I can live my life any way I want to...

Mike Segal, 19, says entrepreneurship is "just egomania, but in the best sense possible."
(Photo by Tanit Sakakini)

The New Me Generation:
The crop of talented recent graduates coming into today's workforce is widely seen as narcissistic and entitled. And those are their best qualities.

After describing 15 year old Nicole who envisions a future that doesn’t involve any bosses and Alan, 31 years old, who has superiors at work but whom he delights in boldly interrupting without an appointment, Jake Halpern, writing in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, asks what they “have in common besides a great deal of chutzpah.” He answers his own question:
They are members of the so-called Entitlement Generation, the upstarts at the office who put their feet on their desks, voice their opinions frequently and loudly at meetings, and always volunteer – nay, expect – to take charge of the most interesting projects. They are smart, brash, even arrogant, and endowed with a commanding sense of entitlement. And since a new crop is graduating from Boston's high-powered colleges and universities every year, chances are, one may be heading to your office soon.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, says that this includes virtually everyone born after 1970. According to Twenge, these young people were raised on a daily regimen of praise and flattery from their baby boomer parents and from teachers who embraced a self-esteem-boosting curriculum… This constant reinforcement, argues Twenge, is largely responsible for those young co-workers who drive you nuts. At the University of South Alabama, psychology professor Joshua Foster has done a great deal of research using a standardized test called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI). The NPI asks subjects to rate the accuracy of various narcissistic statements, such as "I can live my life any way I want to" and "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place." Foster has given this personality test to a range of demographic groups around the world, and no group has scored higher than the American teenager…

- Jake Halpern, Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, September 30, 2007
Halpern goes on to cite a number of illustrations of this attitude in teens and young adults and he gives fair voice to those who see this trend as productive and good. While not altogether surprised by all of this, I was taken aback by what seems to be the pervasiveness of this attitude. Nor is this something peculiar to upscale families and communities: Halpern writes compellingly of a group of teens he interviewed at North Quincy High School.

I recall having dinner some years ago (maybe around 1998) with the members of a women's a capella group from Yale who were giving a concert at Our Lady Help of Christians. With a few others I sat in a large circle with these young women, plates in our laps, and someone suggested that the singers introduce themselves by telling us their name, where they were from, their major at Yale and what they hoped to do after graduation. As you might imagine, their academic pursuits were as impressive as their plans for the future. I remember thinking as I listened to them, "How does the Church speak to this generation? How will the Church speak to these young people as they get older? What will they hear? Will they listen? Whatever faith backgrounds they are from, will their faith's message make its way into their hearts? their lives? their futures?"

The same kind of questions are mine when I read that egomania might be understood in a best possible sense; when I scan the words, I can live my life any way I want to -and- If I ruled the world, it would be a better place; when I wonder if the world would be a better place in the hands of those who are smart, brash, even arrogant, and endowed with a commanding sense of entitlement.

The implications here for faith communities are many. How do we speak to this generation of our younger members? How do we speak to their parents? How will they hear a gospel message that calls us to service, sacrifice and surrender to realities greater than our own will, designs and success? While I know that Halpern's description does not fit all our young people and those who are rearing them, I know that he describes something real and something that even those who are not brash, arrogant and entitled will have to live with and deal with in others.

Halpern's essay offers food for thought for young people, parents, school personnel and those in ministry, especially ministry to young people. I commend the whole article to your attention and study.

And, as always, I invite your comments here - especially from those in the age group Halpern reports on.


  1. Having children that are now grown and watching the experiences that they have had while growing up here in Concord, I have some ideas on the subject of how this particular generation faces the world with a renewed sense of entitlement.
    First and foremost, I believe that the number one reason we find this generation to be so arrogant, is the absence of discipline while growing up. Gone, it seems are the days of being held responsible, being respectful, and having these children accept the repercussions of thier actions.
    While I know with absolute certainty that I have made many mistakes as I grew along with my children throughout thier lives. I do however, take pride in knowing that I, as well as my husband were disiplinarians, and if my children made mistakes, they were taught that they would have to deal with them and the repercussions that come along with making poor choices. But I also learned a long time ago, that we seemed to be in the minority when it came to disciplining, and allowing the "chips to fall where they may".
    When my generation was growing up, (45-60 yrs old), we knew that if we did something wrong, we would be held accountable. If the police were involved, we were punished not only by our parents, but also had to take whatever just punishment was handed down by the police. Today, I see parents trying to somehow "get them out" of whatever trouble they have gotten themselves into.We were afraid back then. Now, there are, it seems, very few who fear getting into trouble. A percentage of families today, especially growing up in a town that harbors belief in entitlement and arrogance toward rules, I see parents getting thier children out of trouble, whether it be with the law, school and/or socially. There are no lessons to be learned by this type of tolerance of any disrespecting way of thinking and behaving.
    Parents should be parents. Not friends to thier children. We need to hear the word "No" in our vocabulary.
    When we have parents who allow thier children, while attending Mass to talk, yell, run around, interrupt, and disrupt the blessed sacrament of Mass, and disturbing our preachers and our congregation, there is a major issue at hand here. If our children misbehave during Mass...take them out. If they are being disruptive...take them out. And when they ask why did we have to leave...explain that thier behavior was not acceptable, and discipline them with a punishment that shows that thier behavior is wrong and will not be tolerated.
    I truly believe that the arrogant, brash, disrespect and element of entitlement can be summed up in one word...discipline. That's where it should begin and that is where we should follow, cosistantly thoughout the lives of our children. By the time they reach adulthood,having none of the discipline needed, we are creating a generation of young adults who believe that they can behave in any way they see fit. Thus, endangering the embracable notion of respect and responsability. Let me state again. I know that it's a learning experience, and I made my share of mistakes. But without respect and discipline what are we creating in our children's generation?

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I am glad to see that inappropriate comments or ad hominem attacks can be removed by the blog administrator. I think the main purpose of blog comments is to further the discussion among Concord Pastor and those responding to particular posts. It can become a fruitful learning experience for all participants. While we may have differing viewpoints, we should always be respectful of each other and each other's points of view.

  4. Being back on Blogger Comments does allow me to remove unwanted comments. However, the comment above was removed by me only because Anonymous (first comment) had, in error, posted her comment twice- so I was just doing a little housekeeping.

  5. I'm not sure if Rosemary was speaking about anonymous#1 when she wrote about respect and other people's points of view, but if that is indeed the case, I must say I happened to agree with anonymous on several points. I found the comments, while rather long, to be right on when responding to the lack of discipline and arrogance that the youngsters today display. My wife and I have both witnessed the irresponsability and disrespect aimed at our own children throughout the school system. We are amazed at what children are allowed to "get away with."
    We don't find the comments to be inappropriate at all.I think there are issues brought up that should be looked at by parents and children as well. It is a good tool to open up some lines of communication.

  6. I agree. Especially about the children in church. I can't believe how children are allowed to behave in such a spiritual community. I find it disruptive and inconsiderate toward the congregation and especially Concord Pastor who obviously puts a great deal of time into Sunday Mass, and his thought provoking homilies.

  7. My thoughts exactly with the comments concerning Mass.

  8. I also remember the way I thought about the world when I was 28.(egad)I was going to save it all by myself.. take it head on and go for it.... But then life taught me what reality was all about.
    I would agree that many of our young adults have a sense of entitlement but I have seen enough of life to know that in the end, life will teach the discipline whether it is getting fired from your job,being frozen out by your co-workers or being laid off because your competitors out manouvered you while you had your feet up on your desk. It will be a difficult lesson to learn, but life is an equal opportunity disciplinarian.
    The "church" can be around to help pick up the pieces and offer opportunities for service to others. It has to speak a clear message of humility and simplicity in the face of the societal addiction to the opposite.

  9. Today was particularly noisy at Mass. What I don't get is why not move to the Refuge/Crying Room and let the congregation hear God's word in peace. I don't get it.

  10. Oops! My comment above was only in response to the blog administrator's being able to remove comments. Recently, in the haloscan comments there had been a couple of comments that had distressed me greatly. They were totally inappropriate and, in fact, were very unkind ad hominem attacks. Sorry for the confusion.
    I usually go to the 5 PM Mass. I am not aware of children acting up. I do think parents should be teaching their children to be reverent while at Mass. Are they using the Mass books that were created especially for children? For those who can't read, perhaps a picture book of Jesus or of saints might help. A little instruction by the parents about what the Mass is all about might make children enter into it with proper respect.

  11. That's the bottom line...respect, or rather lack there of.


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