April 04, 2007

Understanding Hidden Dangers Part 4

Written By Cary Schmidt

A Four Part Series for Discerning Parents

In this final segment, I want to touch on an area that I would call “passive behavioral dangers.” Perhaps these things are more warning signs of deeper dangers than dangers themselves, but either way, these things deserve our parental awareness and attention.

These dangers or warning signs are harder to see because they are passive in nature. In other words, they do not involve what the young person is doing as much as what he is not doing—what he is avoiding. Often these dangers are missed because, as parents or authorities, we’re asking the wrong questions. Rather than merely asking “what’s wrong with it?” we should be asking “what’s right with it?” or “is this as right as it could be?” It’s in asking these questions that these behaviors are suddenly clearly seen.

In James 4:17 the Bible says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Often the proof of a wrong spiritual direction is seen in “what they are avoiding” or what they are choosing to “not do.” There are many times that a teenager deliberately avoids right without actually engaging blatantly in wrong. If our parenting philosophy is based upon a “they’re not doing anything wrong” mentality, we will miss important warning signs.

What are these passive behaviors? There are many, far more than we could list in this article, but here are a few of the more prominent ones.

Dressing Sloppy for Church
While I have strong, biblical opinions on this one, let’s assume that there isn’t anything “wrong” with this. I would almost guarantee you that the same kids who dress sloppy in your church would not dress so for their prom, their friend’s wedding, or their grandfather’s funeral. The simple, clear statement they are “passively” making is this: “I respect my school’s dance, my friends, and my dead relatives more than I respect God.” I realize that God accepts us as we are, but the Bible is also clear that our outward appearance makes a statement about the condition of our hearts.

Sitting in the Back of Church with Friends

What does this say? There are some teens that automatically gravitate toward the farthest possible position from the pulpit and from well-lit areas. Again, we could reason that there’s nothing wrong with this, but when there are hundreds of empty seats closer to the pulpit, it certainly could be “more right!”

Sitting Disrespectfully
Some teens suddenly have serious posture issues any time something biblical is taking place. They sit normally with friends, at ball games, etc. but any time the Bible is opened or an authority figure stands before them, they assume a physical posture of resistance for all to see. Let’s call this what it is—direct disrespect toward the Lord.

Choosing Carnal Friends
As a parent you have the responsibility to guide and direct your child’s choices of friends, but there’s a deeper issue. Gravitating toward backslidden friends is a huge warning signal of a wayward heart. More than merely trying to control the friends (the fruit issue) we must deal with the root issue of a right heart with God. A heart that sincerely seeks to please God will naturally connect with similar hearts.

Hanging Out in Isolated Areas
You may think that teenagers just like to hang out with friends. This is true. But those with pure hearts and clear consciences do so in well-lit areas and don’t mind being around adults. When your child immediately darts for the darkest or most isolated area to sequester with friends, your spiritual warning alarms should go off—something isn’t right with this scenario! Teens who do this are always trying to hide something.

Avoiding the Pastor or Spiritual Influences
It’s always a bad sign when your teenager resents or avoids those who would influence them for righteousness. There are plenty of cop-outs on this one, but the simple fact is, a pure and sincere teenager will always appreciate sincere leaders who are doing their best to teach them and direct them toward the Lord. Shaking a hand, acknowledging their existence even in a small way, or writing a note is always a good sign of a spiritually open heart.

Secluding to Their Rooms for Extended Periods of Time
Again, people think that teens just “want to do this.” We have accepted the avoidance of family as a normal “teen thing.” Teens ought to want to spend time with the family. They ought to be asking you, “Hey, when can we have some family time?” If you are not close to your teenager, don’t accept it! Take the door off the hinges if you have to, but give focused time and prayer to rebuilding the relationship that’s been lost.

There are many more, but often these passive behaviors just look “normal” or “teenish” to unsuspecting parents and authorities. We have lowered the bar and allowed Satan to gain ground in hearts. It’s time that we start seeing these passive behaviors as warning signs of a deeper issue. It’s time that we engage the wicked one and win back the impressionable hearts of our children. May God give you strength and wisdom in the battle as you lovingly confront hidden dangers in young lives.