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Learning how to make commitments

Slowly, over a period of years, I’m learning about my children’s generation. I’m seeing their great potential and the areas where they struggle. Here’s my conclusion: One of the things that has made life particularly difficult for them is the fact that we parents have given them too many option…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Slowly, over a period of years, I’m learning about my children’s generation. I’m seeing their great potential and the areas where they struggle. Here’s my conclusion: One of the things that has made life particularly difficult for them is the fact that we parents have given them too many options. And a primary result is that many young people have never learned how to make and keep commitments.
I have two questions that I’m hoping you’ll help me answer:
1. Is this true?
2. How do we help others learn to make commitments?

Comments (13)

  • St. Mark of the Cross

    I see this as a church/societal problem…our music, movies, news, government, and unfortunately our church has lost the ability to be committed. I see this first in a lack of commitment to God & Jesus, the church(whether it be attendance, ministry, caring for each other). Dating is another form of this lack of commitment in our church and society…we are taught just to go from person to person to find the “right” one. Lack of commitment is all around us…and it is so basic for the believer to be committed..but we lack this in the church. Commitment takes on many forms…and when there is a lack of it…we all suffer.

    I for my part am asking the Lord to help me be more committed to him in word and deed…hoping that those around especially the youth will see. Our “talking” is a form of commitment – we commit to speak his words in faith, not doubting, so that our testimony is one of a faithful believer. A big way that we can teach others commitment is to honor God as a faithful, covenant keeping committed to us God even in tough times. If we ourselves cannot see Jesus and Father as committed to us in our troubles, how can we tell the youth to be committed? Commitment starts with Jesus & ends with him… I want to teach everyone that Jesus is committed to me..and I will show that by my speech, actions, and motivations..

  • Eternal perspective. For my tribe, if this is not our focus every day, the little things get you down and unfocused. Thy Kingdom Come. How today? That’s our first daily question before the house is left. Love ya man.

  • My generation has issues with commitment. We have grown up with so many choices, as soon as something that requires perseverance or anything that isn’t “fun” comes up, we decide something is no longer for us and move on.
    There is also another aspect to the lack of commitment. We want to be free. Too often we decide freedom is being able to whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want with no regard to how it affects ourselves, people around us, or our christian walks. It is one of the reasons there are so many issues in society today.
    Many have forgotten that true freedom in Christ leads us to discipline and commitment. It is in the daily commitment that disciples are created.
    Commitment is not a four letter word. It does however sometimes require sacrifice, whether of time, pride, or finances. We need to remember commitment does not equal a loss of freedom.

  • This is a very important question and it brought to mind a few friends who have made decisions about where they live and what spouses had as a vocation in order to “limit choices”. I think of my dear friend Dennis Rainey who founded the marketplace leading ministry “Family Life”. He has often been asked, “Why did you move to Arkansas?” His answer is simple: “I moved to a rural place to limit our kids choices and also expose them to things that are timeless”. There is a great deal to be said for that.

  • 1. Is this true?

    Yes, I think so — at least, insofar as I understand what you are saying. It has been my observation that my generation (current twenty-somethings) are noncommittal, because they’ve never learned to struggle as much as previous generations have had to do.

    2. How do we help others learn to make commitments?

    I encourage parents, pastors, and spiritual mentors to proactive throw the young people in their lives into the thick of chaos, of pain and struggle, so that they can learn some of these lessons.

  • All the above statements are so true of my generation. The big issue is fear though. We don’t commit in relationships because we are afraid there might be something better. We don’t commit in ministry because we are afraid it might not be the “will” of God. We’re afraid we can’t hear God clearly so we don’t say “yes.” It’s all based on fear. Where is all of that coming from? What has caused a generation to start every decision out of a place of fear? The more we battle this, the more we can get them to commit to things. I think it goes back to some of your previous blog posts on helicopter parenting. We are so well taken care of for the most part, that we’ve never been allowed to take risks and fail. Deep down, we know that most of our risks aren’t really that risky… there always seems to be safety net. As soon as we perceive that safety net isn’t there, we start to fear making commitments in that area. Interesting, didn’t realize I had so much to say about the subject.

  • Thank you for the real, relevant topics covered in your blog. I am a new subscriber and really like what I have found here.

    Seems there are two primary factors that contribute to a lack of commitment. One is the idea of instant everything. Commitment often means waiting, and waiting rooms are no fun. Second, commitment can be challenged when our expectations are unmet. Consequently, we become more concerned with our personal well-being at the expense of broken relationships: with employers, among friends, in our families.

    Commitment requires discipline, and to be a disciple we must become disciplined. I believe this is what being a follower of Christ is all about: learning to live committed to Him, His calling, and His work as we wait on His return. When others disappoint, those in Christ can still remain committed. His very Spirit indwells us, enabling us to do so.

    This life is a waiting room. We know God will honor His commitment to return for us. We can be found faithful and encourage others while we wait.

  • Our kids and their generation have way to many choices now days, and because of it, many are very overwhelmed. We (my generation) are the ones responsible though, for allowing our society to get to this point. This blog challenges me, as a parent to teach my kids that there is a cost to commitment. I think this is one of the hardest things to teach our own kids. We have actually been encouraging and working with our own son to say no to some things, inorder to fulfill other commitments he has already made. We have the ultimate example of commitment with what Jesus did for us, and I need to use that example more when teaching my kids about what commitment means.

  • As a youngin’ myself, I’m one who struggles to make good with my commitments. I think Jeff has the right idea that we should just be thrown into the stuations and learn ourselves why commitment is necessary. Not to pass the blame, but I think there are a couple of factors for this problem. First, our lives are more spread out then previous generations. As globalization continues and we are offered the chance to go anywhere and try anything I am overwhelmed by the amount of good things that need to get accomplished, but I haven’t found my one mission to complete yet. Another factor is that we have been conditioned to do what we’re good at and enjoy. Get a job that you enjoy. Play the sport that you enjoy. Don’t like piano lessons? Well, try something else that suites your fancy. The world is waiting to unmask your hidden talent. Maybe if we were forced to push through the tough stuff we would be better equiped to deal with frustrating circumstances.

  • Our church has a teaching that speaks to this lack of commitment in not just the younger generation but in our culture overall.

    Kevin Myers calls it the A zone B zone Q zone.

    The A zone is the fun part of all new projects or commitments. The new project is full of excitement and possibilities.

    In time we hit the B zone and that is when the excitement plateaus and the problems surface, discipline is required and the fun part is over. Often people decide that when the going gets tough, they should get going on another project. Something that allows them to feel the energy of another A zone.

    So instead of experiencing the joy of a finished work (C zone) they go to Q zone which stand for Quitting.

    I find it is helpful to walk young people through the truth of what they will experience so when they hit the B zone they are prepared to push through to the joy of the C zone.

    We as the older generation have the responsibility of having as many C Zone examples to show the next generation.

  • Commitment is something we tried to instill in our children by letting them choose what extra curricular activity they wanted to do (they had to do a sport every season as we believe in physical fitness) and they could choose something else (limited to one activity) e.g. dance, roller skating, whatever. Once they choose within the parameters of what we thught acceptable, then they had to commit to it. If they didn’t like it, got bored/frustrated, they had to stick with it until the end of the term. We wanted them to learn the meaning of commitment.

    When the girls were in elementary school, they went to a Montessori school which had a brillant practice of having the children sign a contract about classroom behavior. If they didn’t live up to the contract there were consequences.
    So answer to Q.1 is my children understand commitment because it’s been taught to them through their own choices and the example of those around them.

    I think parents and schools need to teach commitment. I think public schools have had their hands tied to not do so. In the spirit of politic correctness (in other words, hogwash). Who suffers? Everyone.

    We think young marrieds don’t understand the meaning of the word commitment in marriage. Why would they? Their parent’s employer didn’t commit to their parent’s career when they got downsized. Their parents don’t commit to each other. It’s all about the examples people and society set for the next generation, imo.
    That’s my answer to Q.2.

  • I definitely agree with all of the above. I’d never thought of the lack of commitment as being a result of having more options but I guess you’re right – when it was difficult to divorce because of the legal/social situation people stuck with their marriages, now that it’s the easy option, people opt. Same goes for abortion.

    I don’t think it’s just that though – to me the root cause of it is plain selfishness. Everything in our society teaches us to just look after number one but it’s impossible to do that and commit to someone else.

    I guess the place we start in changing the way other people behave is always looking to improve that in ourselves first, committing ourselves to relationships, even when other people may not show the same commitment to us. I think the fact people move around an awful lot is a factor – I may have hundreds of friends on facebook, but if I need someone to talk to there’s only maybe two or three I’d call, and the question I need to ask myself is how many of those people would be able to call me?

    The church is called to be the place where committment is modelled and to me that needs to be the starting place where we build something that shines out as a beacon and an example that draws others in. I love the point that was made right at the beginning about it all coming from an understanding of God’s commitment to us, in the same way we can only become committed to others through the Holy Spirit working to change us. I came accross this in the Message Bible, it’s a paraphrase of the passage on the fruits of the Spirit. I’m not sure about the conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people, but I love the rest:

    Galatians 5:22
    But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

  • My generation is one of microwaves, CD & DVD players (ok, so I had a tape player and VCR for a little while), live- in boyfriends/girlfriends, SELF magazines… you get my drift.

    Now think about the next generation coming up. It’s all about instant gratification. The quicker the better. If we have to wait, we won’t. If it requires some extra effort from us, we’ll quit.

    So yeah, we need to be tested. We need to dare to dream. Forget about playing it safe and easy. In order to do this we may need some external motivation. We’ll change only when we see the need to do so.

    As a personal trainer, I can get a client in the building, but only they can do the hard work. It’s as if we need some older “personal trainers” to show us how to dream, and how to risk to reach those dreams. Then the rest is up to us. We can’t have our hands held through life, but we do need someone out there to push us (not coddle us).

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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