Recently, I’ve heard a lot of twenty somethings talk about frustrations at work and I’ve had a lot of training as I enter a new stage of work. Both of these categories of conversation have frankly caused me a lot of frustration.
The Lord blessed me by placing me in a professional workplace a lot younger than some of my peers. Though my experience in an office at age nineteen was certainly a day-to-day trial-and-error (in fact, I sometimes look back and wonder why my employers kept me there or how they managed to be so patient), the Lord used that experience to better prepare me for life after college. While my friends were going to class in jeans and t-shirts (always my preferred clothing option…though I’d choose sweats over jeans any day), I was showing up in heels and pencil skirts. While my friends were staying up late not worrying about the next day, I was constantly trying to balance college life and getting to work by 7:45 the next morning. This dress and schedule change was a constant source of frustration for me and entertainment for my friends, but it was probably the most useful thing I learned in college.
Now, I’m watching my friends go through this change and I’m realizing it’s often met with more resistance. When I started working in an office, I was often the only person working close to my age. None of my co-workers resisted dress codes or long days at work, so it did not even cross my mind to try to resist this new normal. I definitely complained (and so did my co-workers on occasion), but I didn’t think to resist it.
I’m learning that many of my peers do resist. It seems like punctuality is not a big priority and professional dress is pretty blurred. I’ve heard friends talk about regularly arriving to work thirty minutes late with their hair wet, ambivalently responding when inquired about their employers’ reactions. I’ve also had to listen to my clinical director explain that when we have receptionist duty at the counseling center we can’t just not show up. I’ve been late to work more times than I can count and wet is a continual state of my hair, but the attitude behind these stories and instructions still horrifies me.
When I’ve had this conversation with some of my peers, someone almost always makes a comment like “I can’t change who I am for a job.” I absolutely agree. Please don’t change who you are for a job, but the core of that statement is often rooted in an attitude of entitlement. We are a generation of entitlement. I’ve had to constantly check myself to avoid such an attitude.
If you’re reading this and you’re a twenty something, here are some thoughts about identity entitlement and laying down our lives (even our precious identities) for Christ. If you’re reading this and you’re not a twenty something, this may be a good tool to understand or pray for a twenty something.
Identity is important. Since twenty somethings were little, we were taught “be your own person.” We love self-expression. Although we still have a desire to fit in, it doesn’t mean we want to look like everyone else or even act like everyone else. We just want to be accepted. The Bible teaches that identity is important and God created each of us differently for a reason. Yet, our identity in Christ is more important. Instead of focusing on outward adornment or self-expression, it might serve us well to focus on becoming more like Christ…even if it means tucking in an oversized polo to show respect to an older co-worker. There are some battles worth fighting and I doubt that’s one Christ would choose to fight.
Respect is important. My blood boils when I feel disrespected, and my own guilt eats at me when I feel disrespectful. I believe that many of my peers also value respect like I do. Unfortunately, I think respect and entitlement can coexist in my generation better than prior generations because we too often dwell on receiving respect more than giving it. God does want us to take care of ourselves, but He also wants us to take care of others. Twenty somethings are often up in arms about social injustices or injustices against ourselves, but we often forget about injustices to our co-workers.
Discipline is important. Twenty somethings cringe at anything that seems legalistic. Jesus was clearly not a fan of legalism either as He often battled the Pharisees for that reason. The Lord does value discipline though. The Bible has a theme of discipline throughout its pages. Although the Lord may lead you in a Good-Samaritan-like encounter on the way to work once in a while (and to my generation’s credit, we may be the most likely group to actually stop even if it means finding a new job), being on time to work is usually not a matter of being legalistic. It’s a matter of being disciplined.
Wisdom really does come with age. The Bible teaches that wisdom comes from the Lord and Solomon certainly exemplifies a wise young person, but that is not the norm. I’ve known a lot of really wise young people (even teenagers), but the wisest people I know aren’t in their twenties. Normally the wisest people I meet could be my grandparents. There are a lot of benefits to being young, but wisdom normally isn’t one of them. Embrace that and seek the advice of people farther along. Twenty somethings are at an age where we are expected to ask for help, so let’s do it! We may not have someone older to ask in fifty years. I definitely am not a proponent of throwing your mind out the window, but actually considering the advice of older people and weighing it against the Bible is always beneficial. If nothing else, it helps develop humility.