There have been a recent slew of articles and blogs on the trend towards the prolonging of adolescence into people’s twenties. A New York Times article in August discussed in depth what some developmental psychologists are calling “emerging adulthood”. Some see the trend of twenty-somethings living at home, putting off families and careers, and reverting back to higher education for lack of better options as a new developmental stage that needs to be recognized and adjusted to, similar to the recognition of teenagers as a developmental stage in the 1970’s. Others however are not convinced that this procrastination of adulthood is a legitimate developmental period, but rather a self-indulgent aversion to maturity indicative of children of affluence in a culture with too many options.
Donald Miller responds to this article, posted here in Relevant Magazine, suggesting “7 tips to growing up successfully.” In his typical vulnerable and probing style, he offers some great practical steps to help all of the twenty-somethings move out of their state of stunted development into productive adulthood.
As a twenty something who bucks the trend of some of the stats (married with a kid, homeowner with a steady job that does not involve bussing tables at 2 am) and fits perfectly into others (in grad school and have had over seven different jobs in the last 4 years), this topic is of particular interest. As I read through the various articles and research about my generation, on the one hand, I’m encouraged. There is no doubt something unique is happening with twenty-somethings. And not only is something unique happening, but overall, some negative things are happening that deserve good attention. On the other hand, as is typical with most cultural studies, all that is written seems to recognize and treat the symptoms of the various issues facing emerging adults but often times misdiagnose the underlying disease.
As I interact with my friends, read the statistics, and consider my own experiences as a man in my mid-twenties, it seems that the problem with my generation is not that we’re living in our parent’s basements, getting Ph.D.’s in obscure fields with no plans beyond it, casually dating and prolonging singleness, and saying no to real jobs with real paychecks for the sake of working on our blogging careers. These are problems, but they are not THE problem. The problem that I see underlying all these other symptoms is the disease of self and as a result, the disease of immaturity. It’s not what we do that’s wrong with my generation, but the people we are as we approach this stage of life.
The great struggle I have found in my post-collegiate life has been being a man in a culture full of boys. This issue is not unique to men, but as a man I don’t feel qualified to speak to the issues regarding women, and I also believe that if men grow up, so will the culture. So this is a call for men to grow up and approach life, regardless of whether they are married or single, employed or “between jobs”, or whatever they are doing or not doing with their time, as men and not boys.
1. Stop Thinking About Your Future
Yes. Stop thinking about your future. Stop spending every waking moment analyzing every option, considering every emotion you have and whether or not this particular temp job will satisfy every dream you ever had as a child. Stop working on your resume. Stop looking for the perfect girl that will make you perfectly happy. Stop thinking about yourself. As long as you are the primary object of your thoughts and your goals, you will never grow up.
Instead, think about the future of the people around you. Spend your moments analyzing how to help the people around you survive and succeed. It is no small thing when Jesus tells his disciples to consider others before themselves. This isn’t some ideal example of love, this is the way God meant for us to exist. As you serve others, care for others, and pursue the success of others, I guarantee your future will take shape as well. Being mature means moving beyond existing for ourselves to existing for others.
The constant theme I see in all that is written about twenty-somethings is that they have stunted development because they are busy developing themselves. Men are developed most significantly not in their treatment of themselves, but in their treatment of others. So stop thinking about YOUR future. Matthew 6:25-33
2. Develop a Routine
Once you have shifted your primary focus from yourself to others, the next step is getting yourself in a position to best be able to serve other people. This means having a routine. Have a bedtime. Set an alarm. Exercise regularly and make a schedule. It doesn’t matter if you have a family and a full time job or if you just graduated and are temporarily living with your parents. Men don’t sleep until noon, teenagers do. One of the biggest contradictions of generation is the deep desire to be a generation of greatness while at the same time being a generation free of self-discipline. Routines don’t kill creativity, aimless time does.
3. Stop Dabbling
I don’t think much more needs to be said about this. If you are 24 years old and have never painted a picture in your life, dropping a thousand dollars on night art classes is probably not a good use of your time. By the time we have gotten to our twenties, the things that we are good at have risen to the surface. Instead of spending a few months becoming beginners at a lot of good things, identify those one or two things you’re good at, and become experts. This doesn’t men you shouldn’t have hobbies, but is does mean that if hobbies are all you have, then there is a lack of maturity that needs to be addressed.
4. Develop a Workable Budget
For most of my college years and for a little bit after that, I pushed away the idea of a budget like it was drink spiked with arsenic. I looked at my parents and saw how much work it took maintaining a budget, so in the name of “not letting money be my obsession,” I didn’t care about money. As a result, money was not my obsession, debt was. I wasn’t obsessed with money, I was a slave to it.
As “twenty-something” men, we need to be able to give our attention to our work, our friends, our families, and the future of those around us. If we are in debt, or uncertain of how our money is being spent and whether or not there is enough of it, I guarantee you from experience, money will keep you from growing up because you’re mind will never let you go from anxiousness about your own situation to being free to invest in other people. Budget’s do take time and it’s a skill that won’t come naturally to everyone, it didn’t for me, but it’s absolutely necessary for surviving manhood. For some other resources on this, check out Dave Ramsey or Crown Minsitries.
5. Stop Jacking Around
I mean this crudely. There has been a lot written about the topic of pornography amongst Christians, but I’m not sure if there is much to say about it. Pornography is a business that not only grossly objectifies women and sex, but also supports illegal human trafficking, sexual abuse, and the spread of diseases. When we as men participate in the consumption of pornography, we participate in the rest as well. This depth of evil should have absolutely no place in the life of a believer. There is no excuse, no disease, no exceptions. A boy will never grow up to be a man if he is in slave to his lusts.
I have heard every excuse possible, I used to give them myself. But none of them have any legitimacy. Not only do we participate in some of the worst evil in the world by consuming pornography, but we as men will never grow beyond adolescence. Pornography creates a lifestyle of duplicity and shame, it instills in men an inability to see women in any other dimension but a sexual one, it corrupts every aspect of a man’s life, it makes men incapable of fully giving and receiving love, and it keeps men in slavery to their bodies. I was a boy and would have stayed a boy had God not broken me completely of this sin and given me the power to repent. This tip is non-negotiable. If you want to be a man, stop jacking around.
For more information and resources on this stuff, check out XXXChurch.
6. Pick Friends Wisely
In Donald Miller’s post mentioned earlier, he addresses this issue inversely by telling people to get rid of old friends who have no ambitions. This is good advice, but along with it, twenty-somethings need to be moving from the networking, get to know everybody in the world phase, to focusing in on building deep relationships with only a few people. If you are married, this should include your spouse. Don’t pick friends that are liabilities or people who suck your energies dry. Choose a few guys, on your level, who can walk with you in life and encourage you forward into manhood.
7. Pray Humbly
The last tip encompasses and enables everything else I’ve said in this post. There is a trend I’ve noticed in my generation towards social justice and non-profit type work. This is one positive thing that is happening in the emerging adult generation. But in all of these campaigns, there seems to be a very humanistic motivation. I will often times here the quote from Ghandi thrown around, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” On the one hand, this is not bad and it challenges individuals to take personal responsibility for what is going on in the world. On the other hand, I think we forget that there is no amount of will power or positive thinking, no amount of good intentions and actions that can change this world. Christ is the only real change that can happen to this world.
God resists the proud and if we want to be men of change in this generation, then we need to recognize that we are incapable, bow before the one who is, and plead with him to redeem. Being men in a culture full of boys is difficult and without being humble before God, its impossible.
I would love to hear your thoughts concerning this issues and some other tips you might have towards surviving manhood.