Acting Your Age and Taking Yourself Seriously
Today, I want to make two points:
- Your age and maturity affect how you believe and how you act.
- Beliefs, opinions, and language change over time.
These two points are not radical notions, and they are the sort of thing that most people might instinctively agree with. So far, I have said nothing controversial. It is as though I have said that human stupidity is a universal problem, a notion which forms the basis for many jokes. The main forcus here is change over time that comes from age. In broad categories, let us examine the qualities of each stage of life.
- Young people tend to learn quickly, and they have the strength to try new things. They are not yet jaded by life, but they also lack practical experience and are out of touch with reality. They often have to do work that no one else wants to do.
- Middle-aged people have practice and experience. They do not learn as quickly as they once did, but they know what is important to learn and how to learn it. Their experience might make them cynical, but they often know the right thing to do in a given situation. They often have leadership positions and are at the height of their productivity.
- Old people have a lot of experience and practice, but little ability or willingness to try new things. Their abilities degrade through time, and they retire from positions they once held and gradually give up certain responsibilities.
When I was in junior high and high school, I read a lot of books about eschatology, against the theory of evolution, and about the fight against liberalism. Once upon a time, I thought in very clear black and white categories: evolution was bunk, postmodernism was garbage, Democrats and other liberals were destroying America, and the Euro was a step toward a single worldwide currency that would hail the beginning of the end of the world. I had the audacity to write ABORTION IS MURDER on my backpack and attend a Gay-Straight Alliance meeting at my school in order to take on the liberals. Thanks be to God, I had good parents and teachers who saved me from myself.
As for my backpack, my mom had me cover over what I had written before anyone saw it. As for the GSA meeting, I was civil, although I was tacky enough to bring my Bible. In those and other instances, my parents kept me from enduring social martyrdom. My AP teachers taught me to consider other perspectives and continue asking questions even when I had answers. In college, I was in a program that took Christian students and hammered them into whole souls and disciplined thinkers. Through years of work and investment by level-headed adults, I have become much more level-headed than before.
Right now I have the opportunity to work with people from different age levels. Some of my co-workers are recent college graduates, and they make recent college graduate mistakes. Some of my co-workers are in their thirties, so even if they are new to the job, they know how to sink right in and get along with people. Some of my co-workers are old people who do not want to rot in retirement, so they come out to work in a job that lets them be productive; although they can be irksome at times, I have been able to learn a lot from watching them work.
There are three main things that I have observed about these three age levels:
1. When I was young, the most important thing for me to learn was that I did not know anything. I had a lot of work to do before I could responsibly say that I knew anything. I was ready to try all sorts of new things, but I had to submit to people who wanted to tell me which new things to try. Learning about my own flaws gave me patience to help me endure the future learning that I would have to do. No one could trust me with heavy responsibilities because I did not know what to do. I am still young, but my basic life formation is over.
2. When I reach middle-age, I will have enough experience and practice to take on heavy responsibilities. When I speak, I might actually make sense. When I do something, no one will have to correct me. I will know how to keep myself from making rash decisions. I will know how to make the right changes at the right times. In short, I will be able to act professionally and be worth taking seriously.
3. Old age is a hard thing to speak on because I am far from reaching it and it affects everyone differently. At some point, I will have to retire from doing the interesting stuff because I will not be able to do it anymore. Even if I could do it, there will be young people whose raw abilities will put my withered talents to shame. Young people will need my experience, but I will not be able to do the job myself. I will become less and less reliable and one day die.
What I believe has changed as I have changed. I have adhered to certain core doctrines over many years, but many peripheral beliefs have changed as I have matured. In the future, I will have decreasing abilities to form good opinions as my brain falls apart in old age. What does this mean for you? Well, at any age, remember not to take yourself too seriously. If you get in an argument with someone, think about why they oppose you. Perhaps you are making a mistake characteristic of people your age, or maybe they need a little extra consideration because they are much older or younger than you. In the end, you have to see that you change more often than the truth does, and the ability to form a correct opinion comes through time and may even degrade in time.
Have a good day.