Our Youth Are In Serious Trouble: What Can We Do?"
edited: Monday, February 19, 2007
By Mel Menker
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Become a Fan
Our youth are in a great struggle to find meaning and purpose in life. The following details their struggle and what our generation can do to help them.
As a pastoral counselor, I am deeply alarmed at the general mental, emotional and spiritual health of our youth today. I want to be very clear that I don’t see the situation as anything that they have done wrong but more as that they have been left to drift alone on the sea of life. They have been given no training on how to deal with the storms of life that come their way. I compare their life to being in a flat-bottom canoe designed for smooth and placid waters. As long as they paddle through calm waters they are basically fine but when the wind changes and the once smooth waters begin to turn choppy with touches of whitecaps, they realize they’ve received no training for that which they now face. They were not trained in the variety of paddling strokes necessary for a wide variety of conditions; they were not trained to deal with waves and the dangers of a flat-bottomed canoe. They have been left without the skills necessary to survive. What can we do?
Selfishness has been a human trait since the creation of the Garden in Eden. Though people were created to reflect the unconditional love of God through relationships with others, Adam and Eve chose to act in selfishness, desiring to receive that which was forbidden them to experience. The freedom of choice prevailed and sin based in selfishness left all those who to follow to face the struggle with the same iniquity.
Over the course of centuries we have seen selfishness rear its head in ugly ways as some people have sought power, prestige and control over others. We have even seen the cost of selfishness in the loss of millions human lives throughout history. Yet, there has always been a constant of compassion and caring that has tended to offset that blatant selfishness and people have been cared for and ministered to and given hope – until now.
Our generation has been the generation for whom the compassion and caring has dissolved as a part of our human fabric. We have been bombarded with the concept of personal selfishness through a variety of media means. We have been told, “Have it your way”. We have heard “Love the one you’re with” which is a selfish notion that it’s okay to use another for self pleasure if they are equally selfish through agreement. We have been taught that we are a generation given to entitlement – that the world owes us something, if not everything. Our music, our advertising, our movies, our magazine articles and our television programming – all are filled with a strong undercurrent of “It’s all about me.” We are the “me” generation and, in our selfish concern for self-gratification, we have forgotten our children and, without necessarily doing it intentionally, have abandoned them. We have left them on the lake in a canoe made only for smooth water and no training for rough water. They are now in waves that are spilling over the sides of the canoe and they don’t know what to do.
The result of our selfishness is a generation filled with pain and subsequent problems and no one is really listening. The youth of today are wonderful young people, but people in need of direction. They need someone to unselfishly invest in their lives to help them learn to overcome the rough waters in their lives.
First, our youth have no real concept of that which is right and/or wrong. They need parents who are willing to make an investment in them. Parents have forgotten their children in the search for their own selfish interests. Instead of establishing boundaries and consequences to teach their children “real” life, they have given them unlimited freedoms that have only served to create a mindset in our youth that they have little or no value with their parents. Their parents don’t seem to care about what where youth go, what they do, who they are with or when they come home. Without investing in the discipline and training of our children, the very persons God designed to establish and affirm their worth regularly erode their self-esteem. Training up children is a command of God and requires we place emphasis on them instead of our own vested self-interests. Our youth need our investment of time and quality instruction.
Second, our youth have no goals, dreams or vision. In passage in Proverbs (29:18) we are told that “Where there is no vision the people perish.” The original language tells us that when people don’t have goals, visions or dreams they revert to the same way of living as they had before. This means that they will settle for less than what they can become and will live only for the moment instead of making plans for the future because they cannot see the future.
It is a tragedy to hear a young child express a dream of what they want to become when they reach adulthood only to see that vision evaporate by the time they graduate. In our personal “busyness” we have neglected to invest time end energy to help them discover what they can become, a plan to do it, and instruction as to how to overcome obstacles. A child without help cannot discover these things on his/her own. We are responsible to commit to the process, which means again that we must invest time and knowledge in their lives.
Third, our youth have no answers to life and are desperately seeking wise counsel. In our selfishness we have given them no answers under the pretext that we don’t want to influence their decisions. Though we express that as a “truth,” in reality we simply don’t want to invest the time and energy to teach them. I have heard this hundreds of times from parents regarding their desire to not inflict their personal beliefs on their children, much less others. While religious preference is indeed personal, how can a young person make a decision unless someone disseminates information to him or her? It’s not an issue of “political correctness” but one of compassion and caring. Young people look to parents for help and the notion of selfishness we have embraced has caused us to unintentionally look the other way at a time when our youth need us most.
Fourth, our youth are in need of appropriate models and parents are the ultimate models to whom children look. I am deeply saddened at the number of parents who will subject their children to their own behaviors which includes inappropriate alcohol and/or drug use, pornography, infidelity, abuse that can be sexual, physical and verbal in nature, racism, gender bias, disrespect, gossip, unbridled anger, foul language and the consequences of their own unresolved issues. We are all guilty of wanting to do and be what we desire without real consideration for others, including our children.
Our generation embraced the notion that the opinions of others don’t matter. While there is relative truth to that thought when it comes to issues of self-worth, we have carried the understanding to an extreme that says the only thing that matters is that we can do and say whatever we desire. Because our way of living is so interwoven with the concept of self, the model we provide for our children is one they reject. They have turned to celebrities closer in age whose behavior is surprisingly a reflection of our own generation though we may fail to see it. What our youth want from us are models that rise above the mores of the day and convey strength, confidence and vision.
Finally, our youth are in desperate need of our affirmation of their worth. In a previous article, “The Importance of Appropriate Touch”, I spoke in detail of the vital need of parental affirmation for our children. Without this appropriate affirmation which includes meaningful touch, the self-esteem needing to be established in our children cannot happen. According to the Biblical narrative, there is no more important source of self-esteem for our children than that given by the natural parents. To give worth away requires selflessness on our part.
Everything we do must be done with the future of our children in mind. It’s not too late to give them the right canoe for rough waters and teach them the positions and strokes of the paddles to overcome obstacles. It’s not too late to give them the time and investment of ourselves that they need. It’s not too late too teach them right and wrong, to enable them to create a vision and attain it, to give them the answers to life that we know, to provide models of strength, confidence and vision, and to appropriately affirm their worth. If we give ourselves away to our youth in these ways we impart a hope in the midst of their pain and uncertainty – a hope that is both present and future and able to be held through the challenges that lie ahead.
(c)2007 Mel Menker
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, stored is a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any meaqns without the prior written permission of the author,