Thank You Millennials for Teaching Me to Value Myself

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Being Dehumanized

 “Ok. Well make sure you leave all the stuff you did for the next person.”

Years and years-worth of research, lesson plans, worksheets, interviews, graphic designs, resources, rubrics, and countless other projects I had worked on were reduced to “all that stuff you did” and a demand that I make sure the system I had been working for got to keep it.

I was shocked. I had poured myself into my job working countless unpaid hours to serve my students. In the end, I was viewed as a resource that fed the system. When I moved on, I’d be replaced and “all the stuff” I did would be used by someone else. I felt dehumanized and used.

Sadly, it was an all too familiar feeling. A feeling I’ve felt often in my service to church and in my education career.


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Systems Run Over Individuals

As I reflect on why I have become so familiar with the disillusionment and the feeling that I was used and never valued, I see a common thread. I believe that both the church and education systems are so caught up in their monumental purpose that they have no time to value the individual working for them.

Don’t believe me? Go interview a group of teachers. They might feel passionate about their job and love their students, but I guarantee you they don’t feel empowered and valued.

And church, well, if you are reading my blog, you know that people have left the church in droves. I don’t know how much not being valued is a factor for leaving, but I do know that people don’t leave places where they are highly valued and empowered.

Millennials Reject Dehumanizing Systems

Millennials in particular are not buying into church culture or any other culture that doesn’t value people. One reason I believe this is so, is because they were raised with trophies for 12th place and don’t know how to fit into a culture that doesn’t even acknowledge 10 years of dedicated unpaid service (not bitter…just saying…OK totally bitter…)

Millennials not buying into this culture is definitely not a bad thing.

Millennials get criticized A LOT for always wanting to be praised for “doing their job”. Baby boomers and Gen X’ers are quick to lament that “back in our day, we just did work because it was our job.” (continue complaining about millennials ad nauseum). But people need to be praised, valued, and empowered. We need purpose and value. Young adults today just aren’t finding it where previous generations did.

The Value in Valuing People

The desire to be recognized for the work you do is very positive, healthy thing. Though it often seems spoiled and self-indulgent because of the way it surfaces because this is uncharted territory. There are no mentors guiding young people through how to find what they are really looking for when they complain.

But at the heart of it, I think all of us want to be seen, valued, and know that the people we are working for have our back and want what is best for us. We all want to be empowered rather than being used.

So, I’m thankful for the millennials in my life who have encouraged me to value myself more and to demand the respect I deserve for all that I bring to the table in my community service and my career. If I’m not doing something well, I can learn and I will, if I know that you value me and my contribution to a shared vision. All of us want to know that we as individuals matter more than the bottom line. We don’t want to be replaceable cogs in a meaningless machine. We are humans with dignity, value, purpose, talents, passions, weaknesses and the capacity to grow, learn and achieve.

Jesus Taught Us to Value Individuals

I believe that the value of individuals is at the core of everything Jesus did. His divine purpose was to provide salvation for all humanity. Yet in his ministry, he constantly took time out to see individuals, to touch people who were considered unclean and untouchable, to visit the homes of social outcasts and eat with them and their friends. In everything he taught and did, Jesus valued people and empowered them.

I believe the truth behind the millennial need for validation and the older generations’ criticisms is that there is a voice within us all crying out that we matter. I believe we were created in the image of God, with potential for goodness. I believe the Spirit of God cries out to all of us and tells us of our extreme worth. Many people, like me, unknowingly let leaders silence that voice in order to support a bigger system. We looked for purpose by joining with something bigger than ourselves. Unfortunately, all of those systems were flawed a generation of social media users exposed those flaws.

Hope for the Future

Thankfully, our young people are no longer finding their purpose through service to a system. They are exploring the new ideas of individual value and systems based on collaboration.

Change always comes with tension. The people at the forefront of change take most of the heat. I believe in this change. I’m rooting for millennials. I believe they will find their way and build a better world than what we handed them.

When we value and empower people, we all benefit from their achievements. There isn’t a single problem we are facing in our world today that can’t be solved with collaboration. And collaboration starts with valuing the person next to you.