Navigating adult life can be tough for our young people. They are passionate about making a difference. They soak up information from the world around them like dry sponges! They develop strong opinions about trends of the day and are eager to share them, with or without fear of what others think.
At times, amidst their voicing of these opinions and beliefs, others will challenge and even criticize them openly. They then have the obstacle of opposition to overcome. They may respond in many ways, including taking to social media to share their experience. I’ve seen this sharing lead others in their life to rally to their support, and rightfully so. We should be a voice of support for our young adults.
One thing that I have observed during these times in the development of the minds of our young people is the invariable adult who makes the following (or similar) statement: “You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!” As a father, pastor and friend to young adults, I cringe when I see that. I can understand the motive of the individual in wanting to support their loved one or friend, but it bothers me on two fundamental levels. One, it is simply not true. Two, it may be encouraging the young person to rebel against a God-given authority in their life.
Let me tackle the first issue. I realize that negativity in life is not desired. It is not fun. In many instances it may not be warranted. However, it is needed. How can we truly be a help to those around us by sharing truth, if what we are sharing isn’t actually truth? In the case that what our young person is sharing is not true, they would need to be corrected and shown the truth. In the Bible, Job shares this thought on chastening: “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:” (5:17). Solomon, the wisest man to ever live said “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:” (Proverbs 3:11) When someone takes the time to speak truth into your life, resist the urge to turn them away. Rather, examine their correction and see how it can make you better. If we do that, the writer of Hebrews tells us “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (12:11)
On the other note, we need to be cautious when encouraging our young people in their endeavors. What we mean to say to them and what we are actually saying can be two entirely different things. The statement “You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!” can be taken as an encouragement to rebel against those who are trying to speak truth to them. This can be their parents, a godly pastor or mentor, or a loving Christian friend. If taken the wrong way, you are tearing them away from those who love them enough to help them.
Finally, I want us to consider other ways of encouraging our young people when they experience criticism. This is where you come in and join the discussion! Comment below with alternative methods or phrases that can challenge our young adults. How can we help them see the benefits of negativity? If we are successful, they can further mature into the productive adults that they want to be, and then make a lasting change in their world.