‘Adult’ is Not a Verb: Helping Young People Spread Their Wings
My parents and grandparents were involved in politics and community service, so my brother and I were raised to care about and contribute to both. Because of that, and my grandfather’s job at our local newspaper before he became the mayor, I used to read the newspaper and watch the news on TV regularly. Now it’s not easy to watch the news. I don’t trust much of it. I know what I’m being told is biased and incomplete. I skim-read my local paper.
I’m not going to bury my head in the sand, though, and pretend things aren’t going on that concern me. I care deeply about God’s reputation, families, parents, teens, and children. Therefore, I am choosing to spend more of my intellectual energy and time studying culture and worldview issues from trusted online and print sources. That’s why reading John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle‘s book, A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World was a no-brainer for me. I didn’t just read it, though. I devoured it. I encourage you to, too. (Disclaimer: John is a friend who wrote the forward to Eight Great Smarts. I’d read anything he writes.)
As you’ll see from this blog John originally wrote for Breakpoint.org, posted on May 16th, he and Brett write about issues that concern you and me. Their interpretations, insights, and practical ideas and challenges will inform and encourage you. You may be motivated to action. At the very least, I picture many of you, my readers, using John’s post as a discussion starter with teens and young adults. Enjoy this and then I encourage you to share it. Let’s work together to inspire many people.
Guest post by John Stonestreet, President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview
There’s a new word touted by Webster that exposes a crisis in our culture of generational proportions.
It’s been called a lot of things: “Peter Pan Syndrome” or my favorite, “failure to launch,” but whatever the term, the phenomenon is undeniable. A record number of young people today are getting stuck in the transition between childhood and adulthood.
Despite attending college in record numbers, millennials seem to struggle to move on to the next phase of life. Just a decade ago, a healthy majority of young adults were able to successfully fledge. Now, those who’ve managed to leave the nest are a minority.
Of course, the recession and a sluggish job market are factors. Millennials do have tougher career prospects than their parents did. But the economy isn’t the only explanation, and the language young people use to talk about adulthood makes that obvious.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse announced that Twitter had turned the noun “adult” into a verb. “#Adulting” is what kids post on social media to congratulate themselves for the rather ordinary feats of paying the bills, finishing the laundry, or just getting to work on time.
“I adulted!” goes the saying, as if fulfilling daily responsibilities is somehow above and beyond the call of duty. “Adulting” has become so universally recognized that the American Dialect Society nominated it for the most creative word of 2015.
“To a growing number of Americans,” writes Sasse, “acting like a grown-up seems like a kind of role-playing, a mode of behavior requiring humorous detachment.”
This isn’t just the complaint of a crotchety old man about young whipper-snappers. What we’re witnessing today, insists the senator, is a trend toward “perpetual adolescence,”—a “coming-of-age crisis,” that shows up as a real and measurable reduction in the difference between 10-year-olds and 30-year-olds.
But if our kids don’t know what it means to be adults, parents, we should be asking ourselves, are we teaching them? Isolation in peer groups of the same age, widespread complacency toward history and ethics, unbridled consumerism, and even those infamous participation trophies have all contributed to this crisis.
We’d do well to remember what C. S. Lewis wrote in “The Abolition of Man” of those who “remove the organ and demand the function,” who “make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise,” who “castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
Senator Sasse offers steps to reverse the trend of perpetual adolescence and to help kids from an early age understand the meaning of adulthood. Teach them the difference, he says, between a “need” and a “want,” embrace hard work together, travel meaningfully, and read widely. These are all important steps to forming mature citizens.
And in our new book “A Practical Guide to Culture,” my co-author Brett Kunkle and I have a chapter entitled “Perpetual Adolescence and Castrated Geldings.” In it, we offer even more suggestions for helping teens grow up. Come to BreakPoint.org to find out how to get your copy.
But the Senator’s most important suggestion? Older generations must start investing in the lives of young adults. Summarizing relevant research in 2013, The Boston Globe reported a staggering statistic: Only a quarter of Americans 60 and older had discussed anything important with anyone under 36 in the previous six months! Exclude relatives and that figure dropped to a mortifying 6 percent. How alien this would have sounded to the Apostle Paul, who in Titus 2 urges older men and older women to teach the younger.
Only by connecting and investing in their lives can we reasonably expect our kids, our grandkids, and their peers to understand that “adult” is not something you do. It’s someone you are.
What Do You Think? What Will You Do?
Are you going to talk with teens and young adults about this? Or, how did you react to this sentence? But if our kids don’t know what it means to be adults, parents, we should be asking ourselves, are we teaching them? Maybe we should talk about this with other parents we care about.
I recommend you purchase A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World for any adults who care about and work with young adults and teens. Also, if you know young adults frustrated by their own generation and concerned, buy this book for them. I’m buying copies for Christmas gifts for my niece who teaches and coaches in a Christian school and my nephew and his wife who work with teens in their church. Who do you know who needs this book?
If you don’t already follow John’s work at BreakPoint, the nationally syndicated commentary on the culture founded by the late Chuck Colson, www.breakpoint.org and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, www.colsoncenter.org I encourage you to. I depend on both to keep me informed with truth. And, check out Brett‘s ministry at www.maventruth.com. Read the “about” page and you’ll see how much he and I have in common. I’m eager to see how God is going to continue to use him now that he’s launched his own ministry. It’s right to care and to stay informed. More than ever before, we need to discern who to listen to and who to follow. These men are all about Jesus and truth. (By the way, if you’ll be coming to any of the Great Homeschool Conventions in 2018, both John and Brett will be speaking at all five.)
John is the President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, a sought-after speaker on issues of worldview and culture, and co-host of the nationally distributed daily commentary BreakPoint. His books include A Practical Guide to Culture (2017), Restoring All Things (2014), Same-Sex Marriage (2013), and Making Sense of Your World (2007). Follow John on Twitter (@jbstonestreet).