What with me being a teenager, everything on this site has been written from the perspective of a teenager (apart from one guest post), but I haven’t actually written very much that’s aimed specifically at teenagers. Now, having just been helped out in a church plant that several people my age were involved in, I feel that it is time for me to address this and write a post that’s for all you teenagers out there, whether you know me or not.
Though we may not always feel that this is the case, we British teens live very privileged lives. We’re not expected to work until we’re sixteen (and even then, many of us don’t work at all) and we have access to all sorts of luxuries in a country largely free from violence and tyranny. Our lives are worlds away from those of teenagers in countries such as Syria. As far as I can tell, our situation gives us two options: ignore what’s going on outside of our little bubbles of individualism, or use the freedom that we have to make something of our selves.
You can probably tell which option I prefer from the language I used to describe both of them, and I can immediately anticipate a counter-argument: ‘People don’t listen to us’. It’s a valid argument…to a point. Our society has constructed the idea of the ‘teenager’ in such a way that we are seen neither as dependent children, nor as independent adults. I know some of us complain that we’re expected to act with the maturity of adults, yet adults still treat us like children. For many of us, it can be hard to feel like there’s anything we can do to make a difference.
I’m going to come straight out and say that you can make a difference. No matter what adults or other teenagers have said to you, you have the ability to change things in your community. Yes, some adults expect teenagers to lounge around and do nothing useful and will be surprised if we actually start to act, but there’s no reason to let those perceptions hold us back. And I want to stress that a lot of adults (more than you might think) actually don’t think we’re a hopeless generation, and know that we have such great potential. Maybe it’s because of that second attitude that your parents are hounding you all the time, not the first. This ‘us and them’ mentality – teenagers vs. the world – doesn’t help anyone, least of all ourselves. If you think that people look down on you, then be proactive to change that image.
You might wonder what you can actually do. Let’s face it, sometimes the paid jobs we do are boring and seem pointless. They seem like dead ends…or something temporary that we’re just doing to earn a bit of cash so that we can afford a night out. It doesn’t feel like we’re making a difference. And it’s easy to feel worthless if you don’t have a job. I’m going to say this once: wherever you are, whatever you do, there is always a way to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, it could be as simple as making an effort to engage in conversations with adults around you; have conversations with customers in the shop you work or say hi to people on the street…even a smile can make an impression. Not many strangers smile at each other anymore.
You might be asking what the point is. You might think that people don’t want to talk. You might think that these little things don’t make a difference, so why bother? I know that some people will never agree with what I’m saying here, if so, that’s your decision. But for those that do want to do something, then a smile and a chat are great places to start. No one is going to mock you for being friendly. If you want to be treated with respect, then humble yourself and show other people some respect first. Don’t assume that you have a divine right to be treated well. I hear people my age complaining about their parents all the time…but do you actually make an effort for them? The world doesn’t revolve around you and you don’t have to be at war with people. If your parents tell you to do something, then it’s highly likely that they have a reason for it. A bit of humility on our part can go a long way in our relationships with our family. Consider this, even if your parents, or the adults around you are unreasonable, then you can make a difference by not rising to it. Stay humble and demonstrate the humility and respect that they lack. You won’t gain anything by fighting them.
As I draw to a close, I just want to write something aimed specifically at Christian teens. So far, everything’s been pretty general because I wanted to make this accessible to all teens, but now I do just want to say a bit that’s more specific…
The Holy Spirit is in you just as much as he is in any adult. If you have been saved by Christ, then the Spirit of God lives in you. That means that the fruits and gifts of the Spirit are yours to desire and pray for; you can pray to God just as well as someone twice, or three times your age. God can speak to you and use you just as much as he can use someone who’s been a Christian for 40 years. Don’t believe me? Then have a look at these examples:
- Samuel heard the audible voice of God when he was just a boy serving in the temple.
- We all know the story of David, who slew Goliath when he was a boy.
- Esther was a young woman when she saved the Jews in Persia.
- Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were all young men when they stood for God in Babylon.
- God said that Jeremiah’s youth was not an excuse.
Here are a couple of verses for you as well:
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. – Jeremiah 1:6-7
Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers
in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12
Youth is no barrier to God’s power. If you keep God at the centre of your life, there is nothing to hold you back.
There’s a lot more that can be said on this, and I just want to recommend a fantastic book that really inspired me: Do Hard Things (Alex & Brett Harris, 9781601421128). In summary, we have the freedom to make a difference, so don’t let anyone (including yourself) tell you otherwise. Make an effort to be friendly, and show humility and respect to those whom you want to respect you, because respect is not our divine right. And if you’re a Christian, never forget that God doesn’t care about youth, he cares about having people who are willing to say ‘Your will be done’.