A Good Opportunity to Put Your "Adulting" Skills Into Practice

So, have you been hit with "OK, Boomer" yet?

"It's happening all across the country and all across the internet," says Herb Scribner, a pop news reporter who adult-splained it in What does 'OK, boomer' mean? A millennial explains. "Younger people are calling older people (or anyone who disagrees with their beliefs or are deemed uncool) boomers. Sometimes it's 'OK, boomer' and other times it's 'you're such a boomer' . . . anyone older than Generation Z are taking a beating." He's 29, and it's already happened to him, so apparently it kind of does but also does not have something to do with your age. Here's the Urban Dictionary explanation:

When a baby boomer says some dumb s*** and you can't even begin to explain why he's wrong because that would be deconstructing decades of misinformation and ignorance so you just brush it off and say okay.

 By most accounts, it's a dismissive retort from the younger set in reaction to criticisms from the older set that they're "snowflakes." "A boomer is really more of a type of personality, someone who is intolerant to new ideas and who is ignorant to new ideas," said Luca Brennan, a 17-year-old who orchestrated a now-viral "OK, Boomer" t-shirt photo for his yearbook with his friends. "It is a humorous way to say 'OK, whatever' and move on with our lives," said 20-year-old Hannah Hill. "I think of 'OK boomer' as kind of saying, you're a hypocrite," said Nick Carver, age 17.

Generational disconnects have been part of modern life for some time, and it's tempting to look at this fad and just poke holes in the naivete of youth. But in the wake of the Greta Thunberg moment, with its running undercurrent saying adults have ruined the world and the youth are getting stuck with the aftermath, I don't think tit-for-tat comebacks will be helpful. I think we can find better ideas from the ancient book of Proverbs. Consider the following:

Proverbs 14:15 — "The inexperienced one believes anything, but the sensible one watches his steps." It is the very nature of youth to be inexperienced in the complexities of adult life. It's really unkind to ridicule them for this, and we adults should be sensible enough not to damage our relationships with them this way. Better to subtly challenge them to rethink what they think they know. A thoughtful, Hmmm . . .  or, Hmmm . . . what do you mean? can serve as a casual, open-ended invitation to elaborate. Often, that will be the end of it. In the case of the overconfident upstart, at least, who thought himself so superior, perhaps he'll walk away a tad deflated, which would be a step toward wisdom.

Proverbs 18:17 — "The first to state his case seems right until another comes forward and questions him." If s/he elaborates, congratulations! You've started a dialogue. Resist the urge to prove yourself right. Be a truth-seeker open to new information. Young people are totally turned off by self-styled truth-dispensers, and rightly so. (Aren't you?) Assuming the conversation is congenial, listen and keep asking questions until you can restate the contention and its supportive reasoning. That may be the end of it, as adolescent cases often sound logically weak, once reflected back. (For a few examples of this is action, see Analytical Apologetics: AA for the Inebriated Mind.)

Proverbs 20:5 — "The purposes of a person's heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out." Rarely (but ideally!), your invitation will lead to further discussion. Some young people really do want to talk things out with adults, and if we'll take the time to listen, posing strategic, open-ended questions from time to time, we may be a means by which they start to engage in real critical thinking. This should be what we're after, and it will prove a win-win for everyone.

Depending on the setting and the relationship you have, try to capitalize whenever you can on an opportunity to engage. Young people really have been dissed and dismissed in many cases. A little respect will go a long way, both toward breaking down stereotypes (and "Ok, Boomer" is replete with them), and initiating the inexperienced into the exhilarating experience of actually thinking. That is more than any tit-for-tat retort will ever accomplish.

is a freelance writer and blogger on apologetics and matters of faith.
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