Teens are by nature idealistic thinkers who desire meaning and purpose. They have begun looking around to see what others think and then to evaluate those ideas.
What does TV and popular culture tell us is the main goal of life? What do parents tell us is the main goal of life? What does their church-mosque-temple-etc. tell them is the main goal of life?
Most often, messages about purpose and meaning are not directly stated.
For instance, no TV show or movie I’m aware of says, “The main goal of life is romantic love.” But many make that statement indirectly.
Parents may say all manner of things, and their actions may or may not back up those stated beliefs: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Saying one thing but meaning something else
Likewise, religious organizations may state one thing but indirectly communicate another. For example, the Westminster catechism (a common creed in Protestant circles) says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Yet a church that subscribes to this confession of faith may inadvertently communicate that the main purpose of life is to live a certain lifestyle by a certain set of rules.
Whether mixed messages come from religious institutions, parents, or popular culture, teens are adept at picking up on them quickly.
King Solomon’s great experiment
Try this reading assignment: You and a teen in your life agree to read the book of Ecclesiastes. Taken from ancient sacred writings, it records King Solomon’s great experiment to find meaning in life.
He tried riches, sexual gratification, great projects, education, and other routes to see what activities bring meaning and purpose in this life and what is meaningless—what Solomon calls “a chasing after the wind.”
It’s not a long reading assignment and can lead to some great discussions.
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