Show Me Your Scars

I recently sat through a seminar on how to relate to the millennials at work and how to engage them in meaningful work and fulfillment. Half-way through the presentation, I began to feel that I had become more like my father and that I now carried his attitudes toward younger workers. Don’t get me wrong; I love what Millennials bring to the workplace with their excitement, social media savvy and the ability to work in teams or as part of bigger groups. I can also see some of my own attitudes, when I was in my twenties, in this generation. They have a sense of being in a hurry and thinking experience is overrated, just like I did at that age. In the seminar, it was even suggested we, older workers, could be mentored by the Millennials.

But I return to that classic line I was told in my twenties, “Show me your scars.”

The successful struggles against failures and shortcomings develop a person’s maturity. Maturity only comes with time and experiences Maturity doesn’t mean being better than someone else, but it does mean being better than you used to be. Maturity is not flashy, and it doesn’t fit well with our culture of celebrity and instant gratification. You don’t see attention paid to how mature and experienced a person is in our culture. Maturity is not shiny. It is a journey done within our souls.

Maturity is hard to spot and to comprehend until there is a “tough” or “hard” situation. A mature person has a deep understanding of his shortcomings and weaknesses and has pursued a life of overcoming those weaknesses and shortcomings. But there is no instant epiphany. A mature person has a settled sense of purpose and is not easily swayed by negative or positive reactions to her decisions and actions. Millennials have a hard time understanding this long journey. They have been told their whole lives that they can set their own course and design and create their lives.

In a mature person’s journey, the person understands he doesn’t always get to choose or to create his own life, but each person is summoned to life. The mature person comes to recognize life is not about her and that she has been placed in these specific times, places or circumstances to use her to use her abilities beyond just her own gratification.

When I talk to Millennials, I ask them to share with me, not their successes, but their failures. What went wrong and what did you learn? How many times did you makes the same mistake? What was the toughest situation you have been in that did not turn out the way you wanted it to happen? Show me your scars. Show me and tell me how much awareness you have of your vulnerabilities and your struggles, and how you have grown.

We have allowed so many young people to indulge in a culture of selfies, self-worship, and arrogance, and we have lost sight of the importance of the struggle and setbacks we need to experience to mature. In time, the Millennials will have the scars and the deep understanding of what they have been summoned to do with their talents. The journey of maturity happens deep within our soul. Show me your scars.