Life is a series of decisions, and we millennials are having trouble making them. Part of the problem, I believe, is the contraceptive culture we inhabit. The introduction of the Pill in 1960 pushed forward the falsehood that we can have control of the unknown future and need only be open to life at the “perfect” time—after the degree, the dream vacation, the down payment on the house. But the weeds of this empty promise have spread far outside the bedroom.
Today, we live in a culture of fear that feeds the dark “what ifs” deep in our minds, the insecurities, the unknowns. What if having another child means a more chaotic home life? What if not making enough money strains our marriage? What if I fail at the job I am pursuing?
While we millennials are unfairly blamed for any number of social ills, there is one stereotype that strikes me as uncomfortably true: My generation is indecisive. Take a look at Exhibit A, delayed marriage rates. In 1990, the year I was born, 44 percent of young adults aged 18 to 34 were married. By 2016, that number had dived down to 26 percent. The stunning statistics do not stop there. The U.S. fertility rate is also at an historic low. The hesitation to embrace the gift of marriage and life strike at the family and, I believe, stems from fear of what the future holds.
Today, we live in a culture of fear that feeds the dark “what ifs” deep in our minds, the insecurities, the unknowns.
I understand well the “what ifs” that can plague and paralyze the mind. I come from three generations of divorce myself, and during my recent engagement period, many of my fears surrounding marriage came to the surface. What if you repeat the pattern? What if you are not happy? What if you discerned wrong? But now, on the other side of giving my “yes,” peace shines through.
My husband recently shared a quote that resonated with me, and I would like to pass it along. I especially want to encourage my fellow millennial Catholics to sit and pray with it for a while. The quote is from St. Francis de Sales, found in the book Consoling Thoughts: On Trials of an Interior Life:
It is not those who commit the least number of faults who are the most holy, but those who have the greatest courage, the greatest generosity, the greatest love, who make the boldest efforts to overcome themselves, and are not immoderately apprehensive of tripping, or even of failing and being dirtied a little, provided they advance.
We are designed to be great saints. But we will never get there if we make our perpetual-discernment-bubble our safe space for fear of making a false step. To be a disciple, you must be a decision-maker. When Jesus called Matthew, the tax collector did not respond, “Can you wait until I make a pros-and-cons list first?” No, “he got up and followed him.” (Mt 9:9). Matthew responded with an immediacy we should imitate today.
This is not all meant to downplay the importance of discernment; I hope to emphasize it. It is important to frequent the sacraments, to seek a spiritual advisor and if you are engaged, to find a mentor couple. The closer you are to Christ, the more confidently you can trust your instincts. But prudence is not holding back—it is discerning how to best move forward.
Do not be afraid of the unknown future parts of life. You will inevitably fall, but trust in God and your ability to discern. Because in a world that glorifies “choice,” we would be better off to start making some decisions.