On May 18, I began a 7-part series, offering some thougts about how to teach the Catholic faith to “Generation Me” (those born in the 70s through the 90s; Generation Me, Jean Twenge, M.D.).
Click on the following to read:
Part One: The Decline of Social Rules
Part Two: Excessive Individualism
Today, we address another unique characteristic of Generation Me: the belief that “you can be anything you want to be”
You Can Be Anything You Want – More than any previous generation, Gen Me has a focus on the self. Since they were very young, Gen Me-ers have been given choices that other generations were not given. Rather than being raised to fit into and contribute to society, Gen Me has been raised to take advantage of opportunity. They have been told to never give up on their dreams and that they can be anything they want to be as long as they put their minds to it. They experience very little regret as long as they feel they did their best. The focus on self has led Gen Me to an obsession with appearance (tattoos, piercings, etc.) Materialism has a high priority for Gen Me.
How Catechists Should Respond: Two things from our Catholic Tradition come to mind when thinking of how we can minister to Gen Me with regards to these issues.
The first is our tradition of an examination of conscience. This practice is an honest self-assessment, recognizing where and how our limitations may have hurt others. Unlike tattoos and piercings that “cover up”, the examination of conscience reveals the truth which sets us free.
The second is the Catholic tradition of living with a spirit of poverty. Gen Me’s notion that they can be anything they want translates into a desire to have everything they want. Materialism, a problem for all generations, is a particularly acute problem for Gen Me. Living with a spirit of poverty is an attitude of detachment from material things. Cheryl Crow captured the essence of this spirit in her song Soak Up the Sun when she sang “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.”
Bottom line: It’s good to dream dreams and to think great thoughts. It is also very important to have realistic expectations and a healthy sense of limitations. Embracing limitations is OK…in fact it is a key to emotional and spiritual health which is all about surrender and not accumulation. We can help Gen Me to steer clear of the pitfalls of opportunism and materialism by inviting them to recognize how God’s grace comes to us when we let go of other things and to recognize that this grace is everything we need