Remember when you were in the 7th grade. Remember how you longed to be accepted by your peers. Remember how acceptance was what drove you to making decisions about life.
Our teens are looking for acceptance. They are looking for those around them to welcome them into their group by agreeing with their decisions, and rewarding their actions whether these decisions are right or wrong. Wherever a person finds acceptance is where they will feel at home. They feel welcomed. Everybody wants to be loved.
Teens especially want to be loved. They will look for it from you or somebody else. They are testing your love by seeing if you are going to be there when they fail, or make mistakes in their decisions. They are not sure if you are truly accepting them for who they are, or if you just have to because you are their parent, teacher or mentor.
Accepting them for who they are does not mean you agree with every decision they make. We live in a very different culture, where people of all ages feel like if you do not agree with them, you must be the enemy. They are offended by division, and if you do not want to be apart of what they stand for then you can go. This mindset has changed the way we understand how to be accepted. At one time, people could be more bold to kindly rebuke another, but now rebuke equals hate, and acceptance means you must agree with a person or you must not like them.
The devil has done a fabulous job of getting people to believe this lie. This lie ruins relationships. It creates insecurities, misconceptions and divisions among people. We must teach our children what true acceptance is. It’s something only God understands at its perfection through Jesus Christ our savior. He accepted all who came to him.
In John chapter 4 Jesus gives us a great example of how to accept someone, but at the same time come to the realization of the error of their ways. I have to admit this is one I struggle with in my own life. I tend to love people so much that I bluntly tell people what they are doing wrong in fear of their consequences. This response comes out as judgmental and harsh, instead of loving and gentle.
Jesus does this so perfectly with questions. In John chapter 4, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman who has had many struggles in her life. He focuses on getting her to think for herself because he knows her inner struggle. He questions her thinking in a way that gives her hope and he is gentle with his words, but direct to show his acceptance of her.
We can learn from This example. The next time your teenager is not making wise choices try this approach. Question them about their plans. Listen to their responses and gently guide them to think logically about their plan. Then encourage them like Jesus did to go for it! Give them choices, and encourage them to share their struggle and ability to overcome. Remind them that their strength in decision comes from God when they feel confident that they can overcome. Then support them, praise them and love them.
I Corinthians 13:4-7 explains what God’s Love looks like.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
He accepts us even though we sin. He knows his creation and he believes in us. We know that. We need to assure our children of this same love. So do a self check with these verses. Read the verses again, but this time, put your name in place of love. Then go and sin no more.