A Guidebook For Teenage Relational Living
Our Toxic Culture and the Lies Teenagers are being Fed
Many of you feel like you have been abandoned and fragmented off. You live in a drastically different world than the one your parents grew up in. There are a lot more pressures on you.
You are growing up in a society dominated with toxic philosophies that will do you damage:
- What’s in it for me? = Individualism
- If it feels good, do it! = Hedonism
- I’m going to do just enough to get by. = Minimalism
- There are no “truths”. = Relativism
- Whoever dies with the most toys wins = Materialism
None of these will bring you a life that “satisfies”.
The Myth’s of Modern Media
Coupled with the above short lived philosophies, the media (TV, magazines, ad’s, radio, etc.) continually pumps bad messages into your head. The media wants to tell you what it means to be a man or a woman. What they are really trying to do is turn you into a good little “consumer” so corporations can make money off of you.
The media’s myths of modern manhood are that in order to be a man you must have:
- Athletic Ability: If you are not a superior athlete you are not manly.
- Sexual conquest over women: If you are not a “player” you are not manly.
- Economic Success: If you are not “rich” you are not manly
The media’s myths of modern womanhood are that in order to be a woman you must have:
- A Prince Charming: If you are good enough you will be rescued by a prince charming, if not, you must have some fatal flaw.
- A Perfect Body: Your value as a woman is totally dependent on your physical appearance (as judged by the media’s standards).
- A Painted Face and a Painted Soul: You must mask your true identity so that others will accept you. It’s all about what others think of you.
These are all lies! So how should masculinity and femininity be defined? They should be defined based on the quality of your “relationships. What kind of friend are you? What kind of son or daughter are you? What kind of husband or wife will you be? Real men and real women have great relationships with others.
Isolated and Alone: If you could get past your veil of fear, you would discover that you feel isolated and lonely. You feel like you are on your own against the world. You don’t know who to trust. You feel like society has left you on your own to figure out how to grow into an adult. Do you ever feel this way, like you were born into isolation? A lot of teenagers feel like they are longer welcomed into the community.
Many teenagers are not the recipients of unconditional love. They have to prove their worth in order to be accepted and they learn that this only happens through their performance and their image. If you can “perform” (scholastically, athletically, and socially) and you have a good “image” (good looks, good clothes, money), then you are cool and you will be accepted. If not, you will be fragmented and isolated as an outcast.
Abandoned: A recent survey concluded that today’s parents spend 40% less time with their kids than parents did 30 years ago. The pressures of our society have consumed the parents time and our kids feel like they have been abandoned. Latchkey kids (a child who returns from school to an empty home because his or her parent or parents are away at work, or a child who is often left at home with little or no parental supervision) are now the rule not the exception.
Life’s Pace: Parents and adults are so busy just trying to survive in our modern “rat race” that they don’t see what a terrible toll that it’s taking on the lives of their kids. True, our hard economic times have put a lot of pressure on parents to provide for their families, but at what cost? Many parents operating at this “break neck” pace are either too fearful, too exhausted, or too dependent on it to be able to step back and see the real effect that it is having on their kids.
Denial: Many adults and parents, when confronted with the reality that we have isolated and abandoned our kids, are simply not willing to commit to doing what it takes to correct the problem. It’s too messy, it’s too hard, and it requires too much effort on their part. They choose to look the other way. They say, “Let someone else deal with it, it’s not my job”.
What is the solution? The solution is for the adults in our community to communicate clearly to to you that we love you unconditionally, that we will be there and stand by you no matter what happens, and if you want, we can help you achieve a transformed existence to live the life you dream of.
Guilt and Shame : Our “Dark Shadow”
We all carry with us a “shadow” character.
Blasé Pascal (1623-1662), a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and philosopher, wrote the following regarding our shadow character:
“Man desires to be great and sees that he is little; he desires to be happy and sees that he is miserable; he desires to be perfect and sees that he is full of imperfections; he desires to be the object of love and esteem of men, and sees that his faults merit only their aversion and contempt.”
We are so embarrassed by the truth of our own shortcomings that it produces in us the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable. These unjust and criminal passions manifest themselves as pride, greed, vanity, lust, apathy, envy, wrath, anger, rage, and violence. We lash out with lying tongues, hurt innocent people, devise wicked plots, run to trouble, become deceitful witnesses, and sow discord wherever we go. We carry with us these shadows and they can dominate our everyday decisions.
A shadow not reckoned with usually creates guilt or shame. Guilt is, “I made a mistake.”, shame is, “ I am a mistake”. Most teenagers today have troublesome shadow characters.
Defending against exposure of our shadows
Unless you feel it is safe to lower your guard and admit your transgressions, you will be very defensive of your guilt or shame.
Most teenagers are so embarrassed of their shadow that they:
- Act like hypocrites: The word “hypocrite” derives from the Greek word for acting or pretending. They act, they pretend, and nothing is more self-draining. It takes a lot of spiritual energy to keep that “mask” on all the time.
- Throw stones: They are so embarrassed by their own faults, rather than deal with their own faults; they choose to re-direct their attention towards others.
- Create Diversions: They create and engage in “diversions” to take their mind off of their shadow, things that keep them busy, or numb, or both. Video games, texting, sexting, porn, TV, drugs, alcohol, sex, to name of few popular teenage diversions.
- Engage in Self-destructive behavior: Self-destructive behavior is often a form of self-punishment in response to facing the ugliness of a teenagers shadow. They start to take to heart their own negative self-talk and or negative affirmations by others and punish themselves in response.
- Harden their hearts: A hardened heart not only poisons their spirit, it literally changes their ability to hear. Messages that are good for them, come across as bad. A message of salvation might come across to them as one of damnation. A message of salvation that is meant to encourage and heal a teenagers soul, simply reminds them of their guilt and shame and how hopeless their struggle has been. Rather than being helpful and making them feel good, the message of salvation makes them very uncomfortable and it even hurts. They take it personally, lash out, get angry, insolent, and vehemently reject the message that could save them.
What can we do to help others soften their hearts and reconcile their shadows to their souls?
- Share our own brokenness with them. (I have problems just like you)
- Show them empathy and tell them you forgive them.
- Share the anonymous brokenness of a group. (We all have problems just like you)
- Listen to them, be quiet, let them tell you their story.
- Tell them a heart wrenching story or parable that challenges their perceptions about redemption.
- Let them know that you can help them reconcile their shadow and transform their existence to something better.
- Be physically present for them. (you don’t have to say or do anything, just be there)
- Demonstrate unconditional love to them (not transactional love)
- If they are religious and have a spiritual redeemer, encourage them to seek redemption there.
TEENAGER FOUNDATIONAL ELEMENTS
The secret to living a good life is living a life where “virtue” is the guiding and motivating force in your life.
What is a virtue-driven life?
By living a virtue-driven life, you change your spirit at the deepest place; and in the strongest way possible. Become virtue-filled in your thoughts, and you can’t help but saturate your actions with virtue. Living virtue isn’t just volunteering in the community or going to church on Sunday. True virtue lies in every day actions. True virtue is a verb. Anyone can speak words – few can live them. Living a life of virtue and character isn’t in the saying, it’s in the doing.
How do I know if I’m truly living and modeling positive virtue and character?
Here is a specific checklist of questions for you and other teenagers willing to take the challenge to live a good life with virtue.
1. Honesty: Saying and living the truth.
- Am I straightforward and honest when I talk to others, giving information that is truthful, to the best of my knowledge?
- Am I straightforward and honest in my actions to others, or do I joke around all the time and hide my true intentions?
- Do I avoid “little white lies” that “bend” the truth in order to change the “drama” of the situation or to make myself look good?
- Am I the same person with everyone, in all situations, or do I change my behavior, words, attitude, and actions in different situations and with different people to work in my favor?
- Am I always truthful?
2. Courage: Standing strong in the face of adversity, uncertainty, and risk.
- Do I “cave in” or “blow in the wind” when the going gets tough by changing my story, changing my position, or changing my direction? Am I wishy washy?
- When my heart says “yes” but the outside circumstances aren’t “100 percent sure,” do I hesitate to the point of not giving it my best?
- Do I “do the right thing” even when I know the result might be unpopular with my friends?
- Do I stand by my convictions, or do I waffle and wave, in order to make things easier on myself?
- Would others call me courageous?
3. Responsibility: Taking care of what needs to be done and doing it well.
- Do I follow through every task to the very end, or do I pass it off to others or blame others for my lack of follow through?
- Do I admit my mistakes, whether big or small, and take responsibility for my choices?
- When I do something wrong to someone, do I humbly try to make it right?
- Do I set reasonable and attainable goals and follow through on those goals by creating a step-by-step plan of action?
4. Perseverance: Sticking with a task and continuing positively even when the outlook is bleak.
- Do I keep going – with a positive attitude – through hard times?
- Do I keep working on improving my relationships with family, friends, and others, not giving up, even when it’s hard?
- Do I have an attitude of forgiveness towards others who’ve wronged me?
- Do I brainstorm positive options when everyone else is being negative?
5. Compassion: Thinking and acting with love and care towards others, even when wronged.
- Am I kind and gentle to those around me?
- Do I think of others’ feelings first, or do I simply look out for myself?
- Do I always look for the good in others?
- Do I show mercy towards others, not harboring revenge or hatred that eventually burns out my soul and inner peace?
- Do I try to find situations where I can give physical, emotional, or mental relief to someone who needs help?
6. Self-discipline: Saying no to what doesn’t help and saying yes to what will help, even it it’s hard to do.
- Do I turn my back and walk away from things I know aren’t good or healthy for me?
- Do I actively pursue things I know to be good and healthy?
- Am I making daily choices that improve my relationship with the people in my life?
- Do I have the strength to mentally and physically say “no” when I emotionally or physically want to say “yes”?
- Do I keep my eyes, thoughts, and actions on what I know to be the best long term choices for my life, as opposed to giving in to a vice that I know I’ll later regret?
7. Faith: Believing in and acting on the sovereignty and care of a Creator who plays an active role in my life.
- Have I taken time to investigate the spiritual area of my life, or am I ignoring a “still, small voice” that whispers to me in my head?
- Am I willing to soul-search the deepest parts of my life?
- Do I take time to self contemplate and or pray each day and seek clarity in my life?
- Am I comfortable writing the “story of my life”?
TEENAGER ACTION ITEMS
- Learn the names of all your neighbors (including adults, children, and other teenagers). Ask one of your parents to introduce you to neighbors you don’t know.
- Post the “Virtue of the week calendar” in your room, on your refrigerator, or in your locker at school.
- Get involved with a variety of experiences and activities in music, theater, art, and athletics, at school and in your community.
- Participate in at least one club or group,—or find a hobby that appeals to you, like painting or fishing..
- Get to know an adult you admire. Ask them if they will serve as your mentor.
- Replace put-downs with affirmations.
- Write a note to or call one of the mentors in your life. Thank her or him for making a difference in your life.
- Think of your best friends. Do they build you up or drag you down? How do they help you live virtuously? How do you help them do the same?
- Go out of your way to greet your neighbors.
- Limit the amount of television you watch, video games you play, time spent on face book or texting. Be deliberate in working to reduce your time spent with technology instead of people.
- Volunteer at a local nursing home, community center, or animal hospital.
- Read just for fun.
- Practice different ways of saying no when people try to get you to do things that you don’t really want to do.
- Talk about the “Virtue of the Week” with your family. Which virtues do family members think are the strongest in your family?
- If you have a part-time job during the school year, limit your work schedule to allow time for schoolwork, doing things with family and friends, and other activities.
- Identify something each person in your life is good at and learn from them. If your sister is great at geography, turn to her when you’re reading a map or needing help with a geography assignment. If your dad is a whiz at math, seek him out for making a savings plan or for assistance with a math problem.
- Discuss with young people in your neighborhood what’s good about where you live. Also discuss ways you could help improve the neighborhood.
- Even if your family provides a warm, caring, supportive place to grow, also seek support through adults in your school, community organizations, or faith community. The more positive adult relationships you have, the better.
- Examine the activities you are in outside of school. Are you feeling challenged? Do you enjoy the activities? Do you feel you have enough time to do the activities, complete your homework, and also have time for yourself, family, and friends? If not, consider making some changes.
- Seek out more adult mentors and healthy role models.
- Become involved in a social issue that interests you, such as poverty, civil rights, endangered species, hunger, child abuse and neglect, the environment, or discrimination.
- Build a relationship with a child through babysitting, playing catch with a neighbor, or volunteering as a coach or coaching assistant.
- Let your friends know that you are available when they need someone to talk to. If they need it, help them get additional assistance from a counselor, social worker, parent, or other adult.
- Seek out people and information to help make your future dreams and plans come true.
- Remember that younger kids see you as a role model. Take time to say hi and talk to them when you see them, especially at school.
- 26. When you see someone being a bully, try to stop the bullying if you can do so peacefully. If necessary, take the problem to an adult.
TEENAGER CORE BELIEFS
- I will value the journey more than the destination.
- I will value the spiritual more than the physical.
- I will develop “Character and “Work Ethic”.
- I will put the “Others” ahead of self.
- I will strive for Academic Excellence. This will be a priority and will not be undermined.
- I will develop “Mental Toughness”.
- I will all put forth a “Great Effort”.
- I will work hard to be the best version of myself that I can be.
- I will communicate with others openly and honestly. I will not talk behind other people’s backs.
- I will serve others. If I come to serve and I will never be disappointed.
- I will always put my virtue first and my personal success second.
- I will enjoy life.
- I will have empathy for others.
- I will encourage others regardless if there is something in it for me.
- I will not tolerate foul language.
- I will not tolerate “mediocrity” in my life.
- I will set my goals high. I will talk about them frequently.
- I will work “one step at a time” to achieve my goals.
- I will focus on the “next day” when I make a mistake.
- I will be humble. People don’t care how much I know, until they know how much I care.
- I will “Dream” of great things.
- I will not use alcohol, drugs, or tobacco.
- I will challenge the strong and save the weak from discouragement.
- I will not tolerate “negativism” from others.
- I will work to embellish the belief that both victory and defeat are imposters. That I live somewhere in between. When I am successful…I will be humble. When I am not….I will have hope for tomorrow.
- I understand that attendance is important in all walks of life. I will strive for perfect attendance in everything I participate in.
As a teenager, I should expect:
- Encouragement from adults.
- Individualized quantity time from the adults in my life.
- Excellent role modeling, grooming, dress, behavior, and ethics from the adults in my life.
- Guidance with personal problems or direction to appropriate school or community guidance resources from adults.
- Nutritional Food.
- Safe Refuge. (A place I can go and be safe).
- Discipline and structure.
- To be able to play and have fun.
- To respect and be respected by adults.
- To be able to learn to work with others.
- To be able to learn to overcome weakness in myself.
- To actively participate in social events.
- To be able to support a superior.
- To be able to master a body of knowledge.
- To receive help from adults.
- To learn how to overcome adversity.
- To learn how to be aggressive and then learn how to control it.
- To learn how to dispose of an inferior and still be virtuous.
- To accomplish something difficult.
- To learn to console others.
- Some freedom and autonomy in my life.
- To learn to control and dominate another and still maintain humility.
- To learn to impress others and not let it go to my head.
- To learn to accept blame.
WHAT IS VIRTUE?
Virtue is universal good. Virtue is an admirable quality. Virtue is whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is worthy of praise. Virtues can govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct. The practice of virtue leads to self-mastery, and the joy of leading a morally good life. Virtue can be grown through education, deliberate acts, perseverance in struggle, and following the examples of other virtuous people.
To refrain from sexuality that is contrary to ones morals.
Intense emotionalism towards an interest or pursuit.
Advice, opinion, or instruction to a friend needing help.
Using ones talents as a means of earning ones livelihood.
To be genuine, honest, not falsified or duplicated.
Favorably disposed and inclined to be kind and helpful to others.
Kindly, amiable, mild mannered and respectable.
Honesty, fairness, or integrity in ones beliefs, to hold in high respect.
The ability to perceive the comic or absurd quality of life. Good temperament.
Training of ones self, usually for improvement.
Willingness to comply with or submit to authority.
Conformity to the rules of right and virtuous conduct.
Control or restraint of oneself or ones actions or feelings.
To surrender personal freedom and subject yourself to the will of another.
The quality of being free from vanity. Not boastful. Humble.
Fair and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions or practice differ from your own.
The actual state of affairs, honest, accurate, verity, platitude.
The readiness and ability to initiate action.
Good or benevolent nature, considerate, helpful, humane, gentle, loving.
Acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles from study.
The ability to go before others and show them the way. Guide. Direct.
The state of being faithful to commitments, obligations, causes, and people.
Esteem or deference to a right of another, to honor, be courteous to.
Answerable or accountable for one’s own actions.
Proper esteem or regard for the dignity of one’s character.
Devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country.
To undergo a penalty, pain, or loss in defending a principle, ideal, goal, or movement.
True to one word, promise, allegiance, or affection. To be loyal and constant.
To yield to the possession or power of another person, influence, or course.
Being tough, not giving up, coming back time and time again.
To grasp the significance, importance, or meaning of.
Keeping a dignified composed manner even under stress.
Being wise and judicious in planning practical and future affairs.
What is right, righteous, guided by truth, reason, and fairness.
Mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty and adversity.
Moderation or self-restraint in action.
Belief, confidence or trust in a person or thing, not based on proof.
To look forward, to believe, desire, and trust that events will work out as desired.
Affectionate concern for the well-being of others.
The ability to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear.
Vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, emotions, or attitudes of others.
Readiness or liberality in giving to those in need.
Having a modest estimate of ones own importance. Not proud.
Adherence to moral principles. Congruence in thought, spoken word, and deed.
Benevolent feeling toward those in need, generous actions.
The ability to suppress restlessness when delayed. Waiting without complaint.
Feeling or expressing gratitude or appreciation.
Surrender or destruction of something prized for the sake of something of higher value.
The ability to discern what is true of right, judicious and learned.
An act of helpful activity or aid.
Great delight or happiness caused by something good.
The act of restraining ones self, avoiding extremes. Temperance.