This article discusses teenagers and loneliness, the characteristics of adolescence, peer pressure and self-worth.

Source: Reformed Perspective, 1993. 4 pages.

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.

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