In 2015 I conducted an online anonymous teen survey that spread nationwide. I created the survey after learning how social media had negatively contributed to my own daughter’s sense of worth and belief that if she was struggling so many other teenagers must be too. I was right. This data collected is the backbone of my new book.
The original survey went to both girls and boys, but after talking to my publisher about the heart-breaking and eye-opening information filling my inbox we decided to hone in on just the girls. But it absolutely does not mean teen boys are not also struggling. They are… maybe even more unnoticed.
Everything I wrote in Face Time is everything boys need to hear too. I know that from the survey results, and more personally because I have two teenage boys. Therefore, I felt like I needed to write this post to say that while Face Time is for girls it does not mean boys are immune to struggles with identity and worth. In fact, the content of Part I of Face Time is as applicable to a teen boy, as a teen girl or an adult man or woman. This is because no matter who we are, our hearts are the same!
By God’s design we long for approval, acceptance and love. But we were made to know and feel our worth perfectly in his absolute approval, irrevocable acceptance and loyal love. But we think his approval, acceptance and love is not enough. So instead of resting secure in who Jesus is for us, we try to secure our worth by gaining the approval, acceptance, attention and love of others.
We do this by looking to our appearance, performance, achievements and status as the qualifier for how well, or how poorly we fair. For a teen boy it may play out like this…
- He feels inadequate not playing on the “A” team or varsity so he tries to prove his worth and gain the acceptance of others by bragging about how good he really is. The may be coupled with how unfair tryouts were and by talking smack about the guy in the position he covets. By tearing the other guy down he seeks to elevate himself so others accept him; think more highly of him.
- He is insecure about some aspect of his appearance, so he overcompensates by acting as the class clown. But by drawing attention to himself and receiving laughs what he seeks is to know his worth. To know he’s okay despite his perceived flaws.
- He is excluded from a social gathering, and retreats into himself, secretly feeling like a nobody. He may blame the others (and there is no doubt kids can be mean), but his own idol is looking to the approval or inclusion of others as the basis of his worth.
- He gives into peer pressure -starts drinking, smoking pot, having sex – in an effort to look/be cool or to fit in. Appearing cool, or rebellious, gains him the approval, friends and popularity he craves, which is where he looks to find his identity and worth.
- He asks for nude pictures from a girl and then shares them in the locker room. Because of the so-called respect he gets from the guys, he too feels cool. At the girl’s expense, his own status and felt worth is increased. On the flip-side her reason for sharing the pictures also stem from a longing for approval and love, which is unpacked further in Face Time.
As parents we can’t take everything at face value. We have to get to the heart (the root) of why they do what they do, and see it for what it is – the idol that’s ruling them. Whatever it is they (or we) turn to for identity and worth, to fill us, to give us security apart from God is an idol. Uncovering these idols and seeing them as sin is hard, but necessary and good.
Until our kids (and again, us) see how deeply entrenched our sin is – that it’s not just bad external behavior, but our inner desires, motives and idolatry – we miss seeing how deep our need of Jesus’ worth and work for us really is. Therefore, our view of Jesus rises and falls on how much (or little) we need him.
I don’t know about you, but more than my sons’ happiness and success, I want them to become men who know they need Jesus, live under his smile and desire to please him not out of duty, but delight. To get there, my job must be to help them peel back the layers of why they do what they do to see what rules them. And then point them to Jesus.
It is his perfect performance – not theirs – that their true identity must be rooted in. When it is: They won’t have to try to assert, defend or prove themselves, work to impress others or try harder to measure up. They won’t have to live threatened by others’ accomplishments or less than in comparison. And while they will experience disappointment, hurt feelings and rejection (just as teen girls do) my prayer is it won’t define them or rock their core because they will know their secure identity and worth in Christ.
For us as parents, being rooted in Christ means we can live free of tying our worth to our kids successes and/or failures and worrying what other people think. We can live loved – fully accepted, knowing we have the absolute approval of the King. And when we do, may his love and acceptance of us drive us to be compassionate toward others in their sin. For our kids too, let’s encourage them to reach out to love (not ostracize and judge) those seeking an identity in all the wrong places. Because when we know our own sinful heart tendencies and God’s goodness to us despite it, we should be people of grace and mercy who speak to the hope and security found only in Christ.
If you woud like to further unpack the content of this blog for yourself and to help speak into your kids's hearts, Face Time may be the book for you (even if you don't have a teen daughter). To preorder click: here.