Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Young and Old: Necessary Partners for Successful Living

My recent post about self-esteem produced a lot of good discussion among my blog readers and Facebook friends. Though opinions were varied, it seemed that parents and senior adults agreed that our culture has gotten a bit carried away with the whole "feel good about yourself at all costs" philosophy that many families, church youth groups and public school classrooms promote. On the other side, young people seemed to think that feeling good about themselves gives them "power" and/or "control" over their lives.

Young people tend to think quite highly of how smart they are. They read a book about a particular subject, or watch a television program or goggle some topic on the internet and think they are an expert in that field of knowledge. Many young people have also invested a significant amount of time, money and effort in a college education. Everyone knows there is no one in the world smarter than a recent college graduate!

What young people fail to realize is that reading a book, researching something on the internet or any other type of academic learning by itself is not a guarantee for successful living. What we read in a book, or see on television or discover on the internet is not always right. Learning wisdom from the Word of God and having real life experiences are also necessary ingredients to discovering the way the world actually works. Youth tend to value what they think they "know" and disregard the experience that their elders have acquired over a lifetime.

But adults are not always right in this area either. Sometimes adults think that their experience trumps a younger person's knowledge. And while there is no substitute for experience, sometimes experiences are limited. For example, if an adult has spent his or her entire life in a rural area, they may not have as much advice to offer a young person who lives in an urban setting, or vice versa. Even if an adult has a similar background as a young person they are trying to help, they must remember that times change and their own experience in an industry or field may no longer be current. Regretfully, experience alone does not adequately qualify a person to be successful at life.

What is needed for a person to be truly successful is a combination of both intelligent learning and real life experience. Mixing learning and experience can produce a powerful combination for success. Another ingredient for success is humility. As both young and old remember what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:3, "Don't think more highly of yourself than you ought," they can help each other become more than what they could be on their own.

Perhaps this is also why Paul wrote in Titus 2:3-5 that the older Christians should mentor the younger Christians in how they should live. Likewise Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:12 that young people should live in a way that would set an example for the older Christians. Though we don't see as much mentoring and example setting as we should, the more we can put it into practice, the better it will be for everyone.

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