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Why does my children’s generation struggle to commit?

I’ve devoted my life to the proposition that there is greatness in the next generation. But yesterday I posted a question that perplexes me to Facebook and got 42 comments. I’m wondering why my children’s generation struggles so to commit to anything difficult for very long. Where did that c…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
I’ve devoted my life to the proposition that there is greatness in the next generation. But yesterday I posted a question that perplexes me to Facebook and got 42 comments.

I’m wondering why my children’s generation
struggles so to commit to anything difficult for very long. Where did
that come from?

Some of the people making comments questioned the validity of the question. But most agreed that it is an issue. Greg noted that Relevant magazine has picked up on the phenomenon in this article.
Mark observed, “Our generation has created an age of skepticism. We have taught our
kids to be critical, independent thinkers. They don’t trust much, most
of all themselves.” He further noted, “This generation has never had to fight a
visible, common enemy.”
The comments from the 20-somethings were most interesting.
Laura said, “Probably because we have never been taught that we had to.”
Michelle postulated, “Too many options? grass is greener mentality?”
Katie said, “My main thoughts are that we have huge desires to change the
world…but with the societal influences of too many options and too
many distractions, we find it hard to discern our God-given dreams &
calling and how we are best BUILT to change the world…”
So, what do you think?

Comments (24)

  • Thanks for extending this discussion Seth from what was a vibrant FB interaction earlier.

    Headed to bed and recalling a basic principle in direct response marketing. “When a consumer is offered too many choices they will most often do—nothing!”

  • There has been an enormous change in the way we function, certainly as a British nation. People of my Grandad’s generation took one job for life within walking distance of their home. My husband was shocked yesterday when he realised he has actually been working for the same company for almost 10 years now and that is the longest he has worked anywhere.

    We have instant coffee, instant mail, mobile phones that mean conversations no longer have to wait till you get home. Everything is now geared around the immediate and the short term.

    My grandparents kept everything they owned, which wasn’t much, because it might come in handy. They made things and remade things out of broken things with their own hands. Nowadays, if it breaks you get a new one. If you get bored with it, you throw it away and buy something else.

    When the culture is short term and taste driven, based subjectively on how we feel about all we approach from food to goods to work, it is hardly surprising that long term commitment is such an alien concept. That requires sticking at it when you don’t like it anymore. Keeping going when it isn’t your taste anymore or it gets uncomfortable. None of those things are a part of our current cultural thinking.

    There was a show on TV called Record Breakers with the late Roy Castle when I was young. It had a theme song that went “If you want to be the best, if you want to beat the rest, dedication’s what you need.” It’s a rare quality these days but it would be given our attitude to not enduring the uncomfortable or the old.

  • Anna Coffey (WR Alumni – Jan 09)

    I am asking sincerely, this isn’t to point fingers. But could part of the problem be generations before us not equipping us? I mean, there doesn’t “seem” to be enough people taking the position of “Peter” for all the “Timothy’s”. This is why discipling/mentoring is very important.

  • **mArC** The Schifano Tribe

    agree with Butch and think that we think we are so entitled to everything. I think, I wonder if it’s just the spoiled american mentality or if its all over the world in this age group? Nice write up

  • Another timely question…and very relevant to my personal life right now. Our older adult son (he will turn 28 the end of this month) has chosen to leave a job because he failed a drug test, and feels entitled to do what he wants on his off time. (My response, excuse me, it’s illegal dude).

    His girlfriend of over six years broke up with him in August and he doesn’t have coping skills to work through this. He has retreated in all areas of his life and fallen into a copped out mode of entitlement. His thinking absolutely confuses and frankly scares me. He communicated, verbally and non-verbally some things that left us with no choice but to get him to the ER, where he was admitted last night.

    He has no job, over $4,000 in debt (most of it on a credit card due to gambling) and has not made a payment on his care insurance since December, so his policy has not been cancelled; yet somehow we are the problem.

    I will own responsibility of contributing to this mindset, by supporting him too much when he was younger; the line between support and enabling become really blurred sometimes, especially in a mom’s heart. Plus, I didn’t become a disciple of Christ till I was 41 and he was 20, so the early years of his life were influenced without God as part of the equation.

    When things get too hard, he gives up. He certainly has not seen either my husband or myself react to challenges this way.

    I pray that he gets the support and help he needs now to see himself the way God does. And that he can recognize there is a plan and purpose to his life, but at the moment he is not equipped, and I will also share the burden of that.

    Prayers appreciated. It is one more blow in a year that has been refining my faith.

  • As 20-something, several different things come to mind.

    The instant griatification society we live in, as mentioned above, has taught us the mentality of the grass IS greener somewhere else. It’s become the norm that when the going gets tough we now just find somewhere else to go. You don’t have people working somewhere for 5, 10, 15, and certainly not 20+ years anymore.

    But then it begs me to ask another question. What are we not committing to?

    To work? Well work has now become an all consuming task. To be competetive and considered an asset to your company 9-5 is no longer acceptable. 7-5, 7-6. With the use of computers, the internet, cell phones, etc. it is not uncommon to take work home with you. You no longer have the picture of Mr. Cleaver walking through the door dropping the briefcase off and being done with work. To commit and be successful, you now have to put SO much of yourself into a job after a few years you burn out. you get to a point where it has taken more that it’s given, and you then wonder “what was the point? Is this really what it’s all about?” Often we are expected to let our job define us and take be our identity to reallty succeed in it. My generation is left to think another job will bring more satisfaction, and we move on.

    To church? We are missing in most churches. But then are we engaged? Is church fulfilling what the Bible commanded? Are we being discipled? Or is it another social place based on an older generation’s makeup? It saddens me to see such a lack of my generation, but it saddens me MORE to see little really being done about it.

    Of course everyone has different reasons for not really committing and sticking things out. My answer to this question is different now than it would have been 6 months ago.

    Society has changed so greatly to program us to look for the best and go after it. But I also look around and see a generation with the drive and determination to commit and work hard just not being engaged in the right ways. I see a group left unfulfilled, which always leads you to seek more or different.

  • If it were only one thing…

    For sure there is a sense of entitlement I see in so many young people. That comes directly from mom & dad. Most kids never really have to earn anything, it is all given to them. Trophies, ribbons, crowns and awards merely for showing up rather than doing something praiseworthy, all in the name of self-esteem.

    Most have never been asked to sacrifice for the greater good. If life is all about me, why should I put myself out for you? They have watched their parents cheat on each other or never bother to pretend to love each other at all.

    Whether life imitates art or not, the media glorifies a hedonistic lifestyle lived for today. If I commit to something long-term it will interfere w/ my pleasure to do what I please when I please.

    Finally, Paul said this would happen. 2 Timothy 3:2-9 warns us that “there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves…” We see the entire list paraded before us and rationalized away. Sadly enough, even by many in the church.

    The solution? “Go into all the world & make disciples, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”


  • We’ve got expectations of grandeur. We read about a 29 year old fatso who just a check for $21 million and is upset because he might be stuck in the middle of a defensive line and doesn’t like it and think we deserve a load of cash and more as well (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/10/AR2010041002655.html).

    It’s been easy to jump from job to job, to get what we want and it’s all about me! We haven’t had to pay the consequences for our lack of commitment yet. We’re narcissistic, spoiled and, worst of all, think we deserve all that we have and more!

    Here’s a blog dedicated to the subject of narcissism from the guys who wrote “The Narcissism Epidemic”: http://narcissismblog.com/

    For me, this has been much easier to break in guys than in girls, but perhaps that’s because I’m a guy myself and know how we think.

  • st.mark of the Cross

    Busy, fast paced, world-at-finger-tips, everyone fulfilling their own dreams. Our young today live in a feelings-sexual world that has no consequences, or effect of sin. Young people go in and out of relationships monthly. Everyone is looking in all the wrong places to find their fulfillment in life. Parents, pastors, even disciplers unfortunately are all too busy…with their own issues, or caught in lost causes elsewhere. Working with youth in my home through foster care, teaching school, youth group in church, and my own college age children – that just have too much in front of them…it has made them insensitive to the Holy Spirit; because the voices of the world scream so loud. Does not the parable of the sower of seeds say “…that the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, so it does not produce..?” Our youth also have no “root” of Christ in them, but I wonder how much “root” of Christ we adults are expressing? I stand with the youth – guilty, but forgiven. I want to walk with all of you together to see Jesus resolve our issues together for his glory. I am in with you – young generation, in not too soon of time, you will be us…I pray you do a better job…agape! St. Mark

  • Anna Coffey (WR Alumni – Jan 09)

    Seth pointed out my mistake… ooops! I meant to say “Paul” not “Peter”.

  • As a high school teacher (auto shop) I see an incredible amount of apathy and lack of work ethic in my students. Obviously, not all of them are like that, but an alarmingly high percentage.
    Many of the kids I have are latch-key kids. They have little to no supervision from their parents who are too tired after a long day of working and commuting to really invest in their kids. Basic moral values are not being taught by many parents today. It’s obvious in the classroom where there is little respect for anyone other than self, and in some cases not even that.
    As some have already stated, they are not being taught, at least not effectively. It begins in the home, with the parents/guardians. It is expected of teachers to bridge the gap but they have taken away our rights to discipline, so the kids know there are no consequences to their actions, at least not immediate.
    Most of the kids I’m talking about do not know Jesus. As a teacher in California, my right to speak about Him in the classroom is also gone. I could easily lose my job for such behavior. But, if a student brings the subject up first, I can talk about it, and I do.
    It is a very complex problem that has no simple solution. I get quite worried about the future of this nation, this world, when I see all that I see in the classroom. However, when I was in Haiti recently, I was encouraged by the team I worked with there, all of them younger than me. Mostly twenty somthings that really are compassionate and love the Lord. It restored my faith in youth to a degree. Unfortunatley, they make up a very small percentage of the population.
    My daughter is on the world race in Cambodia right now. In a recent skype session we talkied a bit about the church and how the youth see it. As many of you are aware, many of the youth that are/were brought up in church don’t have much respect for what they see there. A lot of hypocracy, and sometimes deceipt, and maybe betrayal by those that are supposed to be leading them into relationship with our savior, Jesus Christ.
    What’s the answer? IDK. True discipleship of the living God?
    How do we get there? I wish I had the answers to these and mny other questions. I just try to live my life uprightly and be an example to all those I affect at school and at cchurch. I pray for wisdom and discernment and boldness and hope that I am making a difference in some of their lives.

  • Imposition of too many expectations. How many of us are truly secure in where we are now, and yet we insist our incomplete minded children just step into our pre-concieved destiny. I’m currently researching how my son will grow into God’s will for his life by intimately listening for his Savior’s instruction. I’ll let you know how it turns out in 10, 20, 30 years or so. So far so good. (I think someone I know may have even written a book about the subject – wink wink!)


  • Ha, ha, Jay. In any event, I’ll be awaiting the interim report on what I call your “18 year project.”

    Great comments here. You guys are blessing me with your insights!

  • I’m going to go ahead and point it back to the previous generation’s obsession with protecting us.

    Every effort was made to increase the layers of bubble wrap around our experiences. As a result, I’m surrounded by people who wouldn’t know a REAL bad day if it hit them in the face. They weren’t allowed to take real risks as kids, accept real challenges, skin their real knee. And then we get out into the world as adults and think it’s all going to end over a stubbed toe.

    Commitment comes from a forged character, and our parents didn’t seem to understand that a forged character comes from good AND bad experiences. That not making the team might actually make you a better person in the end. I was allowed to get a lot of skinned knees, and I think it’s a big part of me knowing who I am.

  • I would be happy just do what I’m doing now, but if I had a penny for how many older adults told me that what I was doing wasn’t good enough, I would be a millionaire.
    It think that part of it is that we are told that nothing is good enough, so we always want more or different.

    Even if I choose to commit to others, if they will not commit back to me. I end up a fool with unrequited love, still committed and all alone.

    Nothing is built to last. Products are made to become obsolete.

  • Commitment comes from relationship. God is fully committed to you. He will never leave you or forsake you. He will always and forever stay in love with you in the good times and the bad times.
    Your response to God’s very gift of commitment…to His love relationship with you…you now give back to Him. I am committed to the relationship, here I am Lord and I wont leave. I will stay in this place of love.
    Life will challenge you to leave this place of commitment. You will be challenged to leave friendships, your marriage, your job, family, your church and… yes…God. You will be challenged with thousands of reasons why to withdraw, give up or run. What you do …when offense , pain, rejection, hatred and every other weapon of hell comes against you … will either strengthen your love relationship with God and form Christ in you or …form self. Commitment is being tested.
    Only drawing on God’s faithful commitment to love you unconditionally… will you have grace to stay committed on the journey of this love affair. I respond to His commitment to me. Commitment is a gift from God. Commitment is a decision. I have decided …I am committed to stay in the place of a love relationship with God. I have decided …I am committed to stay in the place of love relationship with my spouse, my church, my friendships, my job.
    Now…. Christ is being formed in me. I express the character, nature of God. Every weapon of hell formed against me to take me out of commitment to my first love has actually prospered me. I am more in love, more committed to God, my spouse, His church, in-laws, my job.
    Maybe in the church we have taught commitment is for… a place, a building, people, and what we do…instead of … a love relationship with God out of which every other commitment will be fulfilled.
    As God’s sons and daughters fall radically in love with God… nothing life deals us will move us out of that place of relationship…that place of commitment. We will lay down our lives by living committed in all places of relationship…in every place Jesus was committed. Jesus was committed to His Father..no matter what life dealt Him. Why… because of the love relationship He had with His Father.
    We need to stop looking for all the reasons why people are not committed and lead them ..to want a face to face love relationship with God and for each person to experience His extravagant commitment to us. Like Jesus …every persons response to our Father love will be …a life laid down in every sphere of their influence. Totally committed radical lovers of God. Look out world,here comes His church. His radical commitment to us…Now through us.

  • i echo most of you here. this is not solely an American problem. it is happening in developed and prosperous nations all over the world. i live in Singapore and we face the exact same issue. school students jump to heir deaths just because they failed a school exam. i read about it in Japan and China too. recently i read of how teachers in Japan have to do the parent’s bidding, even to the point of having to do laundry for the kids! unbelievable! it’s true that the previous generation has created a society that revolves around the younger generation. in SG the birth rate is at an all time low, so we pour a lot of our resources and energy to ensure that the young among us will be equipped with the best and everything available to be the best so that we as a nation can maintain its competitive edge. as a result, society has become much less forgiving of failures and weaknesses. if you don’t make the cut, you’re out. parents on the other hand knows that overprotecting their children is detrimental to their development as a balanced and complete person but many are hard pressed by the way society has become and fear that if they remove the bubble wrap and allow their children to fail, they will never recover from all the lost opportunities because society sends the signal that losers are not accepted. so we protect our young and give them the best thinking that it will give them a head start when they launch into the real world but only to realize when it’s too late that they are ill equipped to face the harsh realities of life out in the wild because failures and the ability to persevere is what shape their character along with all the other traditional values which are now being dismissed as backward and unenlightened. do you see how this becomes a vicious cycle?

  • kathy,
    i empathize with you. i know how much this feels like an uphill battle, even hopeless at times. the encouraging thing is that you have the Lord in your life now and his word assures us that when a member of a family is saved, the entire family is set apart unto him. sorry, i am not good with chapter and verse but if it’s important to you, let me know. I can look it up. so you can be assured that he is working in your son’s life right now as you uphold him in prayer. do not be discouraged if you do not see any immediate change, continue to press on in prayer and trust that god is at work. all of us are “work in progress” anyway. meanwhile i’d recommend a book that had helped me during my times of financial crisis. it’s called The Law of Money and The Lessons of Life by Suze Orman. he will also benefit from a radical message about god’s grace. i’ve heard a lot of testimony about lives transformed from the effects of awakening that grace brings. for the first time in their life these people could see themselves as god sees. yes there might be a risk that it will be abused but the risk of not hearing and receiving grace is even greater. feelings of condemnation and guilt imprisons the person in a cycle of self-hatred and hopelessness and they see no way out, so they “act out” and hurt others in the process. they expect condemnation, so when they encounter radical grace the way Jesus does it, it jolts them. grace will empower them to change from the inside out. it may be slower but the effect is real and lasting as compared to merely behavior modification.

  • Perhaps this is simplistic but I believe history has taught us that the indulgences of one generation become the norms of the next. This goes back, at least, as far as Judges 2:10…

    “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.”

    I’m 47 years old and I have been a Christian for 30 of those years. I grew up at the end of an era that valued work ethic and loyalty and dedication to family, friends, work, etc. My dad was one who taught and modeled the adage, “If you have time to kill, work it to death.” The point I make here is that I am absolutely a product of my rearing. I have been told that I am loyal “to a fault” …that I work “too hard.” I’ve been accused of being “married to ministry.” For much of my life, I have been driven to be successful because It made me feel good about myself. As most men of my generation, my identity was wrapped up in what I did for a living, therefore, to move around from job-to-job would be an indicator that I was unsure of myself. When I moved into a life of “professional ministry,” that mentality didn’t change. This may seem extreme to youngsters of this generation as this generations’ supposed flippancy may seem an extreme to many in my generation. The point here is that an extreme is exactly that, an extreme…and potentially unhealthy. The difference is I’m comfortable with my extreme and not so comfortable with yours. In the middle of two extremes, however, is balance. Perhaps that’s what we seek.

    I believe that the youth of any generation is its most valuable and precious resource. The good news is that, unlike Judges 2:10, my generation has not completely died off…there is still time. May we all do our part before God to impact our respective next generation(s). Perhaps, too, there is a thing or two my generation can learn from the generation of my children.


  • I agree with many of the previous comments. Here’s my take on the issue…

    I’m in my early 30’s and in my own life there were many issues I had pressure from the previous generation to commit to. ( i.e. to date or NOT to date, where to go school, what to major in, whether or not to go straight to grad school, where to live, etc) For me, despite the fact that my parents raised me to be an independent thinker, responsible worker, and wise steward, I had a lot of conflicts when I balked at the pressure to commit to something for the sake commitment. Because I was given a solid foundation of knowing God and being able to decern His direction, what some people saw as a lack of commitment was merely me waiting for the right thing at the right time and the right reason to commit. And I think I’m a much more secure person and in a better place in life because of it.

    As far as the next generation goes, I see definite issues. I am a Pre-K special ed teacher and this year, more than ever, I think many of my students’ biggest handicap is parenting (or lack therof). Part of my calling is to equip these kids to be successful in life, not just on the classroom. As a public school teacher, I can’t talk about God, but I can teach Godly values such as, being a friend, bearing eachother’s burdens, helping those in need, valuing knowledge and wisdom, doing the best you can regardless of the task, taking responsibilty for actions, accepting consequences when you know you’re wrong, etc. These things are NOT being taught at home.

    Parents, you can’t treat your kids like babies (spiritually and physically) and do everything for them for 18 years and then turn them loose and expect them to suddenly act like responsible, independent adults.

    This one of my “soap box” topics I could go on and on. I do think that God is raising up a generation that will defy the generalizations and stereotypes to pursue Him and to see His kingdom come on the earth like never before!

  • As a 30 yr old mom of 1 and .08 (1 on the way soon), I can’t help bit think that our parents and grandparents generation showed us a lot about commtment and work ethic. But did commitment and work ethic actually help them to see the work of the Holy Spirit, or did it only serve to teach them to rely on themselves. Many of our parents still don’t “get” why we need to go on the World Race or hop from job to job in order to find our inheritence in the Kingdom. Work ethic and spiritual dscipline may overlap , but they are not one and the same.
    All I know is that I’d rather have my kids hop around and risk a liitle bit for the Kingdom’s sake, than live a secure over-committed, powerless life.

  • i would point out that most people just agreed with this but it is not accurate. this generation has accomplished more in business, technology, and social justice than any previous generation but because we are not committing to what the previous generation wants us to commit to then it is not okay?


  • Entitlement. Being a youth pastor of eight years I have seen a fairly broad spectrum of the next generation and how they respond to challenges. I too have a huge heart and commitment to seeing this generation be world change agents. We live in a culture of ever increasing competition, students are well aware of this from an early age, for their parents often lead the way in pushing them to be the best in sports, school, etc. What has alternatively happened however is that we have created a world that revolves around this generation, where parents often hold their children and teens as idols, and do everything in the ability to remove any challenges their student faces instead of seeing it as an opportunity for their child to grow. Our young have every want and desire often meet for then with out the reality that things do not come easy, there is a price and sacrifice that is paid for everything. It is a narcissistic epidemic. When you are rarely challenged spiritually, emotionally, physically, but rather protected from challenges there is a sense of entitlement that develops. Clearly this does not fit every individual but from my experience as fairly large portion. I speak these words from one who loves students and is facing this challenge to see the next generation take their place in God’s kingdom.

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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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