Friday, May 23, 2008

Old folks & life experience

When we're young, immature, and inexperienced, we tend not to value those things that we don't think we need. One of those is life experience.

Back in my single days, I worked for a specialized employment agency. I would interview lots of college grads who, despite their lack of work experience, would grow almost angry that I couldn't place them with any of our client companies. "Our clients want us to provide them with experienced people," I would explain, only to have the interviewee argue with me about how work experience wasn't necessary.

One time I actually read out loud the job description for the position one young grad was applying for and asked, point by point, "Have you actually done this?"

"Well, no," was the answer, "but it shouldn't really matter. Here, let me show you my college transcript. I got excellent grades!"

"That's wonderful, and I'm sure you'll have no trouble finding work elsewhere, but our clients want someone who has actual experience and who already possesses these important skills. Otherwise, you won't be able to do this particular job. It's not a trainee position."

I had more than one college grad throw a bit of a tizzy fit at me for not letting them interview with the prospective employer. They thought I was being unreasonable. They were convinced that they knew more than I did! Their knowledge and their diploma, they told me again and again, was far more valuable than work experience --- why couldn't I see that?

A number of our clients specifically asked us that we not ever send them anyone "fresh out of school". The lack of experience, coupled with a youthful arrogance, made for poor employees --- or at least that's what I was told over and over.

Often, when we don't know much about a particular thing, we tend to think that thing is much simpler than it really is. We tend to think we know more about it than we do. That's where the expression, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing", comes from. Or, as an old friend of mine used to say, "I was too stupid to know how stupid I was."

There are some things you simply cannot learn from a book, or from observing others. It is always unwise to attempt to teach something we ourselves have never actually done.

Unfortunately, when we old folks try to explain this to young folks, the young 'uns often don't get it. They think they know more than they do. They have no experience, so they don't value the experience of others.

Many of us more experienced parents will often joke that we were "parenting experts" before we had children, but now we realize how little we know! My sister-in-law was once rebuked for her choice in strollers by a man who told her haughtily, "I am a parenting expert." When asked how many children he had raised, he had to confess that he didn't have any children --- but that didn't matter! He was an expert because he had written several books!

Lack of experience doesn't stop some people from giving advice. I've actually been given breastfeeding advice by bottle-feeders and homeschooling advice by public schoolers! While I've listened politely, I've often had to suppress the urge to giggle at how silly their advice was. They literally had no idea what they were talking about, but they were so sure of themselves.

And now, egged on by the internet and a culture that values youth over experience, we have children thinking that they can give marriage advice. Sigh...we have children thinking that we old folks are doing such a terrible job in following Jesus that the children need to step in and take over.

The only thing we can hope for these brash young things is that they become teachable very quickly. Some people only learn from painful experience. May these zealous youth be humble enough to learn from every day experience, lest God have to discipline them more severely.

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  1. Ummmm. . . I can't BELIEVE how confident I was (based on reading!) and let so much my mother and mother-in-law gently told me go in one ear and out the other. Oh, they must have had such patience and life-experience tolerance with the ninny that I was. Lemme tell ya, I listen intently to the advice my parents and in-laws give now!

    (And I know I'm not above being wrong, even still. . . *blush*)

  2. Tulip, I know just what you mean! I am amazed that my mother-in-law put up with me!

    I am so thankful that at least I did listen to her advice about older children. She is not one to give tons of advice, but she has the wonderful habit of wanting others to learn from her own mistakes, and she is humble and unselfish enough to share even those life experiences that don't make her look "good".

    May I be the same!

  3. As a young'un I simply must thank you for this post. The woeful lack of older ladies offering guidance and serving role models being seen out around is troubling, though something tells me this isn't for lack of older women ready & willing to fill this goal, but like you stated zeal versus humility. It seems all the "advice" and "wisdom" that can *easily* be found regarding parenting, marriage, homemaking, and life in general is coming from people who are just my age, which is crazy! Thankfully, if looks a little harder and flips a few stones, the gems of "gray haired wisdom" can also be found, but so frustrating to see the treasures that are older folks being neglected rather than cherished as they ought to. :o(

    I'm looking forward to poking around your blog a bit more, as time allows. Many of your articles look like splendid reads! Thank you for sharing your writing. :o)

  4. Hi Rebecca,
    I read your posts on the young girl's blog, the one who teaches that women working away from home are in sin, and I agree completely with what you told her.
    I believe all of you older women have done a very good job, and I'm not going to go usurping authorities that aren't mine (tee hee)

    When I was in my early twenties, I also fell for some extra-Biblical doctrines and thought I knew much better than some older women. Today, with 3 children and only 5.5 years of marriage under my belt, I'm turning around and telling those older women "you were right all along".

    I think that not all young people are necessarily wrong in wanting to do their own thing instead of what all the older people tell them to do. Some youths may not want to do anything the way their parents did, just because they saw them fail!

    Otherwise, I believe the Bible teaches that the younger should respect the older, not rebuke the older, and learn from them.

    I agree with you, they have to become teachable. I have to remind myself to be teachable and I'm twice as old as that young girl in question!

    Great post.