Dr. Tim Elmore studies the differences in generations. He is a Gen X’er, and he has been studying Millennials and the next generation called Gen Z. He gave a talk recently where he spoke about the quality of resilience in each of these generations, how the Boomers had parents who lived through the Depression and WWII. No one conceived of themselves as poor or had a hard life because everyone was in the same boat. People naturally developed resilience.
X’ers had it a little easier, but we still had opportunities to build resilience. There was no such thing as participation trophies; you either won or lost. Personally, I auditioned for all kinds of theatrical shows and was rejected thousands of times. It taught me resilience.
Millennials have been sheltered from the character-building experiences that the Boomers and the X’ers came to naturally. As a result, they are more stressed out than any other generation. Pop music always reflects culture. in 2015, 21 Pilots released “Stressed out,” With lyrics that say, “Wish we could turn back time/ to the good ole days/ when our mamas sang us to sleep/but now we’re stressed out.”
Gen Z? Those kids have grown up with a smartphone in their hands. They are living for the “likes” in social media. The lines between real life and online life are entirely blurred. I heard a story on the radio about a young man who was shot and killed because his gang banger online persona when in reality, he was a good kid who was just “flexing” for Insta. Most young people today have an external locus of growth, and what you think of me is more important than what I think of me.
Some X’ers and Boomers lack resilience too. Maybe we developed an addiction at a young age and used a substance in place of developing resilience. Whatever the cause, this essential characteristic is lacking in our society. And it is stressing us out.
In the discomfort, we grow. When it gets hard, we develop emotional and mental strength. Just like physical strength, when we work out, we create micro-tears in our muscles, the body rushes to repair the tears, and as a result, we have new cells and stronger tissues. The same thing happens emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. If we never struggle, we won’t ever gain strength.
When life happens, when disappointment, rejection, the unexpected occurs, we have a choice. We can internalize the experience, we can blame other people, or we choose to sit with the discomfort. We can decide to grow through the experience.
Befriend the uncomfortable, the pain, the fear. Stay with it until it passes. Explore it, find out why it’s here. What is it trying to show us? What are we terrified of? What can be done about it?
This sort of thing requires a level of self-awareness that doesn’t come naturally. It has to be developed, worked out like a muscle. A lot of us spend time at the gym, at the nail salon and the hairdresser, we use fancy face creams (insert shameless Rodan+Feilds plug here) but how much time do we spend on developing our mental, emotional and spiritual fitness.
I dare you. Start today. I dare you to start taking responsibility for your mental health. Pay attention to how you feel and why. Watch as you get stronger by staying with the thing that bothers you. It won’t kill you. It will only make you stronger.
Just For Today
I’m going to stay with the struggle. I’m not going to look to numb out with an electronic pacifier, cocktails, food or anything else. I’m going to be curious about what is coming up for healing and I’m going to wait for it to pass. If it doesn’t pass, I’ll reach out for help.
Help me to lean on You when I’m feeling weird and weak. Grant me the courage and the strength to walk through the eventual struggles in daily life. Remind me that my security is in You and always has been.