failure, which leads to comparing ourselves to others and feeling inadequate. Vicious cycle . . .without grace. Grace is the key. Accepting our imperfections and then working on them – that is good life work. So glad you are sharing your insights on this.

  2. Sarah, I have so appreciated your observations and insights to this topic. I can also relate to hearing “You can do everything” when well-meaning mentors used to say “You can do anything”.

    And Grace being the first step towards settling this unsettled-ness? Could not agree with you more.

    That’s also why it’s so important that we follow Christ’s example and consider ourselves servants … being faithful in the small things/opportunities right in front of us and fixing our eyes on Christ … rather than falling into the comparison trap (easier now than ever, no?) that inevitably leaves us so unsettled. Of course, that will bring us right back to our own humanity because we can’t do that perfectly. We will find ourselves jealous again, and we will stand in need of grace again, continually. And in that respect, living out this Grace is a daily taking up our cross kind of thing.

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