For the Love of Teens

30 Apr

Yet another young man has committed a violent act in the United States; this time upon himself, in my hometown, where my nephew goes to school.  This time, instead of turning a gun on the students who tormented him, he turned the violence upon himself, but the effect of that act reached deep into my heart.

It’s only been a few months since I wrote a blog about Sandy Hook and Columbine and some of the other events that involved teenage boys committing violence on themselves and others.  That post was a heartfelt call to action to people around the country to look past the actions of these individuals to get to the heart of the issue, not cover it up with 2nd amendment legislation rhetoric.

This time, it isn’t about an unusual character who has ostracized himself by a lifestyle choice or an obsession with guns or anger issues.  This time, it is an honor student who is working on his Eagle Scout project who was bullied to the point that he thought the world would be better without him.  How could this be possible?  How could this young man with such potential ever feel this way?  Have we really made being intelligent and achieving such a target for ridicule that a young man is bullied to the point of suicide?  I hope not because this is what I teach my children to strive for.  I expect my children to succeed, and I hold very high expectations for them, but I also require something else from them, something that our culture seems to have forgotten and that is kindness and love.

I know that we have this notion that focusing on kindness and love with result in weakness, but I promise you it won’t.  One of strongest men I know, physically, mentally and emotionally is also one of the most kind and loving men I know, and I happen to have the privilege of being married to him.  He continually strives to be better at everything he does.  He will work for hours without complaining.  He would, without hesitation, lay down his life for his family or take a life if it were threatening the life of someone he loved.  We have weathered the death of our fathers, extended hospitalizations, financial struggles, health struggles and family issues together for over twenty years, and he has been a rock through most of it.  Because of his strength, we have gotten through it and come out stronger on the other side, but because he is loving and kind, we have weathered these life issues and become better human beings as well.  I watch this man of strength with any child and my faith in humanity is restored.  The gentleness that he has with them melts my heart and more importantly, I see my sons show the same behavior because it’s what they have been taught by a master.  Gentle and kind men are not weak.

The other thing that pains me about these incidents of violence is understanding where these teens are emotionally because I have been there.  There was a time in my teens that I felt so low that I considered removing myself from this Earth.  There was also a time that I felt so betrayed and belittled that I considered revenge on a grand scale.  I understand these teens.  I understand that their emotions are overriding their better judgment.  I can look at them and think, “There but for the Grace of God go I”.  That’s a hard thing to admit, but I think those of us who have been there and not acted need to speak out.  We need to tell every teenager in this country that these are NOT the best years of your life.  They are the hardest ones, especially when you have Facebook and Twitter to not only record your less than stellar moments but also to manufacture lies, rumor and innuendos that can take on an incredibly ugly life of their very own.  No decade in my life has been as difficult as my teens, and since I’m on my fourth decade AFTER my teens, I speak from a lot of experience.

So please, if you know a teen, whether you think they are at risk or not, tell them life gets better.  Tell them adulthood is so much better that high school.  Tell them they are important.  They are special.  They are a gift from God and we need them for the future of humanity, not to be the next Snooki or Justin Bieber.  We need them to be themselves and we need them to be here.  If I could share anything with the parents of this young man, it would be hugs and love.  If I could say anything to this young man, it would be that his life matters and that he is loved and not just by his family.  I will say this to each of my boys today and as many days and in as many ways as I can, and hopefully others will do the same.  Thanks for being you and have a blessed day.


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