When it comes to the differences between generations, there seems to be a cycle to the whole process. I would conjecture that the process is formulaic and repetitive. When we look at the multiple generations living today, we can sort of see how this cycle plays out.
(If you can bare to get through my babble, at least read the final paragraph)
A Credible Illustration
David Kinnaman is the president of Barna Group and author of unChristian and You Lost Me. He illustrates the distinctions of generations with the immigration of a family and their speech patterns. The first generation only speaks the language of origin. The second generation speaks both languages. The third generation only speaks the new language and doesn’t value the cultural differences lost in translation. Likewise, the language of culture (i.e. technology, social norms, religion, etc.) changes from generation to generation. This causes a tension to develop between faith and culture that require new forms of engagement.
My Theory of Generational Breakdown
When a generation really grasps something, it is evident in their actions. A strong conviction of spiritual devotion cannot be manipulated. Passion cannot be imitated. When it comes down to passing down values from generation to generation, something is lost in translation.
- The first generation grasps the truth, the truth ignites passion, and passion is expressed in right responses.
- The second generation grows up seeing these responses. They have a sense of what is behind these actions, but they don’t fully grasp the source. Out of respect and duty, they maintain the responses as traditions.
- The third generation only sees actions. Since their is no passionate motivation behind them, the new generation sees these responses as futile and a waste of time. They disregard the heritage and seek to make their own mark, simply starting the cycle all over again.
Perhaps this is an over simplification of a much more complex issue, and there are certainly exceptions to this rule, but I see this cycle in a lot of different scenarios. Perhaps you’ve seen it too in the form of family generations. Perhaps it’s best reflected in the larger generations of our society. Wherever we see this taking place, we ought to have the insight to stop the cycle. But how do we do it? How do we foster motivation?
An Irrefutable Principle
I don’t pretend to know the solutions to all of the problems with generational differences, but I can offer an irrefutable truth. You cannot teach responses without passion. I call this the action over motivation principle. You cannot manufacture spirituality. It is something that every individual must work out on their own (Philippians 2:12). We over-step our bounds when we try to be God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit for someone else. If we are concerned for the generations that will come after us, we ought to find a way to motivate them rather than conform them. Transformation cannot take place before regeneration.
Check out what I’ve written earlier on the topic of Generational Differences