The Jesus Vax for “Tough Guy” Syndrome: Curing Young Gen X’ers For the Rise of Gen Z Love

The Jesus Vax for “Tough Guy” Syndrome: Curing Young Gen X’ers For the Rise of Gen Z Love

Let’s be real for a moment. It took a global pandemic to shake up our lives so much, that for the first time in our culture, people are finally opening up about their struggles without any shame, and it’s a beautiful thing! We need to unite and use this shift to dig deep into generational “norms” and ask ourselves how we can raise up our kids with a tougher emotional foundation. But what does being tough mean?

The millenials hitting 30 right now are the product of the tail end baby boomers, and we were primarily raised on one sweeping piece of life advice for both boys and girls: “Be tough, and suck it up.” We were the kids who got “the belt” (or were at least threatened with it), started working before 16, made our own breakfast, and raised our younger siblings while our parents went to their second jobs. We grew up fast, and “suck it up” translated into absorbing and internalizing all of our feelings. While it most certainly molded us into responsible go-getters, there’s a lot of research that describes young Gen X’ers as a group who also suffers with identity issues, feeling lost or not fitting in, and having a difficult time emotionally connecting with others. The worst mistake that my generation can make right now is to pass down “tough guy” syndrome to our Gen Z kids….

One positive aspect of quarantine was that, in realizing EVERYONE was going through hardships, we collectively felt like it was “safe” to share our inner issues for the first time. Although life is starting to return to normal, we need to take what we’ve learned about ourselves during this time and turn it into more evolved advice than just being tough and dealing, especially when “tough” is defined by our culture, and not by God. Our kids deserve to grow up in a world where they feel confident in verbalizing their feelings, expressing their opinions, and knowing that it’s not a weakness to ask for help. How do they learn this? From us. But we need to learn how to do this first, so they can follow along. Jesus was a man who embodied great emotional strength, and He can teach us so much about what “tough” really means. When you read the following Bible verses, really think about how almost NOTHING written here would be considered a strength in today’s world… 

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” -Ephesians 4:32

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” -Luke 6: 27-31

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” -Acts 20:35

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” -Luke 6:7

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” -1 Peter 3: 8-9

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”-Proverbs 17:9

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” -Luke 6:35

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5: 22-23

“Do everything in love.” -1 Corinthians 16:14

Humble? Gentle? Forgiving? Non-judgmental? Tender? Love your enemies? Give without receiving? Toughness is really not what this world would have us believe it is… There is nothing strong about retaliation, selfishness, or letting the weak fend for themselves… There is nothing strong about hiding who we are, acting like “everything’s fine,” or holding back tears. As parents: we need to give our kids space and time to learn about themselves; not force them into pre-formatted molds. There is nothing strong about treating little boys like men before their time, or training little girls to never “need a man” before they’re even old enough to have a boyfriend. We need to teach our kids what love IS first—how to love themselves and others—in order to pave the way for them to have healthy relationships in their futures. Who we are will be projected onto them no matter what, so we need to be aware of ourselves, and use Jesus’ love as our compass of guidance. 

This is really an exciting time to be alive for young Gen X’ers! So the research shows that a lot of us feel like we’re drifting through life confused because we were born with one foot in old school ideals and the other foot in the new age of social media, BUT we can use this unique time to capitalize on self-love and growth like no one else can! Think about it… we’re attached to some tried and true vintage values, yet we’re living in a world with an endless revolving door of newness… we want to have a voice, but we don’t know where to use it… we see so much value to the “suck it up” mentality because it got us through a lot, yet we’re drowning in our emotions with no idea how to organize them and take a breath. If we’re drowning, so are our kids. Now is the time to really pour into ourselves ALL that we have learned, and use the wisdom to grow our relationship with OURSELVES. If we can learn self-love and confidence in sharing who we are, our kids will want to share themselves with US, instead of hide or internalize their feelings. We could be saving them from a lifetime of self-esteem and relationship struggles.

So, start now! The “never quit” attitude is the greatest thing that came out of the baby boomer era, and this core principle will help us continue to improve, and to be the best parents we can be… 

• Talk about your feelings • Ask questions • Go to church • Go to therapy • Make new friends • Cry in front of someone • Start meditating • Read your Bible • Keep a journal • Forgive your wrong-doers • Forgive yourself • Talk to God • Tell someone how you feel • Spend quality time talking with your kids • Make a list of improvement goals • Laugh at yourself • Just laugh period • Take a break • Go for a walk • Look at the moon • Enjoy your own company • Feel yourself becoming whole… becoming the NEW you. 

We have the tools and capabilities to tweak some of these generational “norms” but it starts with us. We can’t teach what we don’t know. So let’s work on making ourselves emotionally balanced and well-rounded so we don’t usher in another generation of “tough guys.” Let your son stomp in the mud and play with toy guns, but also hold him when he cries and ask him how he’s feeling so he can learn to express his emotions. Let your daughter dress up like a princess, hoping for a prince one day, but remind her that she’s smart and capable enough to rescue herself. Teach your son how to hunt and bait a fishing rod, but also how to be gentle and compassionate toward girls and animals. Teach your daughter how to persevere all on her own, but also show her the value in trusting a boy when he goes to reach for her hand one day, so that she reaches back… so we can heal the wounds of our past and give our children the best chance at a happy life, filled with love and family. According to the research, most Gen X’ers (and older millenials) are divorced and in some form of therapy, but as a (divorced) Christian woman myself, I still believe in God’s institution of marriage between man and woman, and I hold family life in the center of my heart and my dreams.

The real healing vax of 2021 wasn’t something that we absorbed, rather something we released. For the first time, we realized that there’s more to who we are than people who just “suck it up.” The little boys and girls of the 80’s and 90’s emerged as adults from decades of isolation and confusion, and realized they had unexplored feelings and things to say… say it through the next generation, and say it with love. Let’s give our kids all the things we “never had,” by first giving ourselves the love we deserve. 

”Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God.” -Micah 6:8

Written by: Michelle TK

✝️ Let the men of God arise with spirit-led toughness and courage… to lead the rise of love and family.