Hip Versus Heroic
In what sense should we be like the youth we care about? We wrongly assume that to be relevant to teens we need to be like them. Such an inclination to mimic youth is born of fear. If we’re like them, so we believe, they will like us. Unchecked, our insecurities lead us to talk, dress, and act like adolescents. I’ve been to youth camps and events where I had to strain to distinguish between the teens and the adults.
Being like the youth we serve cannot be our priority, not if we want to make a significant impact. Teens need and want us to be adults. They have lots of buddies. They want us to relate with them in a way that’s in keeping with our authentic humanhood. When we seek to be buddies with teens, they lose the best thing we have to offer: our selves.
We are a medium for youth, a living message. This message will translate to teens when we model for them what it looks like to be a responsible, compassionate, kind adult. If we fall victim to our insecurities and seek to prioritize being hip over being heroic, teens lose.
I knew a family that spoke to their children in “baby talk” to the exclusion of normal diction. Not surprising, each of their children had difficulty speaking in their early years. One could hardly understand them. They had only known baby talk and hadn’t learned to speak with clarity. Teens gain clarity about life best by being around caring adults who behave as adults.
To connect with youth in a meaningful way be yourself. Dress, talk, and act the way you normally do. This is an attractive quality to teens. Come to think of it, this kind of authenticity is attractive to everyone.