What’s happening to the youth in this country? All around us, in nearly every direction we look–family life, school life, community life–we’re seeing a deterioration of youthful innocence that is being replaced by violent tendencies that are not only uncommon among most adults but are betraying the system that purports to have our youths’ best interests at heart. In other words, the very systems that our state expects our full trust and support for are failing us before our eyes. And the proof is in the media.
For example, CNN.com recently reported, “Alex Hribal, now 20, was 16 when he stabbed 20 students and 1 security guard in the hallway early on the morning of April 9, 2014.” This wasn’t a gun-related incident, so the media can’t cue the talking points for their typical agenda on gun control. (Full disclosure: I’m not necessarily for adding more “controls” to a system that isn’t maintaining the ones it already has, but that’s another blog.) At 16, Hribal acted with pure, unfiltered rage. When a youth can wield a knife with so much anger and force that he can stab 20 students to death (a number typically expected from shootings) and 1 guard (would he have stopped this horror if he had been trained and armed?), there is something fueling his psyche in an evil and dangerous way.
Recently in South Florida, a group of approximately 4 girls, who had already been reported for bullying by their eventual victim, poured milk over a Freshman’s head while she sat at lunch, seemingly minding her own business, and then be pulled off her bench and held down while others pounded on her head with clenched fists. Apparently, the “see something, say something” motif isn’t working. This was blatantly demonstrated to us recently in Broward County with shooter Nikolas Cruz, as The Washington Post reports that the system was aware of Cruz’s behavioral problem as early as Middle School (even forbidding him from carrying a book bag) and that, according to The Guardian, the FBI, after being warned of his violent threats online, failed to complete their due diligence.
One thing is certain: The system isn’t the solution.
Obviously, words and warnings are no longer reliable deterrents of youth violence and degeneracy. But what can help? I have 3 suggestions.
Teach Youth to Respect the Image of God
Although youth violence is an age-old sin and problem (Genesis 4:1-16), it seems to be more prevalent today. In my opinion, the educational and cultural structure that we’re relying on to inform our youth on what is relevant, important, and precious is failing us. But how can we expect for such a message to pierce the minds of an already skeptical youth when abortion, for example, is ending lives by numerical leaps and bounds? Regardless of what they’re taught, youth today lack any respect for human beings made in God’s image. We need to teach them, from an early age, that we all–regardless of color or creed–are made in God’s image.
Teach Youth the “fear of God”
Paul said that sinners universally don’t have any “fear of God before their eyes”; that is, they don’t care to respect God, His laws and commands, His principles (see also Proverbs 1:7). I wonder how many of the incidences that have happened would’ve happened had there been a healthy “fear of God” taught at some point. I wonder what would be done if justice, fairness, and righteousness were tenets that were impressed on our youth, since the God of the Bible is a God who demands and expects justice, fairness, and righteousness from His creation (Proverbs 21:3).
Teach Youth to Beware of the “I” and “Me” Complex
With the physical aspects of life so overly emphasized, with popularity being such a barometer of success, an inferiority complex is plaguing many youths in our culture. They simply can’t meet the unrealistic expectations that are being thrown on them. To correct this tendency, there’s an overemphasis on individuality, a teaching that says, “Different is always the way,” an emphasis that has robbed the community of its own importance, relevance, and contribution in regards to individuality. In other words, youths are being led to believe that they can become whoever they want without the contribution of the community, but nothing can be further from the truth. We’ve seen how dangerous isolation can be for a young mind. Unfortunately, the youth today seem to be secluded more than usual, rejected more than usual, even ostracized more than usual, if they don’t fit a certain social norm. This has resulted in an “I” and “Me” complex that is nearly impossible to tear down, as they endeavor to protect themselves from the unrealistic expectations that are burdening them.
Whatever route is taken, one this is clear: our youth need us to invest in them. These are 3 simple ways in which we can help them today: teach them the image of God; teach them the fear of God; and teach them to beware of the “I” and “Me” complex.
I sincerely believe that God wants us to help the youth in this country, however and whenever we can.