Hopelessness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

My last two posts which covered some pretty dark topics for Gen Z: burnout and negative attitudes.  Both involve an attitude of feeling hopeless.  It leads to the question: How do you find hope in a hopeless world?

Hope is defined as an expectation that a certain thing will happen (not “might” happen or “maybe”).  It’s the opposite of hopeless. Why do so many in the next generation lose hope even if they have a faith in the living God. They lose hope all too easily.

A 2008 study showed that hopelessness is a root cause for anxiety, depression and suicide. Another study of adolescents living in high poverty inner-city neighborhoods led them to engage in high risk behavior such as substance abuse, violence and gang participation.

In the same study, hopelessness produced promiscuity or even trying to get pregnant.  This is not just an American phenomenon.  An African friend was dismayed to learn of a relative who turned to prostitution because of hopelessness – the feeling that no one wanted her and the inability to find a way out.

My African friend reached out to her wayward relative. She took her under her wing. She affirmed that God had a purpose for her life and that abusing her body was not the way forward.

This is important stuff.  As a casualty of depression, I personally know how hopeless one can feel. What helped me?  Well, my spiritual life took off when things got dim. My close friends surrounded me when all looked bleak. I turned to God and friends when I didn’t have any other solution.

The power of friends in your life can be a remarkable source of hope.  Some people exude hope. Take Dean Smith, the storied coach of UNC basketball. He permeated hope.  He gave a positive quote for his players to contemplate at every practice. He personally wrote notes of encouragement to many of his players long after they graduated.

In 1974, when the fourth ranked Tar Heels were down 8 points with 16 seconds left against their rival Duke, Coach Smith called a time out and said, “We’re in great shape! We’ve got them right where we want them. Isn’t this fun?”

While the score looked insurmountable, his players made an unlikely comeback, including a last second 30- foot bank shot by Walter Davis to tie the game. UNC won in overtime and the game is viewed as one of the all-time great comebacks in college sports.

I remember it well. I was sitting about 25 feet from Walter Davis when he made the game-tying basket.  I will never forget that moment. Hope fueled a victory against overwhelming odds.

Hopelessness is a delusion which has an enormous effect on our belief system. It can suck life out of us. Hope can provide resilience where others fail.

Most of the surviving POW’s of the Vietnam war attribute their survival on their faith. Those without faith often didn’t survive.  Faith gave them hope when all seemed hopeless despite inhumane treatment by their captors.

In fairness, there is no one-size-fits all cure to finding hope.  But coming alongside someone in the next generation who is facing adversity and feeling hopeless may be the best thing that one can do.

Paul, in the midst of troubles said, “may [we] be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 13:3-4). He was right. My friends could not feel what I was feeling, but they never left my side.

Social media actually isolates heavy users from developing close confiding relationships.  Isolation leads to negative thoughts and it goes downhill from there.

Tony Dungy quit football in high school due to a conflict with his coach. Leroy Rocquemore, a junior high teacher who believed in Tony’s well being, came alongside to mediate a solution with Tony’s coach.

Tony went on to become an All-Pro defensive back and coach of an NFL team that won the Super Bowl. The trajectory of his life would have been very different if someone hadn’t taken an interest in him.

Even when Tony felt hopeless, God used someone to inspire him not to give up. There are a lot of Tony Dungy’s in the next generation, but not many Leroy Rocquemore’s who come alongside when life seems hopeless.

The challenge here is that the next generation and particularly Gen Z are especially vulnerable to feeling hopeless, often because they are isolated and without a good support network.

It’s easy to see the world as a hopeless place without input from close friends or mentors. You can be a Leroy Rocquemore to someone in the next generation. All you have to do is develop a relationship with someone in the next generation.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Telling a member of Gen Z that you “believe in them” and that “they are not alone” speaks volumes.  That’s not complicated; you don’t have to be a Dean Smith or a Leroy Rocquemore to be an encourager.

FURTHER READING: Kingdom Nuggets in Dealing with Depression  Faith Magazine

WORSHIP: Listen to Yes I Will – Vertical Church which has the following lyrics:
“I count on one thing
The same God that never fails
Will not fail me now

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address.

Gen Z Burnout

help

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. ……….But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiasts 4:9-12

This topic is in my wheelhouse – I experienced Burnout – not once, but twice.  I have seen the movie and got the T-shirt, which made me interested in why this was something affecting Gen Z.

I wrote materials on Burnout which I hand out to those that I come in meet who are experiencing symptoms of burnout.  My return to normalcy was aided by friends and family who surrounded me and loved me when I hit the wall.

While I know that Burnout is not limited to any particular age group, the fact that the next generation, and Gen Z in particular, is a targeted demographic should not have surprised me.

I should have connected the dots better. Given their high levels of anxiety, isolation and depression, the next generation is in the bulls eye for burnout.  They are stressed out about everything, even things they shouldn’t be.

While burnout has been viewed as being a millennial phenomenon, it is now an epidemic in Gen Z.  They are “on track to be the most stressed-out generation” according to the American Psychological Association.

Burnout is insidious and misunderstood. Even so, it’s hard to imagine what stresses could impact a demographic group who are all under the age of 22.

So what’s going on?  Stress is not new – it is universal and timeless, but Gen Z faces some “unique challenges” similar to millennials who suffer work-disrupting anxiety at twice the average rate of adults.

Those challenges include constantly changing political and economic climates, 24/7 access to social media which fuels social pressures and competition and leads to isolation. Add to those a  focus on personal achievement both academically and professionally.

All of these occur at a developmentally vulnerable time. They don’t have the proper social, emotional and interpersonal supports to help navigate the through the thicket.

Having friends on Facebook is not the same as having a real friend to help you cope with life.  In fact, the lack of confiding relationships increases the risk of depression (or worse).

A stress inventory test that I have in my materials assigns “point values” to events of life – things like death of a spouse, divorce, financial changes, moving to a new location, or even taking out a loan.  It’s called the Holmes-Rhae test – there is now one for non-adults.

Almost all of the events in the inventory are not within the control of the person being tested. A cumulative score of 300 points in a year puts one in the red zone with a high likelihood for some illness or burnout.

One needs to look for other symptoms too. Things like “errand paralysis” where small tasks get put on the back burner for no reason.

Postponing mailing a letter or registering to vote, or just feeling paralyzed doing particular tasks. One Gen Xer described it as feeling like they had a straitjacket on all the time.

For me, one symptom was the inability to focus on certain activities, even though I was able to maintain focus in other areas. I functioned well professionally. But if you asked me about going to dinner next Friday, and I literally couldn’t respond.

For the record, this is a warning sign – a red flag. It is actually a chemical issue where your body’s defenses prevent your synapses from working as a protective mechanism because you are in overload.

Anthony Rostain, MD notes, “Today’s world may be a more competitive and less forgiving place, but when that assessment yields a constricted definition of personal success, it fans the flames of destructive perfectionism.”

Rostain goes on to provide an antidote for parents and mentors alike. It involves helping young people acquire the skills to avoid obstacles and manage stress in a healthy way.

One of my antidotes includes building “margin” into your life by finding healthy ways to unwind. Exercising more, for example, is a natural antidote to stress. In my materials, I suggest “fishing without bait” or “running without keeping time”.

Sometimes competing is counterproductive particularly if you are stressed out in other parts of your life.

The challenge is to help the next generation and especially Gen Z develop real  friendships and develop “grit” in order to cope with a changing world.  Grit is the sine qua non of success. It is the ability to maintain motivation and persist in spite of hardships, anxiety and stress.

Grit isn’t just manufactured out of thin air. It often requires friends to come alongside when things get tough. Close friends are an invaluable source for maintaining a healthy mental outlook when adversity strikes.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Spending time with a member of Gen Z can be instrumental in helping them keep a healthy perspective on life and building “margin” if they don’t have it.

FURTHER RESEARCHHow Gen Z Can Swap Burnout for Breakthroughs, Penn Medicine News

Holmes-Rhae test for Gen Z  A helpful inventory.

Kingdom Nuggets in Dealing with Depression  Faith Magazine

WORSHIP: Listen to Lord I Need You – Passion

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

Negative/Positive

positive

To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. Proverbs 16:1

 A conflict is brewing among the next generation, particularly in Gen Z. On the one hand, they have bold goals and ambitions for their lives – they are committed to making an impact and are very goal oriented.

But there is something holding them back. They fear responsibility and failure.  Those negative fears cause a level of indecisiveness that puts them in a straightjacket so they can’t pull the trigger on a decision or taking responsibility where they may be accountable.

Their reasoning usually includes reflections like the following:

  • “What if I don’t measure up or fail?”
  • “What if what I wanted to do is actually boring?”
  • “What if a better option that comes along later?”
  • “What if I can’t handle the responsibility placed on me?”

It’s a dilemma for Gen Z according to Tim Elmore. On the one hand, they want the freedom which comes with adolescence and young adulthood. They even aspire to leadership.  That’s a positive.

But they don’t want the problems that might come with “being in control”. They can become overwhelmed.  That’s the negative, and unfortunately, all too often, the negative instinct wins out over doing something or making a decision.

Put in another way, if the negative always wins out, no one would ever run a race else they might lose. But there is a benefit in competing and winning is not everything.

This is the generation that has all the world’s information at their fingertips – literally. But having that information and absorbing it in their brain is a different matter.  This generation is likely to have what is called the Google Effect.

The Google Effect shows that obtaining information from a Google search doesn’t result in retained knowledge. In fact, the studies show that the answer is not retained.

Much of the negative predisposition is a result of making decisions based on emotion rather than facts, analysis or critical thinking.  Fear of failure can be debilitating, yet most people admit that they learned more from failures than successes.

The ability to do critical thinking starts with knowledge already stored in your brain. Knowledge about history or the subject at hand is required, so that one can critically think in context.  This  is a continuing issue for the maturity of Gen Z into adulthood.

Recently, my grandson decided that he wanted to apply to a private school that his father went to in New England. He went so far as to line up taking the SSAT and signed up for an interview. I was pleased with his initiative.

On the trip to take the interview, he balked. He went from a positive – the idea of going to one of the best schools anywhere  – to a negative: “What if I don’t get in?” “What will my family think if I don’t succeed?” Unfortunately, the negative prevailed.

I was disappointed, but mostly for the reason for his decision.  I had seen what the benefit of that academic environment had done in my life, and two of my children. Granted, being accepted at a school of high academics is never certain but failing to get in is not something to be ashamed about.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

His default to the negative is typical of the next generation.  I hope over the next year to spend some time with him and encourage him to reach high.  Every decision in life has stakes, both good and bad. But dwelling on the negative side will not advance the ball.

I hope to remove his fear of failure over the next year by reminding him of the benefits of going to one of the best schools in America. Win or lose, I will be there in his camp. I had a similar issue with my own son when, after spending a year away at school, he hit rock bottom.

We had a long Thanksgiving going over his problems.  I challenged him then (and I would do it again) that I didn’t want him to look back at his decision and say, “if only I had stayed in school.” I used the opposite approach and planted the idea of “what if” you succeed.

“If only” is used in hindsight, but “what if” is looking forward – it is a positive view of possibilities.  Mark Betterson authored the book title “Ifand the theme of the book is how to convert a “if only” attitude  to a “what if” attitude.  Basically, how do you convert a negative to a positive.

Our challenge is to help the next generation take responsibility, ownership and see the world of choices from a  “what if” perspective rather than a negative “if only” attitude. It’s a way to come along side them and help them see a positive outcome rather than a negative downside.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor is in a key position to encourage the next generation to make good decisions and getting them to look at them from a “what if” vantage point.

FURTHER READING:  If: Trading your ‘If Only’ Regrets for God’s ‘What If’ Possibilities Mark Betterson

Motivating Leaders who don’t want Responsibility  Growing Leaders

WORSHIP: Listen to Set My Heart  Vertical Church Band

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pushing the Rope

1                                            

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”.  Luke 9:23

 How do you push a rope? If you’ve tried, it doesn’t work well. Pulling it is the answer. This is a principle we use at MentorLink which turned 20 last week.

We celebrated with a dinner, followed by a session with our international leaders from Canada, Argentina, Senegal, Spain and the Philippines.   While listening to the program, it occurred to me that the real story of MentorLink (MLI) has not been told.

For 20 years, we been pulled through doors which opened to us. Much of that was not a result of any grand strategic plan. We never tried to push the rope.

Our vision came from a group of over a dozen ministry leaders in the U.S. They realized that the worldwide growth of Christianity was accelerating faster than the growth of leaders.  The challenge: Quickly develop and multiply leaders around the world.

That’s a big vision for a startup.  But we learned to think big, start small and go deep.  Our vision hasn’t changed although how it expanded surprised us. We knew there is a difference between leadership training and leader development.

Leadership training is like pushing a rope.  Traditional leader training consists of content transfer and skill development. Formal Biblical/theological training fits well into this methodology.

The way of Jesus is the road less traveled. It requires character transformation not content absorption. Developing a Christlike leader requires a focus on the character, motives and attitudes of a leader. It includes some content and skill training as well.

Mentoring is leader development, not just leadership training. It requires deep relationships and trust leading to life transformation. It requires intentionality and accountability.

This is how Jesus developed his disciples: He walked with them throughout Palestine.

MLI created five core values which are the foundation of all our materials. Our original seminar,  Passing It On, was given in 5 cities in Columbia, SA in 2001 where travel between cities was treacherous due to the drug cartels.

Passing It On (PIO) is still used today.  I presented PIO in Nairobi, Kenya last June (see picture). It is the backbone of the ministry, and is complemented by an Institute where leaders can go deeper and even earn a diploma using Skype or Zoom.

In 2019, we trained 5,720 national leaders. Cumulatively over 20 years, we have trained close to 100,000 leaders in at least 70 countries. Those numbers are conservative because we don’t have a large bureaucracy to track this data.

We never tried to monetize our materials by charging for them. They are free on our website. Charging for materials would have been a hindrance in the developing world,.  I still encounter ministries today that make that mistake.

Two watershed moments occurred which were pivotal. Neither of them were in our control.  The first was the U.S. recession which started in 2007.  Overnight, 60% of our funding ceased. We had two choices: either close our doors or drastically change how we operated.

We chose the latter after much reflection and prayer. We all but eliminated staff except to the barest necessity. We operate today without any full-time staff.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that ministry output is a function of financial  input.  From that, you would have expected our ministry to falter.

Instead, it not only flourished, it exploded around the world. That’s when we realized that we had started a movement, not a ministry. Today, we have reached leaders in 180 countries.

Our growth was not a result of our strategic plans. Instead it expanded by relationships of leaders around the globe who connected in ways we could not have imagined nor planned.

The second significant moment occurred in 2010 at the Lausanne Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.  Our founder met with leaders of the Jesus Film, which is now translated into around 1,600 languages.

The producers of the Jesus Film knew that the movie was a great tool of evangelism, but there was no discipleship follow-up.  This is critical to almost 60% of the world that can’t read. Our Founder bravely said,  “We can help you!”.  That’s big thinking again.

It was literally dropped in our lap.  We produced 40 Days with Jesus  (DWJ) using the Jesus Film in English.

If you sat on a ministry board and thought, “What would be the most strategic language after English?”,  I am pretty sure you wouldn’t have picked  Swahili.  But that was the door that opened. Only later did we learn that some 240 churches in Tanzania were planted as a result of DWJ in Swahili.

DWJ is now in 40 languages. Our goal is to cover the top 100 languages.  We are approaching 50 million downloads of DWJ in 181 countries, and those downloads are the only ones that we can track because some occur through DVD’s and other media.

Our ministry thrives in countries where Christianity faces severe restrictions. DWJ is available in languages from North Africa and the Middle East in the west, and  Indonesia in the east.

Our challenge is that we are now looking at ways to improve. That’s big, but we started small and want to go deeper. We want to pull the rope better.

RESOURCES:  Days With Jesus is available on YouVersion, Youtube, The Jesus Film and Mentorlink.org.  

WORSHIP: Listen to Let My Words be Few.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address.