Religions Influence In the Lives of Teens
by Samuel Connelly 4/25/2009 / Teen Issues
The late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said,"If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." (Martin Luther King, Jr., speech, Detroit, Michigan, June 23, 1963.).
There is a lot of truth behind this statement.
Hop on your computer, open your browser, and type in the words; hopeless, lack of purpose, or, without personal belief, and you'll find a good many portions of articles that pop up dealing with the issues of depression and suicide. Why? Because those three words or phrases put together are the ingredients for that which gives birth to a lack of reason to keep on living.
As a former youth minister for five years, I spent most of my weeks with high school students and college aged youth who were struggling through the most influential, emotional, and purpose hungry times of their lives. Statistics show that the second largest groups of people who commit suicide are young people between the ages of 15 and 24, with an average of one suicide every 2 hours and 12 minutes, according to Suicide.org.
Am I saying that without religion teens will commit suicide? Certainly not; I am showing the extreme end of teens who suffer from depression. Why? Because there's ample evidence that young people who have no sense of purpose in life; no real reason to exist (other than breath, eat, and sleep) suffers life altering depression, which can lead to a future of bad choices, one being suicide, others being;the infliction of harm to themselves or others, substance abuse, alcoholism, bad relationships, and a cycle of divorce.
It is a case of action and reaction, or more specifically: action, cause, effect, reaction.
Something happens that negatively impacts a youth; lack of parent(s) interaction or involvement, abuse (sexually, mentally, or emotional), neglect. A lack of praise, love, or affection. It could be the child in the middle of an ugly divorce, or an outside crisis like a murder, robbery, abduction, horrible accident.
The negative actions (within or outside of their control- usually outside of) creates within them a feeling of personal self worthlessness. They see themselves as not valuable, or not as normal as others around them. Not worthy of love, friendship, or any kind of trusting relationship.
They do not see themselves as able or worthy to be winners. Many feel that they can only fail, not accomplish goals or measure up to everyone around them. They feel that they can not make those they look up to proud of them.They try, but believe that the can only fail, even when those they are trying to impress, do not tell them they have failed. Some ever believe that their loved one is lying, telling them that they are loved, but really being deceptive.
They believe what they feel, so, after some time they give up and decided not to try as hard to accomplish. They loose their drive to pursue personal dreams. They expect to get less out of life so they don't try to put much into life and the horrible result is that they feel that there's not enough reason for them to keep on going, they have no purpose to live.
Now look at the application of religion in a teens life.
Train up a Child in the way he should go,
and when he grows up he will not depart from it.
The purpose of most religions is to install spiritual beliefs into the life of a person. The very essence of religion is purpose. It is centered on creating faith in God and a cause. If a person truly believes in a cause, they will devote themselves wholly to it. This is action in motion. This is moving in a direction; believe in a reason to make better ones self.
Martin Luther King Jr. believed that a world of racial equality could be achieved, and it was a cause that he was willing to die for. Since he was willing to die for it, he devoted his life to it. He had a purpose for living and his past and all the bad things that happened to him could not change his life-course, because he had a personal cause to live and die for.
There are numerous examples of people who lived for a cause; lived by faith, because it was their religion, their purpose, their destiny.
Religion and faith requires a level of discipline, a personal drive for growth, and calls for continuous maturing. If a teen embraces religion at a young age it will stay with them through their old age. Religion is not a fad which is here today and gone tomorrow, so it will always be a constant in the life of the youth, even when hard times and troubles come. Religion is bigger than one person, so a teen understands that they don't have to worry about messing it up; they may fall, but the standard will not fall with them, they can get back up and strive to keep reaching for it.
In a time where many youth are struggling to be heard, seen, appreciated, and loved; in a world where crime is on the rise, divorce is normal, economic crisis looms, and wars and terrorism are every day table talk, hope can be a hard commodity to come by.
It is in these critical moments that we should spend extra time, and put extra care into the youth; and if religion can give hopeless teens a purpose for living, then it only makes since that we focus our energy, time, and investments into this hope-giving remedy.
I live in Wichita Ks. Have a few short stories, articles and several poems published. Finishing up two novels. I am a former youth minister and VJ for a Sky Angel Christian rock show. I'm a deli manager and certified coffee expert by day and write like crazy by night.