A lot of material has been published over the past decade about gratitude. Books, articles and blogs praise the power of thankfulness to bolster mental health and make us happier people. As an adherent to a faith that promotes “giving thanks in every circumstance” I am thrilled that science is proving again that the teachings of Jesus are helpful and healthy, but there is one issue about gratitude that continues to bother me, both personally and for our culture at large. As an old Millennial (1982), I am well acquainted with the issues my generation faces, seeing them in my friends, the students I led in ministry for years and often in myself. One word comes up over and over again when discussing the Millennial generation: Entitled. We are the “everyone get’s a trophy” generation. We’ve been doted on by helicopter parents who solved our problems even into adulthood and we honestly believe we’re smarter, more talented and more qualified for jobs than those who’ve been in our field for decades. Why? Because……well…….we’re special. We deserve to live in homes bigger than the ones we grew up in and we’re not willing to wait as long as our parents did to get them. You get it. Everyone has experienced it either as a Millennial or an Xer or Boomer dealing with us. The gratitude movement drops into the middle of this mindset and as you guessed there is a massive rub. Entitlement and gratitude don’t run in the same social circles. They aren’t friends. One is massively prideful and the other is filled with deep humility. So how do Millennials reconcile the two? Its easy, we practice gratitude as a means to get the happiness we obviously deserve. Its a very shallow form of gratitude, if gratitude at all. What Millennials so badly need is an authentic gratitude grounded in a new mindset that links more closely to reality.
That mindset goes a bit like this.
I am owed nothing in this life. Not. one. thing.
I am not owed happiness, respect, success, or fulfillment.
God does not owe them to me.
My wife does not owe them to me.
My boss does not owe them to me.
I can work for these things.
Hard, tireless, work, but even then I am not guaranteed them either in the present or the future.
If I do come across happiness, respect, success, or fulfillment, I am then acutely aware that I did not get there alone and that in a multitude of ways these blessings are purely grace.
I don’t want to come across harsh, but our generation so badly needs this. Millennial Christians need this especially. Why? Because our faith is grounded in a savior who worked tirelessly, giving his own life, taking our punishment upon himself, that we might experience grace. We can’t earn our salvation, but we must not forget that Jesus very much did. We aren’t owed the gift God has given us and in light of that we ought to be leading our culture to see what hard work can accomplish and how much of life is a gift for which we out to give deeply humble thanks.