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How often have we heard these words or spoken them? Especially with older kids and teenagers, we use this phrase to console ourselves when we don’t know how to respond to their new behaviors.
But what if it’s not a phase? How do we know? What if this little misbehavior is the beginning of an addiction? This is not meant to scare you, but to heighten your sensitivity to the signs of the pain that our children/young adults are unable to express in words. I can speak specifically and personally about the wound of eating disorders and how I wished someone had recognized my struggle. However, the varieties of disorders and addictions that plague our culture (regardless of our age, faith, and upbringing) have a very similar root.
What are all young people searching for in our culture? They are looking for belonging and identity. In the backlash of the “you can be whatever you want” spirit of the preceding generation, wishing to be free from all labels or generalizations, this current generation feels lost. We are now living in a “create-yourself” culture where, at a very early age, children are taught to create an identity for themselves and define their worth by their successes and achievements.
This can be overwhelming in a world with so many options and choices along with the expectation that those choices must lead to success. In an attempt to control the changing world around them, many turn to self-destructive behaviors to cope. For those of us that are in contact with these young people as catechists and ministers, it is not enough to tell them what is right and just, we must also meet them where they are in their sufferings and woundedness, as Christ does for each one of us.
When it is tempting to ignore the fidgeting troublemaker in the back row or tune out the noise of the latest middle school gossip, these might be helpful reminders to address the pain that our young people are carrying and don’t necessarily have the tools to process properly. We are faced now with the effects of decades of poor emotional and social development, and if anyone should be a part of it Christ should!
In the next few posts I hope to present my own experience of healing, as well as some tools to help you and those you serve to begin to see identity in the Heart of Christ rather than in “success” or “image,” which leads undoubtedly to disappointment, discouragement, depression, and despair.