The Challenge of Growing Older And Influencing Young People

olderA few weeks ago amidst the cacophony of aromas and chatter at a small table in my favorite coffee shop, I was immersed in delightful and intimate conversation with a long-time protege when she said something that caused an unexpected internal reaction (I suppose you could say upheaval) in me.

She was explaining a difficult situation at her church—one I had experienced and managed to live through several times in my thirty years of ministry—but all the while she exuded an unspoken conviction that I could not possibly understand the nuances of her problem. As I readied to say, “Oh, no, I totally understand, I’ve been through that same challenge several times”, something stopped me.

I’m not sure if my hesitancy to speak up was the feeling that she needed to discern the solution on her own or my own insecurity at getting older and arrogant—seemingly having all the answers. But as I gave it further rumination a few days later, it occurred to me that perhaps it was something more.

As I grow older, I notice a gradual but growing estrangement from me and certain young adults. Not hostility—they still find me good company—and in difficult times still desire my advice and mentorship. But somehow I sense a subconscious intuition that their hour has come, and it is right, and it must be so.

There is nothing worse than an entitled self-focused older person that must always have the last (and definitive) word—desperately clinging to validation, influence, and control.

The positive result of this normal process should be a certain deliverance for me to work on what is most important to me, i.e., what I have been called to BE in this second half of my life, what I must do. It is quite disruptive when I find myself neither here nor there. And I think that may be what caused the internal reaction—the upheaval—during our conversation.

There is a fine line between mentorship that “shortens the learning curve” and a selfish desire to be needed—to project myself onto a protege. To want people younger than myself to feel I have all the answers. I want to be valued as I grow older but I feel a growing desire to be less in the fray of a first-life career.

How do I not hamper them, yet still be there when they need me?

I think about this often.

I would love to hear your thoughts HERE.

2 Responses to “The Challenge of Growing Older And Influencing Young People”

  1. Two Answers:
    1. Be there.
    2. Listen.

  2. So good, Paul. Thanks for joining the conversation.

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