Nick Hall: Advice to Class of 2021 – how to be yourself, disagree graciously and create community
Power Players of the Week: Class of 2021
‘Fox News Sunday’ Power Players of the Week highlights graduation speeches dedicated to the class of 2021.
This year’s graduating class is unlike any other. They have endured tremendous loss, turmoil and change and have proven their resilience. They have shown themselves to be leaders who are neither afraid to speak up for what they believe in nor to extend their hands to others.
I remember what it was like to graduate from high school and college, the joys and fears of the unknown. Little did I know how my life would change.
As an evangelist, I spend much of my time ministering to and with millennials and members of Generation Z. They have taught me much, and in return, I would like to share with them three lessons I have learned over the years:
We need to bring our true selves to the table.
I have been alive for 39 years and I am still learning who I am, learning not to strive to please people and learning to lean into God’s nearness. Just in the last year, I have discovered more deeply that God loves me for me.
This past year has been the hardest but best of my life. That may sound strange, but God has been so near to me and my family in this season of brokenness.
I picked up the simple hobby of woodworking, and through that, I have experienced the pleasure of God in the simple things and have learned how he delights in me. It does not matter if I am on a stage or working in my garage – I am loved for who I am. And I have experienced God’s joy like never before.
Class of 2021, please hear me: People pleasing kills us and eventually, it kills the friendships and relationships we work so hard to keep.
The more we heal and become comfortable being our true selves, the more our so-called “friends” will push back because they never actually knew us. They only knew the version of us that we let them see, the version that worked to keep them happy. Although some of our friends may walk away, God will not, even if we cannot sense his presence.
He loves us the way he made us. We no longer have to hide from him or from anyone else.
We can disagree, but with grace.
I am consistently surprised by how much time and energy we give to fruitless arguments over secondary issues, whether on social media, on the street or in church.
Jesus did not always tell people what they wanted to hear, yet he treated even his enemies with dignity.
While respectful, honest dialogue is necessary and productive, attacking other people’s feelings, ideas, appearance or behavior is not.
Millennials and Generation Z have become renowned for their strong stances on issues spanning a wide range of social, economic and religious topics. Your commitment to what you believe in is admirable – we could all take a note on dedication and perseverance from you.
But as we stand up for our values, we need to remember that all of us struggle with something, even if we are not willing to admit it to ourselves. The only perfect person who ever walked this earth was Jesus. And his model for us was to speak and to walk in truth and grace.
Jesus did not always tell people what they wanted to hear, yet he treated even his enemies with dignity. Moreover, he willingly entered into conversations and relationships with a variety of people: tax collectors, Pharisees, Samaritans, women, children, men, fishermen, Zealots, criminals, the sick and those who suffered from demonic influence, to name a few.
While not everyone accepted his invitation to abundant life, people’s lives were changed by his presence, by his willingness to meet them in their circumstances.
I think transformation happens when we are willing to level with people, to be vulnerable with them, to lay aside our pride. It is OK for us to have differing opinions and convictions, but when we disagree with others, let us do so with grace.
We can create community in unexpected places.
We are living in what I call a drought of people being heard. All over the world, people are desperate for someone to hear them – and not just hear, but listen – and affirm that they matter.
I am convinced that the greatest ministry we can have today begins with simply choosing to slow down to prioritize the people around us. Perhaps more than ever before, I believe in the power of listening.
In the United States today, we have what some experts call a “loneliness epidemic,” which COVID-19 exacerbated. A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post encouraged readers to engage in intergenerational friendships with members of their communities, workplaces or families. As the article explains, younger generations – millennials and Generation Z – are even lonelier than older generations.
We are having national conversations about equity, diversity, inclusion and reconciliation, so we would do well to step out of our comfort zones and build community with those who may not be of our generation, look like us, speak like us or believe like us.
So, let’s listen to those around us. Making the time and creating the space to listen is so much more than knowing what to say or do next.
Class of 2021, though many would say the future looks bleak, I would say yours is exceptionally bright. You are part of a movement of healing and redemption that will shape this nation and this world.
Focus on what you can do. Not the results, what could go wrong, what others are doing, what the critics may say. If you focus on being faithful to your calling, God will take care of the rest.
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