Have you ever felt like you can’t do anything important because you’re too young? Do you feel like older generations brush off your thoughts and experiences because of your age? Sometimes you might feel like screaming because you just feel so… underrated.
You’re not alone.
Teens and young adults are fighting for recognition. They want to see unfair policies changed, outdated traditions questioned, and more than anything, they want to make a difference. The drive for hope and purpose remains a steady thrum that causes this generation to keep on pushing, keep on searching… even when others may be less than encouraging.
It’s not new challenge for young people, and this generation probably won’t be the last to face it. However, just because you feel underrated doesn’t mean that you can’t rise above those expectations (or lack thereof).
This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t seek out mentorship and discipleship from those who are older than you. There are plenty of Godly men and women who will encourage you to your full potential, listen to you, and choose NOT to underrate you. You should seek those relationships out! Every Christian needs them to grow in wisdom and maturity.
One example of a positive intergenerational mentorship relationship in the Bible is the relationship between Paul and Timothy. When Timothy expresses his frustration with EXACTLY this feeling of being underrated, Paul responds with a challenge that still rings true today. This is what he says:
“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT)
That’s a pretty clear (and pretty well known) passage. But how can you do them today?
IN WHAT YOU SAY: Kindness and wise speech are all too often overlooked by people both young and old. James chapter 3 describes the correct ways and incorrect ways to speak- use it to challenge yourself to recognize what areas of your speech need improvement, and work on them. Even in situations where you want to respond harshly, use this chapter to guide you in surprising the naysayers with the maturity of your speech.
IN THE WAY YOU LIVE: Essentially, integrity. Be the same person when nobody’s looking as you are when everyone is watching. If you’re living a life that is full of quiet integrity, you’ll gain respect from those around you, no matter their age. If you wouldn’t watch that show with your mom… why are you watching it at all?
IN YOUR LOVE: Matthew 5 is clear- don’t just love the people closest to you- love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute (or bully, or undermine, or hurt, etc) you. This is not a common love. In fact, it’s only possible with the Holy Spirit and a real understanding of what Jesus did for each person on the cross. It’s a kind of love that draws the eye, and the listening ear.
IN YOUR FAITH: Practically speaking, there are lots of ways you can be an example in your faith. Read the Bible, pray, attend your church faithfully… but this also means being faithful in your tithing, with your trust in God in the hard times, and in your belief that God will work out HIS perfect plan in HIS perfect timing. No matter how old you are, you can set an example in these areas.
IN YOUR PURITY: This doesn’t just refer to physical purity, although that’s definitely important. This command refers to mental and emotional purity as well. Choose to rise above the things the world hits you with (things that aren’t true, honorable, right, pure, and lovely, like Philippians 4:8 says), and be an example to those around you in the purity of what you watch, post on social media, and say to your friends.
So there lies the challenge: choose to exceed the expectations of the naysayers- in your faith, your lifestyle, and your love. Strive for excellence, and don’t let the fact that others underrate or underestimate you be an excuse to not strive for greatness in your faith. It starts with you.
More than anything, seek to share God with others as they join you in the search for hope, the search for recognition, and the search for more. We know that there’s only one place where all those desires can be fulfilled: at the cross. And at the end of the day, take solace in the knowledge that Jesus will never underrate you.