I finally figured out what’s wrong with my generation.
Well, maybe not everything that’s wrong with us. But a huge chunk of it hit me on the head last weekend while I was reviewing a not-yet-released book.
I finally looked around and saw what so many people, including myself, sense deep in their guts is wrong with the world. Why are we so bored so much of the time? Why are we agitated and depressed? Why are we so often not happy with our lives, our work, ourselves?
Our problem is we think we’ve got too much of one thing, and not enough of another, and they’re both really important.
Too Much Potential
Since the time most of us were children, our parents told us we could do anything we wanted. My parents told me I could be President someday, if I put my mind to it. They told me I was very smart, and I was a smart kid. I grew up thinking the world was just waiting for me to grow up and bless it with my unending gifts and talents.
I was full of potential.
And most of us went to church where we heard from our pastors and youth leaders and Sunday School teachers about how God had a great and glorious plan for our lives. He had created us with wonderful talents that we just had to unlock. God wanted our lives to be an incredible adventure! It was exciting to think of growing up and finding out what God had in store, especially if it meant blasting into outer space.
Everywhere we went, whether it was school, or home, or church, we were told that we were beautiful and unique and above average and full of potential.
Not Enough Purpose
Then we grew up.
Being adults was a lot harder than a lot of us predicted, I think. Lots of people I know, including myself, earned a college degree that we ended up not really using. It’s been…interesting trying to make our way in a high-unemployment economy. Everywhere I look, I have one friend who’s going nuts trying to find a job, and another friend who’s going nuts because he hates his job.
It’s easy to blame the world. As I was rejected time and again by employers for asinine reasons, it became easy to tell myself that they didn’t deserve me. After all, I’m awesome! They’re the ones who suck.
And as my generation has struggled to become responsible adults, we realized our parents probably over-encouraged us. I could never be President, even if I wanted to be. I’m not as smart as I thought I was. And as smart and talented as I may be, I’m at the mercy of employers who may not be looking for someone as awesome as me. So my potential in life is really only measured by a stranger’s potential to make snap judgments about me.
Even bigger than the realization that our parents were wrong was the suspicion that our pastors were wrong. What if God doesn’t have a glorious plan or purpose for our lives? There are certainly days when it feels that way.
That’s why so many people are bored with life, or disenchanted, or anxious, or depressed, or abuse themselves, or have walked away from church, or hate their jobs. We still hold onto the hope that we have a lot of potential, but the reality of the day-to-day is we’re desperately short on purpose.
Maybe Purpose, Perhaps, Doesn’t Come From a Store
How do we get it back? A sense of purpose?
I don’t know. It’s really hard to feel purposeful when you don’t feel useful. We’re unemployed and underemployed. We work a lot of jobs we don’t like to buy stuff we never have time to use. Everything in our culture tells us that our purpose is to buy stuff, but ironically, we can’t buy as much as we used to. Our church theaters are full of superstars being watched listlessly by a disengaged audience. I can’t tell my friend that his situation will get better soon, because I don’t know that it will. I know I was at the end of my rope until just a couple of weeks ago.
Maybe we have to change the definition of “purpose” or “plan.”
Maybe it’s like how the Grinch realized Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe your purpose doesn’t come from a job or paycheck, or anything you’re doing right now at all.
What do you think? How do you define your purpose? Do you get to be paid for your purpose, or is it something completely outside your job? Tell us about some of your worst, least-purposeful jobs you’ve ever had.
By the way, the as-of-yet unreleased book is here.