The Loneliness Factor
Craig Ellison says, "Among all the problems facing teenagers, loneliness is one of the most important." A professor of psychology at Simpson College, he conducted research among fifteen to nineteen year olds. In his estimation, there are two critical causes of loneliness among teenagers:
Teens feel a lack of belonging or fitting in.
Teens feel that no one cares enough to understand them.
I agree with Ellison that teens are particularly susceptible to feeling isolated from God, parents, peers, and especially from themselves. A lack of belonging in any of these key relationships or the sense of being misunderstood can produce destructive loneliness.
Nobody and No Body
At the same time that teenagers are feeling that nobody cares or that no one really understands, they are also taking a critical look at their bodies and, more often than not, are depressed by what they see.
Elizabeth Hurlock in her book Developmental Psychology notes that very few adolescents experience satisfaction with themselves physically. She adds, "This failure to be satisfied with who you are physically is one of the causes of unfavourable self-concepts and lack of self-esteem during the adolescent years."
It seems to be a phenomenon of adolescence that
no matter how intelligent a teen is, he often feels very dumb
no matter how attractive, she often feels ugly
no matter how many people are concerned about them, they often feel unloved
What can we as a Christian School do; After all, Almost all of us are Adolescents?
1. Give Each a Sense of Belonging.
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.1 Peter 2:10
Once you were less than nothing; now you are God's own. Once you knew very little of God's kindness, now your lives have been changed by it. Living Bible - L.B.
Fitting into most of the social groups which make up a teenager's world almost always depends upon performance, looks, economic standing, or conformity.
Oh, how I hate that last word. Why is it that you and I all have this strong need/desire to conform, and conform to standards and norms that often are not biblically based.
Why is it that parents and students have tearfully related to me as a counsellor —
We have school friends and Sunday/church friends
We have school friends and neighbourhood/mall friends
Why is it that we are so preoccupied with whom we are seen?
Why is it that in our locker room/washroom discussions we have classified fellow students, also members of God's community, as geeks, nerds, and then avoid being seen with them? Let me assure you, these classmates are hurt, deeply wounded every time they experience this, and what really frustrates and confuses them is that although they are not "given the time of day" at school, on Sunday, when perhaps the in-group is not around, they are all of sudden approachable, acceptable. But the moment life at school begins again, frustration starts all over.
When I take into consideration that we are all people of the Word, I become confused.
Are we not all a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (school), a people (student body) belonging to God?
And then Scripture continues, ...that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.
Think about these inspired words. I'll come back to them.
2. We Should all Resist the Urge to Recount our Former Successes and Present-Day Accomplishments.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.Ephesians 4:29
Speak only what is helpful for building others up according to the needs.L.B.
Zig Ziglar reminds us that when we rehearse our accomplishments from the past, "time dramatically improves [our] performance. It is not uncommon for teens to become so discouraged with trying to live up to the exaggerated stories and embellished achievements of their peers."
We do not need to shout, brag about, or discuss with our friends our great accomplishments in life. Allow your friends and classmates to discover your credits on their own. Do not preach your past, and if you do, do not be surprised by their resentment. It is better that you discreetly share your blunders than your boasts.
Ephesians 4:29 reminds us to speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. Often adolescents feel that by "knocking their peer" they will appear in a better light. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Those who speak only what is helpful for building others up are the true builders of the Christian community, and it is they who are truly admired, loved and respected.
3. This Morning I would like to Caution you that No one can Steal your Self-Worth without your Permission.
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10
It is God himself who has made us what we are, and given us new lives from Christ Jesus.
Neither you, nor your parents are responsible for how others mistreat you, but you are accountable for how you react to slander, unjust criticism, and a vindictive spirit.
I had a student with a history of low self-esteem. He was aware of his susceptibility to depression triggered by anyone who criticized his efforts. We talked often about how his true self-worth was derived not from his performance, not from the opinions of others, but from the fact that God had made him who he was. He had to stop allowing people or circumstances to steal his self-esteem.
Throughout my years at school I have counselled students with low self-esteem, so low that they talked about suicide. Quite often these were intelligent, attractive and loved young men and women, and yet they were depressed. Often those around them are not aware of their inner struggles, and they in turn are unprepared to share, to allow others to reach out.
Why is it that we think so little of ourselves. Listen carefully to these well chosen words written long ago, at a time when people also struggled with these matters.
Augustine once observed, "People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars — and they pass by themselves without wondering." Take a backseat, step outside of yourself, take a moment to quickly meditate on God's goodness. You and I are a wonder of His creation.
Yes, God created you and me, carefully and lovingly. He loves you today as much as the day you were born. You are of great worth to Him.
4. It's Never too Late to Focus on your Teenager's Inner Qualities.
Instead, it should be that of your inner self the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.1 Peter 3:4
Be beautiful inside, in your hearts, with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is so precious to God.L.B.
One of the greatest lessons you and I can learn is the meaning behind the verse, "The Lord does not see as man sees. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
High school students are constantly preoccupied about their appearance. Phone calls at night or in the early hours of the morning are made before wardrobe decisions are finalized.
What you look like, what you wear, that's what the group decides and the people you associate with; those that you are seen with in public; you have to live up to the group's O.K.
I challenge you this morning to have a mind of your own. I should rephrase that: have the mind of Christ. It's His O.K. that is of utmost importance.
It would be a good idea, when we are with others, if we could focus on things which really last. Perhaps if we took every opportunity to compliment others on their character, integrity, and the fruit of the Spirit as it is evidenced in their lives (see Galatians 5:22, 23), we might see them better handle their daily struggle with self-esteem.
5. Help One Another Experience Satisfaction and Find Balance with their Physical Appearance.
You were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.1 Corinthians 6:20
As Christians we need not have a low self-esteem. We are of value to God, physically and spiritually. We have received that great gift — the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. He helps us place our lives in perspective. He will help us prioritize the really important things in life.
After the Grade 12 overnight hike, many completed an assignment comparing their outing to Psalm 104 ... that well-known Hymn to the Creator. All of us need to be reminded that you and I are also part of that creation.
Verse 28 mentions that "when you (God) open your hand, they are satisfied with good things." Let us praise our open-handed Lord, whose providence and grace satisfied us with good things.
We have only to gather, for God gives.
This does not only refer to our daily bread, our physical needs, but also to our inner struggles and our spiritual needs. We only have to receive that which Jesus freely gives.
We spend time perfecting our jump-shot and/or badminton smash.
We spend time organizing our birthday parties.
We spend time, and a great deal of money, finalizing our appearance.
In addition let us spend time frequently reflecting on our place at school, in the church community, and on God's great design for our lives.
Commit yourself to be a student of His Word. Allow His voice to bounce off the pages of Scripture to equip you to meet the daily challenge of life.
During your daily personal devotions, allow Him to be the truly great comforter and tour guide through life.