Most of my recent conversations with friends have involved some form of complaining about this world in which our children are coming of age, and the cultural climate and circumstances that are so different from when we grew up, graduated, and entered the workforce.

Sometimes we have been hopeful, even irrationally so, that things would return to “normal.” Other times we have stumbled down the dark path of dystopian predictions.

As the march of lockdowns, mask mandates, riots, and economic disruption has continued, I have started to realize that, like it or not, our kids are being handed an opportunity for greatness. Although I would not have chosen this environment, nothing forges character and leadership like suffering and uncertainty.

The world has changed, and I need to face this fact.

When Vice Admiral James Stockdale was interviewed about how he survived isolation and more than twenty incidents of torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for eight years, he stated:

You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you cannot afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.


Stockdale described those who didn’t survive as “optimists”—the dreamers who kept telling themselves they would be home by Christmas. And then Easter. These optimists, Stockdale said, “died of a broken heart.”*

While the current climate is not even close to the brutal conditions of being a prisoner of war, this warning hits home. It’s crucial not to sugarcoat the challenges the coming years will hold. Equally important is having the faith to believe our kids can meet these tests and prevail.

I am encouraged by my children who have weighed the benefits of activities—taking piano lessons, participating in debate, worshipping in church, and gathering with friends—against the constant new set of rules that governed these experiences and adjusted to keep living their lives. My son considered it a small thing to wear a mask and get tested for COVID-19 to do his job, when I was still internally throwing a tantrum.

There will be bigger battles my children have to fight as they enter adulthood. They are teaching me they are equipped to decide wisely.

Not since the Greatest Generation has a generation come of age with a greater number of problems to solve and so many opportunities to lead. But the energy, faith, and confidence of my kids and their friends are helping me see a few bright spots on the horizon.


*Jim Collins: The Stockdale Paradox

Photo credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels