I want the truth… kind of

A few good menIn 1992 Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson gave incredible performances in the riveting movie, A Few Good Men. In their memorable exchange, Nicholson’s character Col. Nathan Jessup barked out a line so profound that it made it into the AFI’s list of the 100 best movie quotes:

Col. Jessep: You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to.

Col. Jessep: You want answers?

Kaffee: I want the truth!

Col. Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!


That word has metamorphosized quite a bit over the last two decades. The word is probably on the endangered species list, at least in the definition we once knew. Today’s young people aren’t very concerned about ‘truth’, they’re more interested in ‘what works’ for them.

I wonder what that scene in A Few Good Men would look like in today’s world, just 24 years later, with a Millennial interviewing a Boomer?

Col. Jessep: You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to them. Of course, I’m entitled to a lot. I should actually be General by now and you should be listening to me.

Col. Jessep: Well, you aren’t. So do you still want answers?

Kaffee: Not really. But you can share what you find to be true, whatever feels right for you at the moment.

Col. Jessep: This is going to be easier than I thought!

Okay, maybe it wouldn’t have gone down exactly like that, but my point remains. Today young people are defining their own truth. Truth isn’t an absolute, it’s whatever truth is to you!

It’s a convenient morality if you think about it. It allows for quite a lot. And it’s not pestered by that irritating notion of right and wrong. But is this really a surprise, in a world where almost every 3-year-old in American can sing every word to a song saying…

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!
Let it go, let it go…

(Oh snap! I just dissed on the world’s favorite movie! I’m sure to get complaints now!)

Don’t worry. I’m not turning fanatical on you. I’m not going to ask you to stop using a certain hairspray because the company supports a cause I don’t agree with. I simply want us to pause and think about what our kids are gleaning from this culture hook, line and sinker. We’re raising a generation who is learning to make decisions based on a moral code of “what’s right for me.”

I don’t know if you saw the brand new research from The Barna Group revealing three-quarters of Millennials (74%) agree with the statement, “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know,” compared to only 38% of the generation of Elders (the Millennials grandparents).

How’s that for a change in morality over generations?

Truth is no longer an absolute.

Truth is no longer something found in a book.


Please understand. This isn’t meant as a criticism of “kids these days.” It’s actually a criticism of us—the adults who have raised them like this. One way or another we have allowed our kids to adopt a very convenient morality: do what feels right in the moment. Go with your gut. No one can tell you what’s right for you.

How do you think young people would respond today if they had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus, and he told them:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” (John 14:6-7, NLT)


About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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