Archive for The Kids Aren’t All Right

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 6–Words Matter

Do you hear me
Do you care
Do you hear me
Do you care
My lips are moving and the sound’s coming out
The words are audible but I have my doubts
That you realize what has been said
You look at me as if you’re in a daze
It’s like the feeling at the end of the page
When you realize you don’t know what you just read. . .
Media overload bombarding you with action
It’s getting near impossible to cause distraction
Someone answer me before I pull out the plug
What are words for when no one listens anymore
What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talking at all
“Words” Missing Persons—1982

 

That song was released 35 years ago, before there were such things as the Internet or cell phones. Needless to say, things haven’t gotten any better.

In Part 5, we discussed the paradox of technology that to be totally connected in the 21st century is to be totally oblivious to the real world. Here’s another paradox. We have more ways to communicate instantly than we ever have before, yet we are losing the ability to communicate effectively day by day.

In 1984, George Orwell painted a picture of government control via the progressive destruction of the English language. By instituting Newspeak as the official language, vocabulary was systematically broken down to its most basic elements with each new edition of the dictionary becoming smaller and smaller.

Today, instead of 1984, we have The Emoji Movie, a cinematic abomination whose philosophy (if you can call it that) is summed up in one character’s quote, “Words aren’t cool.”

Consider the implications of this statement for a moment. Words are an expression of thoughts. The more profound the thought, the more words it takes to convey it. As a writer, I am keenly aware of this.

Sending emojis by text instead of speaking face to face, or heaven forbid, writing a letter, dilutes meaningful communication in a similar manner as Newspeak. Instead of connecting with another human’s mind through verbal communication, the goal now seems to be to get your point across (if you have one) with as little effort in as little space as possible.

Now I’m all for efficiency, in communication as well as other things, but this is going overboard. You don’t have to write a book when a sentence will do, but you do need to write a sentence when a sentence is needed. If a person can’t even write a coherent sentence, how would they expect to be taken seriously by anyone with intelligence?

There’s room here for a lengthy rant about spelling and grammar, but that’s not where I’m going with this (not today anyway). My concern is more about words themselves.

Because if words aren’t cool, then how much uncooler is The Word?

Think about that for a second. Two of the tenets of the Truth Mission Statement are that we strive to encourage people to discover the foundation of their beliefs and that we seek to train our youth in critical thinking and discipleship. Both of these require deep reflection and an ability to communicate. Erosion of language makes both endeavors impossible.

When I am around teenagers that suffer from depression, or even regular-sized doses of teenage angst, the common thread I hear from them is that they want to be heard. They feel that they are misunderstood and/or no one listens to them. Apparently, this is something that is common from generation to generation. What’s different today is that these kids who want to be heard aren’t able to express themselves in a meaningful way. And that’s assuming that anyone is even listening to them in the first place.

How do we overcome this and raise up a generation that not only knows how to think but how to express that thought proficiently? Don’t wait for the public school system to do its job. They have already done away with textbooks and given the kids tablets, laptops and YouTubes, so the kids can entertain themselves while the teacher plays solitaire or takes a nap.

The thing is, every time we put down our toys and pick up a book, we remember the pleasure that comes from reading, when our brain cells are roused and engaged. Some of us enjoy it more than others, of course, but it’s a very different feeling from the law-of-diminishing-dopamine that comes from being glued to a video screen.

And how much more refreshing is it when we read scripture? We were wired to respond to the Word, because as John explained at the beginning of his gospel, the Word is God. David wrote in Psalm 19:

 

The Law of the Lord is perfect, giving new strength to the soul. The Law He has made known is sure, making the child-like wise. The Laws of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The Word of the Lord is pure, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The Lord is always true and right in how He judges. The Word of the Lord is worth more than gold, even more than much fine gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey straight from the comb. And by them Your servant is told to be careful. In obeying them there is great reward. (Psalm 19: 7-11 NLV)

 

This is what it sounds like to be undistracted. A tall order in today’s society, but not impossible.

We have God’s Word, though, always available to us. It doesn’t change, and it’s written on a page, so that if we need to hear something again (and we all do), it’s right there for us. All the answers we need, even if we aren’t sure what the question is that we want to ask. This is the user’s manual for life.

But no one, kids or adults, can find answers if they won’t look for them. No one will ever know what the Word has for them if words aren’t cool.

 

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 5–Wake Up!

Let us then never fall into the sleep that stupefies the rest of the world: let us keep awake, with our wits about us. (1 Thessalonians 5:6 PHILLIPS)

 

Technology can be our friend.  It created the laptop on which I am writing this, the Internet on which I posted it, the social media whereupon I distributed it, and the device upon which you are reading it, among many other more beneficial things.

 

This same technology, however, can also be our enemy, as it robs our productive time, pushes our dopamine buttons relentlessly, decimates our attention spans and erodes our ability to relate to one another outside of cyberspace.  It seems that the more tech savvy we become, the less aware we are of the real world around us.

 

This phenomenon can affect any generation, of course, but kids today have never known a world without this technology.  Texting is as natural to them as breathing.  When new tech becomes available that might make the head of someone my age blow up, kids adapt to it instantly, as though they were part machine.

 

What concerns me is that with all this information at the touch of a button (or a voice command—who needs buttons anymore?), an entire generation may be losing its ability to think critically.  Anyone can retrieve copious amounts of information off the interwebs, but do they know what to do with it?  It’s bad enough when kids fall for the clickbait, but when the generation that’s supposed to be teaching them how to make sense of it all is caught up with the rest of the sheeple in the fake news maelstrom, then the kids don’t stand a chance.

 

The 21st-century paradox of technology is to be totally connected, yet totally oblivious.  This needs to stop.  It needs to stop because there is a real world out here with real people in it that have real needs that we were uniquely designed to meet.  God can’t draw our attention to these people and these needs if we’re busy taking selfies instead of looking for signs.

 

Yes, technology is fun.  There is a 99% chance that if you’re reading this, you found it by a link on social media.  And obviously I spend a fair amount of time on there as well, or I wouldn’t have known where and how to post this.

 

The main issue is where, and how intently, we are focusing our attention.  We can’t teach our children to be more aware of the world around them if we aren’t, because as every parent knows, kids will do what they see us doing before they’ll do what they hear us saying.

 

It all comes down to self-control, really.  Any intelligent adult is capable of prioritizing his or her activities and determining which of them should receive the most time devoted to them.  But be honest now.  Are you better at planning your work or working your plan?  To an unfocused person, even the planning process becomes busywork, until the planning becomes an end in itself.  I’m done planning my week, so . . . TIME FOR FACEBOOK!

 

Staying awake and alert over the long term requires having a driving purpose or mission.  Without something like that to focus on, your mind will drift, and your body will follow (since that is where your mind is located).  Before long, you’ll get to a place where you stop to look at your life and wonder, “What happened to me?  How did I end up here?”

 

And if you can’t figure out how your own life got off track, then how could you expect your kids, who have never had a chance to get their lives ON track, to have any kind of motivation to wake up, rise above the masses and make a difference in the world?

 

We have to be on our guard at all times against anything that would deter us from our main mission.  For our own sakes, and for the sakes of the kids who are watching us and trying to make sense of their own lives.  They’ll never even understand the concept of trying to find their calling if they don’t first observe what it looks like to seek after it.  And they’ll never be prepared to rise to the occasion if they are unaware that an occasion is even taking place right in front of them.

 

Therefore it falls to us be more intentional about being awake and aware.  We can’t guarantee that our children will employ self-control just because we model it, but it’s for certain that they won’t if we don’t.

 

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 4–Integrity

I am hurt and lonely.  Turn to me, and show me mercy.  Free me from my troubles.  Help me solve my problems.  Look at my trials and troubles.  Forgive me for all the sins I have done.  Look at all the enemies I have.  They hate me and want to hurt me.  Protect me!  Save me from them!  I come to you for protection, so don’t let me be disappointed.  You are good and do what is right.  I trust you to protect me.  (Psalm 25:16-21 ERV)

 

 

The words of King David ring true for many today, especially teenagers.  It is so easy to feel isolated and alone at that age.  In many cases, these kids actually ARE isolated and alone.  Sometimes it’s in their own heads, and sometimes it’s external, as a result of normal social inclusion/exclusion rites, or worse, as a product of bullying.

 

I notice this especially with girls.  Gossip and rumor-mongering are bad enough, but today’s technological advances have made hateful talk accelerate to light speed.  Couple that with this generation’s reliance upon/addiction to their mobile devices and it becomes nearly impossible to get a positive thought in edgewise between all of the notifications.

 

So what’s a parent to do?

 

I believe that it all starts with integrity.  Integrity and uprightness, or honesty, is all we have left when everything else is taken away.  This is true for adults as well as teens.  If we lose everything–our jobs, our loved ones, our material possessions–then what is left behind?

 

Only our character.  Who we are really behind all the masks, the social constructs, the rumors and the legends.

 

So who are we really?  If you lost everything except your life today, what would you have left to rebuild your life upon?

 

If you are a person of integrity, that is, you say what you mean, mean what you say, do what you say you are going to do and finish what you start, then you have all you need.  Because you are a person that others can trust and rely upon, then trusting people will do that.  If these are the kind of kids we want to have, then these are the kind of parents we need to be.

 

So our primary goal is to be the kind of parents whose children look to us as David looked to God in the above passage.  Obviously, we are not perfect like God, but we are created in His image, which means that we have aspects of His character woven into our DNA.

 

When my children are up against it, I want them to know that they can look to me for help.  I want them to know that I will forgive their mistakes and give them room to grow.  I want them to know that they have somewhere to turn when it seems like the world is crashing down on them.  I don’t ever want to let them down.  I want them to trust me to take care of them, even when they are older and don’t really need me to do that anymore.

 

But the only way I can be that kind of a father is to remember that I have a Father who does all of these things for me.  And so do my kids.  So it’s not really me I want them to trust, but God.  His integrity is flawless and will go on forever.  If I can point my kids to that, directly or through my own rudimentary example, then I will be giving them what they need to survive and overcome whatever comes their way.

 

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 3–Love is a Verb

 

This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you.  No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends.  (John 15:12-13 AMP)

 

Our kids’ generation is not immune from the error of past generations trying to pass love off as a feeling.  Love is an action word.  It is the act of sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others.

 

It seems the first thing to go when a child loses his or her innocence is the ability to love.  Not the ability to feel, but the impulse to give sacrificially without thinking about it.  I believe this is because kids in our culture are so habituated in getting that it never occurs to them to give.

 

Remember, a child’s “reality” is limited by his or her perception, just as an adult’s is.  But the less life experience you have, the narrower your perception.  Children don’t instinctively know the difference between perception and reality, so it isn’t ever going to occur to them to test their worldview.

 

Where this becomes problematic is if they think the world revolves around them, they will assume that to be true until they find out otherwise.

 

 

Another stumbling block for kids once they reach their adolescent years is their growing self-reliance.  Growing up is inevitable, and becoming more independent is generally a good thing as one gets older.  However, because kids don’t know what they don’t know, it is very easy for them to get in over their heads when trying to do something themselves.

 

Because they have not yet mastered their pride, it is also not in the nature of most adolescents to ask for help, even whenlife completely overwhelms them.  Sometimes, it seems they gravitate more toward the drama of being in a mess than actually solving their problem.

 

I think this is why it is frequently so difficult for older kids to show love.  1 John 4:19 reminds us that we love because God loved us first.  However, unless you know that, you can’t act on it.  To live out a life of love effectively, you must allow yourself to be controlled by the Spirit of love.

 

Now when was the last time you met a teenager who wanted to be controlled by anybody?  They are just reaching the stage of life when they can finally do things for themselves. Now we’re telling them NOT to think of themselves, but others?  No wonder they get confused, which of course, cranks up the drama even more, which throws them right back into the cycle of attention seeking about their confusion rather than helping them move forward with solutions.

 

Because God is love, if you are showing love, people see God through you.  The sooner we teach our kids how to look outside themselves, the easier it will be for us to help them shape their worldview into a view that actually has some WORLD in it.

 

 

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 2–Room to Grow

Grace has been defined as unmerited favor, or getting something that you don’t deserve.

 

One way that we can show grace to others is by simply giving them room to grow.  This holds true for anybody, but especially for kids, since growing is their primary function.

 

It can be difficult for us as adults and parents to remember that kids are a work in progress.  They aren’t where we are yet.  They lack the life experience to have accumulated the wisdom that we have, and their pre-frontal cortices have not yet fully developed, which renders them inadequate to know what to do with the wisdom that they have acquired.

 

For this reason, I have often surmised that youth is wasted on the young.  Why do they have all the energy with none of the wisdom?  It seems that by the time we figure out what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives, we’re too tired to do it!

 

Of course, we never really stop growing.  Our bodies do, but our minds shouldn’t.  There is always something new to learn, as long as we don’t shut ourselves off from new learning.

 

As a parent, I can testify that a lot of the learning I have done in recent years involves learning to BE a parent, which in a lot of ways, includes re-learning how to be a kid.

 

We forget, don’t we?  We forget what it’s like to learn one thing and then think we know everything.  We forget the days when we used to put paramount importance on what other people thought of us.  We forget that we didn’t realize that the world actually didn’t revolve around us until somebody told us so, and even then, we had to be told more than once.  For that matter, we forget that we had to be told pretty much everything more than once.

 

Most of all, we forget all too easily how much we depended upon the approval of our parents.

 

 

So teach your children gently.  Just because they may act as if they know it all, you can’t assume that they know anything you haven’t told them.  Or that you’ve told them only one time.  Or that you’ve told them multiple times if there was anything in the room with a video screen on it.

 

And please practice giving your kids room to grow.  They’re not going to get things right every time.  However, if you don’t encourage them by letting them know that your love isn’t conditional upon their performance, then they’ll just stop trying.  Mistakes are learning opportunities for them and teaching opportunities for you.

 

And when you teach, you also learn.

 

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 1–What We’re Up Against

Lord, save our children.

 

When did it become not OK for kids to be kids?  There is hardly a child now that by the age of 14 hasn’t either cut themselves, questioned their sexuality or rejected God.  Anyone that tries to lead them to Truth is labeled intolerant, hateful, an ignorant bigot, or worse.

 

We are even accused of trying to indoctrinate our own children, but only because our parenting gets in the way of the attempts at indoctrination by our accusers.  And they want to call US hypocrites!

 

How fortunate then, that God already has a plan for these people.  He will have the last word, as he told His prophet Isaiah:

 

  I stop the highbrow intellectuals in their tracks,
and I show the fault of their reasoning.
  But I stand behind the words of My servants,
and I accomplish what they predict.
  (Isaiah 44:25b-26a VOICE)

 

We must endure.  As righteous as our anger may be toward our antagonists, we must remember these things:

 

  1. In our anger, we must not sin.(Ephesians 4:26)
  2. Vengeance is the Lord’s not ours.  (Romans 12:19)
  3. We do have a real enemy, but it is not a human enemy (2 Thessalonians 3:15, 1 Peter 5:8)

 

Our job is to spread the Gospel.  We can’t praise the name of Jesus and sully it at the same time.  If we take our eyes off of Jesus and start worrying about what other people are doing, then we lose sight of our mission.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his book, Strength to Love:

 

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence, you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence, you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

 

Our job is to bring the light of Jesus to a darkened world that does not know it is in darkness.

 

We shouldn’t be surprised when we encounter opposition to the Truth.  This has been going on since day one.  Jesus was crucified, the apostles were persecuted and martyred, and on and on through the centuries.  There may soon come a day when preaching the word of God becomes illegal in this country, as it is in many communist and Muslim countries.

 

But here’s the thing.  Even if they put us in prison, God’s word can not be bound.  As Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy:

 

Remember always, as the centre of everything, Jesus Christ, a man of human ancestry, yet raised by God from the dead according to my Gospel.  For preaching this I am having to endure being chained in prison as if I were some sort of a criminal.  But they cannot chain the Word of God, and I can endure all these things for the sake of those whom God is calling, so that they too may receive the salvation of Jesus Christ, and its complement of glory after the world of time.  (2 Timothy 2: 8-10 PHILLIPS)

 

We are called to persevere under trial and not to give up.  Even if we get tired and weak, God won’t.  So if we trust Him to carry us when we can’t go on, He will be faithful to do it.

 

We must stand firm, not only for our children’s sake, but also for our own.  Will you join me in praying for our youth today to be Truthseekers and not herd followers?