Parenting 2: The search for Identity

Posted by on Jun 2, 2016 in Blog: Doing sex God’s way

Parenting 2: The search for Identity

Rapid, confusing and often uncomfortable body changes and the emotional roller coaster of the developing brain can result in a young person struggling to understand who they are as a person.

Puberty is a time when the young person is no longer content with being the child – daughter – son. Rather it is a time for seeking and establishing an independent knowledge of ‘who I am’ – an independent Identity.

A young person may look at themselves in the mirror, and think ‘Who is this person?’ or even, ‘I don’t like this person. He/she is too fat – thin – fair – dark – wrinkled or whatever.’ Or when with friends, they may think ‘How can I be someone they will admire, love, or want to be like? How can I get them to think that I am cool/ attractive/ cute/ awesome or sweet?’

What is identity based on?

Identity, away from the family, is influenced by friends, peers and social media. The cultural norms of today tell young people they need to be true to themselves – not be influenced by parents, social norms and definitely not by the church. This is confusing.

Young people, therefore, seek to be like their friends and peers on some hypothetical standards set by the prevalent culture. They also seek to be liked in as many ways as possible in their cyber world.

Many young people consider that they ‘are’ who their Instagram picture, snapchat image or other social media profile of the day says they are. And will strive to portray themselves in these media to be in some way better than (hotter, cool, sportier, thigh gap, ripped abs, butt selfie or whatever) or have more (likes, downloads, designer clothes, places visited, food eaten) than others.

Others are convinced by their friends and other influences that surround them to experiment and explore their sexuality and believe that their identity is in their sexuality, gender and sexual behaviour (gay, lesbian, bi-, fluid, trans, queer, questioning, asexual, pangender, and so on).

Still others, feel that they need to bully and pull down their peers to feel good about themselves.

What is the problem with a world based identity?

Our young people are dissatisfied, stressed and unhappy[1]:

  • A quarter of young Australians say they are unhappy with their lives.
  • Almost one in seven (13.9%) 4-17 year-olds were assessed as having mental disorders.
  • Around one in ten – 12-17 year-olds (10.9%) reported having ever self-harmed.
  • About one in thirteen (7.5%) 12-17 year-olds had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months.
  • 42% of teenage girls & 19% of boys have serious concerns about body image
  • One third (34.3%) of 11-17 year-olds had been bullied in the previous 12 months.

The world’s standards for success and importance don’t result in peace and happiness, even though everyone pretends that they do.

Why is living by the worlds’ standards of identity so dissatisfying?

It is because there will always be someone who is more popular, thinner, prettier, more muscled, less hairy, and so on—someone who is better at anything the individual really wants to do or be.

There will be always be someone who is more popular with the pretty girls and hot guys; someone who is more confident than you; someone with more Facebook friends, more gadgets, whatever.

And so you will try harder and work more on being what you want to be or getting what you want – and end up sad and depressed.

Is there a better way?

Young people need to understand that the most important question isn’t who you are, but whose you are: who do you belong to—Jesus or the world? If our young people (and we ourselves) belong to Jesus, he’ll show us how to live in a way that’s good and healthy.

Talk to your children. Tell them:

God made you (Genesis 1, 2). And he sent his one and only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for you, and rise from the dead, so that you could have a special place with him in heaven forever (Ephesians 1:11–14). When we trust in Jesus, God gives us his Holy Spirit to live inside us, to teach us the truth from the Bible, and to guide us through all the ups and downs of life. He loves you that much.

As a part of God’s family, you’re a brother or sister to Jesus! You can call the creator of the universe ‘Dad’ (Galatians 4:6)! In Romans 8:15, the Apostle Paul tells us: ‘The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you receive brought about your adoption to son-ship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’’.

You don’t have to follow some crazy lifestyle to be popular and liked. You have the ultimate ‘like’ from the creator of the universe: God. You are not what your mirror says – or your friends say – or Instagram says – Or even your sexual orientation says. You have an identity given by God – you are who God say’s you are.

This doesn’t mean we can ignore everyone else around us, and be rude to them and say ‘I don’t care what you think about me. Jesus loves me, so you can get lost’. Being a child of God doesn’t mean we ignore our earthly relationships. We’re still a child of our parents; a brother or sister; a student, friend, and so on.

The challenge for us now is to live all these other relationships the way Jesus wants us to live. If you’re God’s child, then Jesus is your brother. So admire him, and try to copy how he lived when he was here on earth. Read the Bible. See how he behaved, and how he treated others. Listen to his instructions, and what he taught his disciples, and then go and live the same way.

It puts you in a good position to help other young people—Christian or not—who are struggling with their identity, being bullied or sad and depressed. You could listen to them and let them share their struggles and fears with you. Then encourage them to get some help from a reliable adult, a school counsellor or a church leader you trust.

That’s going to be inconvenient. It’ll take time and energy. It may not be easy or fun.

But think about it—that’s what Jesus did, isn’t it? He has the perfect self-identity: he’s the Son of God! But he came down to earth so that we could be forgiven and made new again. He pointed us to the ultimate counsellor: God himself!