Our young people are battling a crisis of purpose. Not that many years ago, one’s purpose in life was a given. As recently as the early 1900’s, children would be expected to work on the farm or elsewhere to help support the family so there would be food on the table. Many of the necessities of life were created in the home, so kids were busy building, fixing, sewing, milking, hunting, and fishing. Elderly parents were cared for in the home, and most ‘health care’ needs were tended to by other family members. If time allowed, schooling may have been an option. As these children grew older, the assumption was that they would find a spouse, have children, and commit their lives to the support and protection of their new and extended families. There were other vocational paths, including religious / missionary work and social justice causes, but suffice it to say that most people back then did not struggle to find purpose as purpose was generally right in front of them. Employment was a consideration as well but was more of a means to an end versus a calling.
Our world has transformed tremendously in the past 100 years; food and the other necessities of life are available in seemingly limitless quantities at relatively affordable prices, so most of us in the United States do not have to commit our lives solely to feeding our families. Technology and economic progress have given us the luxury of disposable income that can be spent on wants like vehicles, vacations, apparel, and hobbies. Health care has been institutionalized as has the care of the elderly, dramatically reducing the average person’s time spent ministering to others in need. As travel and relocation is now effortless, we have lost touch in many cases with extended family members and neighbors, and we no longer feel obligated to participate in the challenges others are facing. We have disconnected from our churches and from our community centers where volunteering your time and skill sets was the life blood of those organizations. The concept of marriage and child rearing is fading fast as younger generations are buying pets and focusing on ‘experiences’ versus commitments.
And where has this left us? Well, look around. Our young people see the lives that adults are living, and they are not impressed. If the purpose of life is to be self-obsessed and pleasure-obsessed, our kids are saying ‘no thank you’. Depression, anxiety, psychoses, suicide, despair, confusion, self-loathing and isolation rule the day. Social media and society command our kids to focus solely and exclusively on self, and the effects are devastating.
Moms and dads, grandparents and mentors, we have the power to help our young people to rediscover their true purpose and to begin to thrive again. We must know going into this that finding purpose does not equate to an easy life. Living one’s true purpose in life can be extremely difficult, exhausting, and lonely in some cases, but will always lead to true joy and fulfillment.
The first question that we must ask ourselves is, ‘have we found our purpose’. ‘Sure’, you say. ‘I have a kid or two. That’s my purpose’. That’s a good start, but have you truly committed your life to raising your kids, or are you living your ‘best life’ with kids in tow? Kids will give our lives purpose, but only if we invest the time, the emotional commitment, and the sacrifice required to help them flourish. Do you have a volunteer activity or hobby or professional vocation that involves outreach to others? Are you aware of the challenges that your neighbors or other families are going through, and do you take action to help? Are you involved in your children’s school, your church, or your community, making life just a bit easier for someone else? If your purpose in life is you, it will be a struggle to assist your child to find his / her true purpose in life.
We must also begin to ask ourselves why we are spending so much time and effort focusing on travel sports, competitive dance, and even extreme educational pursuits for our children. Will these activities assist them in finding their true purpose in life, or will they teach our kids that they deserve to always be the center of attention and their self-worth is dependent on their skill sets?
At the end of the day, purpose in life can only be about the other. Model love for neighbor in your own life, and your children will follow. Require your kids to visit with grandma on a regular basis, help out at a neighbor’s house if they are old or struggling, volunteer at church or be part of a mission trip, help care for or coach younger children, or work at a local food pantry or homeless shelter. These experiences will allow our young people to discover what gifts they have to offer and what their unique purpose looks like.
When these young people begin to investigate potential careers, they can use these experiences to help them choose a job that may allow them to thrive financially and to fulfill their life’s purpose. Or perhaps the job will only be a way to pay the bills, so they are able to pursue their purpose (eg: fatherhood), and that’s good too.
With Artificial Intelligence rearing its ugly head, our lives will most likely only be getting easier in the years to come. Unfortunately, an easy life will not bring fulfillment or joy. We are not called to be comfortable; we are called to be extraordinary in the lives of others. Find your purpose and be extraordinary.