If you’re a young adult looking to size up the state of your peers these days, never fear. It will never be measured by the depths pop culture sinks to grab your attention.
Those cringe-awful moments are merely the setting of a flood line—reflections of how much further young adults feel they must go in order to outdo the young adults who came before them. Grown-ups may recall that we set that bar pretty colorfully back in the day. The need to be “unique” levies a heavy wage, and sometimes a stupid one.
There are some adults who are tempted to think that anyone born after 1995 never really “stood a chance” at… well, fill in the blank.
There we are, watching what we think is the last bastion of decency on primetime TV only to be hoodwinked with scenes that, once upon a time, we would only ever see at our friend Jimmy’s house when his parents weren’t home. We turn our palms to the ceiling and wonder things like: Am I the only one afraid to Google what they’re talking about? What’s happening to today’s generation? And, whatever happened to Jimmy, anyway?
But, young adults, you know what you’re made of. And you probably didn’t even see the Terrible Thing because you were in your room Skyping with your friend, the foreign exchange student. In Portuguese.
I’ve seen you turn off the noise and try to shake yourselves from the assault. And I’ve seen some of you tackle these dark events for the sake of letting your friends see you tackle them. You speak truth in love, and you fight for decency. But you know that none of it started it with you—no one under 25 is really controlling the media anyway.
Sometimes these efforts can feel futile, as producers count their success by the number of Tweets sent and not the number of hearts inspired.
But no matter how you respond, all of us must remember that these things are symptoms of a greater heart problem common to man, no matter the generation.
A true assessment of where you stand today isn’t done by looking at what is attacking you, but by what is moving you. And this brings me great encouragement.
The young adults I meet today are craving decency not for its own sake, but decency because it speaks to the truth of who we are all called to be. You may grow world-weary faster than I ever did, but you are a bright and curious generation. By 20, you’ve told your story a million times, and now you’re listening for the genuine stories in others. You are the kids who catch fire, who launch movements, who see through spin.
Adults would be mistaken to understand today’s media in the way we understood it in the past. It still has a big impact, yes. But it also has plenty of competition, and most of that comes from young adults themselves.
You’re creating your own stories. You’re fighting your own causes. And you’re making your own music. The dark things we see in today’s pop culture do nothing if not reflect the desperate and futile competition for the attention of a young person’s soul. Recently, it seems pretty clear they know they’re losing.
I don’t doubt the media’s terrible wearing down on innocence, but I do reject its ability to define you.
And when I look heavenward at the Lord who loves you, I am reminded that the dark things are a side show romp. A circus act.
The tools you have today and the permission you have to use them have level-set the relevance of pop culture, and I think this has happened because of the greatest measure of your generation of all: your desire to see truth in the lives of those around you.
Adults who get this will have the privilege of pointing you to that truth, to the light of Jesus, to a power that is unchanging, to genuine hope—instead of taking out the rulers to count the differences between us.