I just heard a startling but true quote about the changes in youth culture:
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
If you read these words and felt nostalgic for the days of yesteryear, you’re in good company, and you have been for a few millennia. The quote is attributed to Socrates, and it comes from around 500 BC. Kids have really changed, huh?
As youth minister, I’m constantly drawn into conversations about how today’s teens are the least disciplined ever and face more challenges than any generation before them, but that Socrates quote makes me wonder if there’s something else going on here. Could it be that the reason we worry so much about the moral decay of this generation is that we’ve forgotten what it was like when we were teenagers? Here’s a quick sampling:
At Woodstock, people danced around unclothed and high, and we’re nervous about Miley Cyrus’s twerking?
Early bluesmen like Peetie Wheatstraw claimed to be personal friends with Satan, and we’re worried about the corrupting influence of rap and metal?
Caligula set a new standard for lavishness and sexual indulgence, and we’re up in arms over the Kardashians?
It seems that, regardless of the state of the culture, an older generation will always eye a younger generation with suspicion and concern, so let me offer a comforting word: Our kids today are a lot better than we think, and we were a lot worse than we remember. When Paul charges Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth in 1 Timothy 4, we should take that as a charge to us adults as well. While it’s good to be concerned for our kids and seek to oppose harmful cultural influences, we also need to give them the benefit of the doubt: they’re no worse than we were.
Grace and Peace,