Humility, Gentleness, and the Millennial Complex

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Photo credit: Arkady Lifshits via Unsplash

The way I write about wanting to “figure it all out,” and the way we feel pressured by modern society to do so, you’d think it’s our sacred duty. That, beyond anything else – loving our neighbor, shining our light, or basking in blessings – that’s ultimately what we’re here to do: figure it out. However ambiguous “it” might be, and however unattainable that goal really is.

I don’t know how exactly the desperate need to “figure it all out” became the earmark of my generation. I’d argue that part of it is because – for women especially – for the first time in history, we are capable of choosing any path we desire for ourselves. And society telling us we can have it all translates to us feeling that we should. And, consequently, that we need to adhere to a timeline (i.e. “figure it all out” as quickly as possible) to make sure we’re on track to do this.

But that’s a topic for another post. The point I’d like to make here is that “figuring it all out” is actually not my job.

Thank goodness.

The “figure it all out” frenzy – or the Millennial Complex, as I like to call it – is characterized by the belief that I am the one who has to do all the work. I am the one who bears complete responsibility for the way my life unfolds. And while I’m certainly not negating the importance or the blessing of freedom and personal choice, I am saying that as a Catholic Christian, I know better. I know that sometimes, in spite of my best efforts, life just doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes things happen that are out of my hands.

Because I’m not the one driving the bus. God is.

The enormous duty of the Millennial Complex – the need to figure our whole lives out – is tinged with pride, isn’t it? Because what we’re saying when we subscribe to it is, “I am more powerful than God. I control my life, and because it’s all up to me, I need to make sure I’m not screwing this up. I need to figure this out. And fast.”

Twentysomething-hood, then, is teaching me a new definition of the word “humility,” one that is in keeping with how I saw “gentleness” defined in my Blessed Is She Road to Pentecost scripture study. It defines the fruit of the spirit called gentleness as being “submissive to God and… humble enough to be taught by God.”

So when we’re struggling to do God’s will, wondering what He’s asking of us… maybe the answer isn’t that we should desperately attempt to “figure it all out.”

Maybe we should wait patiently for God to instruct our hearts instead. Because in something that we see as not quite “figured out” yet – waiting for our careers to take off, for example, waiting for a boyfriend or husband, or waiting for any number of other things we seek – God is still acting with purpose in our lives, intentionally preparing us to become the people we are meant to be.

I think that practicing humility at this point in my life means not wanting so desperately to “figure everything out,” but to trust that it’s already being figured out… by hands much larger than mine. And to be willing to learn from His mysterious ways.

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