Confessions of an Earnest Young Person

I am a recovering EYP.

I may no longer be one, by virtue of no longer being young, but I remember what it was like to be an Earnest Young Person.

It’s a good thing that modern social media didn’t exist when I was an EYP.

I’d have been insufferable.

Common EYP Sightings

You’ve seen the earnest people who take to Twitter and other social media to express their outrage over something. One common trope is along the line:

All (men, car owners, meat eaters, or whatever) are the cause of (pollution, deforestation, gum chewing in schools, etc.).

When the words come from a young person, there is a special umbrage that seems to flow principally from the young person recently discovering an issue and even more recently starting to express themselves about it. (Of course this phenomenon is not exclusively found in the young, just more common in the inexperienced than the experienced.)

EYP expressions tend to fall far short of the mark of facilitating dialog. As Christian Orton put it:

And in reply, Olivia Faix built on an idea I’d expressed earlier:

Eventually some of these people expressing themselves so earnestly in their indictments of whole swaths of people will look back with regret. It’s not that they will regret caring about their causes, or at least they shouldn’t if the cause is just. But they will regret their manner of discourse as being unproductive and perhaps even hurtful.

How do I know?

I used to be one of them, and I have those regrets.

The EYP In The Mirror

I was the EYP who stated my position so earnestly that it allowed for no debate, no discussion, no deliberation. Anyone who dared try to open a dialog that did not implicitly agree with me was met with my insistence that the person was ignorant, wrong, and clueless.

So now I see it happening around me on social media, an arena populated principally by people a lot younger than I am.

And I find myself failing to follow this advice:

It’s because I am not all that removed from being an EYP. I see a comment that I think is inane, such as those “All ____ are responsible for ______” tweets, and I want to jump in to correct the faulty logic, the mistaken premise, and the overall fatuousness of those statements.

What I’m discovering is that if I respond in that way, I’m really an EYP myself but without the excuse of being young. Believe me, I can recall with burning shame some of the times I did this when I was younger. So you’d think I would be more understanding of those who are engaging in it now.

I’d like to be, that’s for sure, because unless younger people take steps to express themselves now they won’t learn how to do it better as they get older. In fact, all of us – young and old – are still learning to do it better.

It’s like learning to walk. Parents let their babies take stumbling steps, and eventually the stumbling stops. Some of those babies will grow up to be track stars, they move their feet so well. Others of us are pleased just to be able to walk from one place to the next.

When it comes to speaking out on issues, we also start with stumbling steps. Some people eventually become track stars in their ability to do so, while others of us are more pedestrian in how we express ourselves. But the goal for all of us is to move past the stumbling stage.

In Recovery

As I said initially, I am a recovering EYP (with “recovering” being the operative word). So when it comes to using words, I hope to avoid this:

Many words mark the speech of a fool.(Ecclesiastes 5:3.)

Instead I’d rather adopt this:

He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people. (Acts 20:2.)

The area I travel includes the internet – blogs, Twitter, Facebook – so if I am to speak I want to speak “words of encouragement to the people”.

It doesn’t always happen, and when it doesn’t you should feel free to tell me I’m being an EYP.

But in all our internet travels let’s remember that the best words are “many words of encouragement’ to all the people we meet.


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28 Responses to Confessions of an Earnest Young Person

  1. Good advice to be an encourager. for people of all generations to be at “home on the range” of Internet writing where often there is heard a “discouraging word”. I often reflect that in person or one the phone people are more cordial than they are on the Internet.

    • Tim says:

      That is so true, Carol. The internet is not good for dialog, but dialog is much better for being able to see the person we are interacting with.

  2. janehinrichs says:

    Great post. Good advice given humbly. And I too am thankful there was no social media when I was younger. Thank you Jesus!

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Jane. I had a hard enough time with regular social; this electronic media stuff would have been a catastrophe for me. (And sometimes still is!)

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for this post, Tim — I have some cringeworthy memories of youthful certainties of my own. I’m glad God can work with, around, in spite of those mistakes.

    A while back our book club discussed Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward. In it he discusses the 2 halves of life: in the first, youthful half we create our “scaffolding,” a strong, firm sense of how the world works, our do’s/don’ts … but then at some point we find that the scaffold we’ve created doesn’t work for some life crisis or dark night of the soul, and we (ideally) enter a more accepting, loving phase in which we no longer need to prove ourselves or show how right we are, but instead can be there for others, helping and receiving them without judgment. Now, someone might say “Come on, not everyone’s life works this way!” (which I suppose would be an EYP reaction? 🙂 ) but I think his overall point is good and fits really well with your post. I believe, based on what I see, Tim, that you are a good example of that second-half-of-life person: lots of wisdom but using it to build others up, and even when you disagree doing it without rancour.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Jeannie. I see myself still falling into that “need to prove ourselves or show how right we are” mindset, but as I said, I’m in recovery and those times are fewer and farther between than they used to be.

    • Adriana says:

      Another great book recommendation, Jeannie. Sometimes I think about dropping The Well Educated Mind list and instead just reading whatever you tell me to read. Maybe you could write a book called The Well-Seasoned Soul, complete with all your book summaries and opinions. Seriously — I just added this to my TBR list! 🙂

  4. Christian. says:

    I think the fan vs. follower of Jesus argument is applicable to these platforms/causes, too. It seems that many EYPs are just wanting numbers and allegiance for their respective platform/cause rather than fostering true understanding of why they think something is an issue or problem and encouraging the hearts of others to be inclined to help rehabilitate, heal, love, etc. I think it’s natural in our society to think the more we reach, the more things will change, but those in advertising can tell you that’s not the case – not if “reach” involves just information. You’ve got to reach the heart. And that’s really hard to do via social media.

  5. Laura Droege says:

    Several thoughts went through my head as I read this earlier. In no particular order:
    I’ve met some EYPs but also some EOPs (the older folks who unfortunately blame younger people for all that’s wrong with the world) and quite a few EMAPs (the middle-aged people who unfortunately blame both younger AND older people for all that’s wrong with the world) and quite possibly I’ve been an EYP, am an EMAP, and will be an EOP in the future! Um, basically it’s a lot of people blaming other people for what’s wrong, and forgetting that we really need to look in the spiritual mirror, see how far short of Christ-like-ness we fall, and realize that the world changes when we surrender to Christ, fall on his grace, and allow him to change us.

    Also, I’m reading Deborah Tannen’s book The Argument Culture: Moving from debate to dialogue. She argues that our culture emphasizes debate, which promotes division and polarization, and everything–including other people–becomes the basis for harsh critique, unwarranted criticism, and false dichotomies. (Those who agree with us are right, with those who disagree automatically becoming the enemy/opponent, and everyone digs in their heels, unwilling to concede any points.) It’s an interesting read. I think she’d agree with you that the militant stance of many EYPs (and their kin, the EOPs and EMAPs) is often counterproductive. (Sorry if this seems a little off-topic. My thoughts chase bunny trails all too often.)

    • Tim says:

      That’s not at all off topic, Laura. I think I’m in the transition from EMAP to EOP at present, so I have that going for me. thanks for the précis of Tannen’s book, too. Those sound like just the types of things I am getting at in this post. And as you said, it is not limited to the young.

  6. What advice would you give to someone who has a very earnest, rather innocent friend who, in all her earnestness, seems to fall under the sway of some highly dubious characters (i.e. fanatical rather than just earnest) though said friend never sees beyond the dubious characters’ perceived ‘sincerity’. I have pretended to agree with her in the past because I recognise why, to her manner of thinking, she thinks how she thinks, but I think I do her disservice by not being honest about my thoughts and beliefs. Also, I should point out, this lady is vulnerable – 74 years old, never married and lived all her life in the house she was born in. She has a beautiful faith and I don’t want to tarnish that, nor her guilelessness, but how does one offer loving honesty? Very difficult. Any thoughts would be appreciated 🙂

    • Tim says:

      I’d consider going Socratic with her, asking questions or raising issues to facilitate starting dialog.

      “That’s an interesting way to put that. Have you ever considered …?”

      “Whenever I hear someone focus on that passage, I often think of the context in which it was written. Did you know Paul was …?”

  7. michellevl says:

    “He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people.” (Acts 20:2.)
    Boy howdy, do you ever!

  8. Aimee Byrd says:

    Good words. But now I strangely have Michael Jackson’s “PYT” stuck in my head.

  9. Jess says:

    Hey there! I really appreciate your writing and this article! I think I understand. I’m not sure though. So, as a young person eager to better understand the many layers of this society and as a young person becoming more and more aware of my own ignorance, an ignorance that has honestly not been confronted in my places of worship and fellowship, but that is now being confronted as I engage via social media with various people and hear their stories and perspectives… I guess I don’t qualify as the type of EYP you describe? I’m eager to understand, and I feel anger, and want to express that anger, but I don’t take to social media to make angry generalizations, but to ask questions, listen, and try to make connections. I think I agree that any type of generalization like all __ people cause __ problem are not helpful. But here is my question / a gut reaction I had when reading this: I’ve recently learned something I am going to attempt to articulate and may fail to express well. But. Here goes. So people in power in this society (white people) have come to define “civility” and what constitutes as “civil discourse,” right? In other words, is “civil discourse” a social construct, and are social constructs typically constructed by the groups of people that have the most power? If this is the case, aren’t POC to express themselves however they want, and the people typically in the position of defining how to express oneself “respectfully” are to listen, hear their story, and validate our common humanity just by listening and not by labeling that expression as “rude.” Would you agree or am I not understanding how to dialogue about issues of race? Because on the other hand, I feel like there are some across the board principals that communicate respect to/between all people. (Not making generalizations about a group of people that one might fall into). Yet how can larger… “structural/systemic” issues be called out if the group of power is not called out? I used to feel like swearing and cussing and calling out larger groups of people/generalizing about race or sex for example was hateful, rude, etc. But now I am questioning that assumption when I attempt to look at it from a different… “framework” (?) As I attempt to understand how power and privilege intersects with concepts of “civil discourse.” Not sure if this make sense. Still processing. Thanks for reading/listening!

    • Tim says:

      Great questions, Jess. I think generalizations rarely work, if at all. As far as how people can best interact on systemic problems, the only dynamic that achieves true change are the ones Jesus advised – treat others as you would like to be treated, bless those who oppose you, serve others.

      Doing these things turns the definitions of those who are in power on their head. It’s been that way for 2000 years, and continues to rock the halls of power to this day.

  10. Olivia Grigg says:

    HI Tim,
    I really appreciate this post. Being a young person who is wrestling through ideas and perspectives, its encouraging to know that I will likely have some stumbles along the way. I always appreciate hearing what people have gone through before me and I want to remain open and willing to listen. It can sometimes feel that adults in my life are just rolling their eyes at what I am passionate about- which can be a reason that would make me not want to listen. But actually, I need adults to guide me and give feedback through encouragement. Thanks for posting!

  11. Michelle says:

    So, would this be a part of that golden age of stupidity I was talking about a few days back? 😉
    Seriously, I have become increasingly dismayed by the number of older folks that just don’t seem to grow out their EYP phase. They are PEP (Perpetual Earnest People) that sees everything in either/or categories. The political process and any form of political discussion seems to degenerate into this sort of cesspool of false choices. Unfortunately, theological discussion seems to follow suit all to often. I think social media has made us a bit lazy and unwilling to practice our critical thinking skills…

  12. Ahab says:

    I was such a person myself years ago. It’s a relief to have (mostly) matured past that stage.

  13. Gwen says:

    I’m an EOP. I love millenials. I don’t agree with everything. I admire thier passion, and pray for necessary learning curves, that we must all go through. It’s just part of life. I still get too cranked sometimes, but the older I get, the more treasures I see, in all generations, and realize, we can’t dismiss someone completely, because of the EYP stage they may be in. Quite honestly, any age can commit the same error in misplaced ways of convicting. If there is anything I’ve learned on Twitter, I could commit that error any second.

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