Men and Women of Today

I mentioned a quote from a book by Henri Nouwen in November (here) and since finishing that book have really connected and identified with Nouwen as an author and a man of God. In much the same way as I have connected with Andrew Murray (19th Century author) who I have read a number of his books.

A few weeks ago a friend gave me another book by Nouwen (‘The Wounded Healer”) which I finally have had some time to read through parts of and am really enjoying it again. ‘The Wounded Healer’ was written in 1972 and during the middle section of the book discusses the current youth (of over 35 years ago) and the leaders that will be needed to reach them for God.

In describing the youth he raised three points:

The Men and Women of Tomorrow (or today 35+ years later)

  1. They are an inward generation (because of the lack in belief of anything ‘up there or out there’ they turn in)
  2. A generation without fathers (rejection of traditional authority due to their short comings)
  3. Leading to the convulsive generation (convinced there is something wrong, can’t find hope for a solution, and it leads to depress/suicide)

For being written over 35 years ago it is eerie how accurate this observation is for the current youth of today. I particularly liked what he had to say about the fatherless generation.

But this fearful generation which rejects its fathers and quite often rejects the legitimacy of every person or institution that claims authority, is facing a new danger: becoming captive to itself. David Riesman says: ‘As adult authority disintegrates, the young and more and more captives of each other. . . . When adult control disappears, the young control of each other intensifies.’ (Psychology Today, October 1969) Instead of the father, the peer becomes the standard. Many young people who are completely unimpressed by the demands, expectations and complaints of the big bosses of the adult world, show a scrupulous sensitivity to what their peers feel, think and say about them. Being considered an outcast or a dropout by adults does not worry them. But being excommunicated by the small circle of friends to which they want to belong can be an unbearable experience. Many young people may even become enslaved by the tyranny of their peers. While appearing indifferent, casual and even dirty to their elders, their indifference is often carefully calculated, their casualness studied in the mirror , and their dirty appearance based on a detailed imitation of their friends.

p. 32-33

Having graduated from an undergrad where I was an active leader in the student led campus ministry what Nouwen penned there rings all to clearly with me. I saw how the misguidance of some brought along others who where intimidated or fearful of stepping out of line. So this leads us to his description of the type of leaders this generation needs (remember this generation he is writing about is now in the 30s and 40s, and I believe includes most after them).

Tomorrows Leader

  1. As the Articulator of Inner Events
  2. As a man of Compassion
  3. As a Contemplative Critic.

Looking at leaders whom I admire, they have some melding of these three qualities (in addition to many others). It is interesting how these qualities mirror the struggles of the current generation. Part of me is excited because I so strongly identify with each of these (had have/continue to struggle with the issues above) that it encourages me that God is continuing to mold and refine my ability to minister to others.

My years of introspective writing and thoughts have helped to mold/refine the first. My numerous relationships and tears over men/women struggling and hurting have made me all to aware of the second. And I have been branded a ‘critical realist’ in nearly every one of my seminary courses because of my perspective on the world/scripture/theology and the deep process I try to walk through to bring those three arenas together.

Hopefully  there are more men and women out there that God has raised up in response to prayers from men like Nouwen (and those who have read his book). Hopefully I might be able to count myself among them, and when the time soon comes find myself pleasing in Gods eyes and fit for His service.

Do you think Nouwens observations were right? his conclusions?