Is that when Adulthood starts?

Overheard an adult the other day describing our behavior and discipline plan here at Methodist Children’s Home.  Our program is called “Steps to Success” and is designed to encourage and built responsibility for one’s choices and actions.

“Even our best kids aren’t always where they are supposed to be,” he said, “but then, they are kids.”

OOOOH, I thought, is that how we know the difference between youth and adults:  adults are always where they are supposed to be and youth may or may not be.

Here’s to still hoping that someday I too will be an adult.

Seriously, though: why do we use such loose language in disparaging ways toward young people?  I don’t know this man’s intentions or goodwill toward young people, but his choice of words leads me way back to when I was a youngster:

I remember for a lot of years thinking that when one “grew up” one had one’s act together and was responsible more or less all the time.

Perhaps this was mostly from the impression I had of my own parents, who I never recall avoiding responsibility or passing the buck.

Please, fellow adults, join me today in giving our young people the respect they deserve of not being painted all with a different brush than that we use for adults.

7 thoughts on “Is that when Adulthood starts?

  1. Is this perhaps a church problem more than an adult (or youth) problem? It seems the facade of the church is that it is a group who now has it all together and is able to be ‘good enough’ for God.
    That is my basic belief about the church who gathers in America. It isn’t something I find at all attractive. It seems that we do much better professing we do NOT have it all together, but rather He does, and we are His.
    I have recently been studying the Heidelberg Catechism. I learned that it was a Catechism written to end the controversy between Lutherans and Reformed folks during the Reformation. It’s questions correspond to Romans 7.24-25. I find the first 2 questions to be quite frank in addressing the ‘having it togetherness’ of anyone.

    Q. 1. What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

    A. That I belong — body and soul, in life and in death– not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

    Q. 2. How many things must you know that you may live and die in the blessedness of this comfort?

    A. Three. First, the greatness of my sin and wretchedness. Second, how I am freed from all my sins and their wretched consequences. Third, what gratitude I owe to God for such redemption.

    It seems in the church today we have not just an anemic understanding of our sin and wretchedness, but a complete lack of acknowledging our true condition as such. The diminishing our need for a Savior, has led the diminishing of our Savior. Jesus has become small, because our need (as perceived) of Him has become small. Because we believe our need is small, and therefore our Savior small, then our gratitude towards God is dry and but mere vapours where a flood should exist.
    We do not have it together, but thanks be to our God who does.

    • Ryan,

      I appreciate, and agree with, your focus on humility, but until the Church learns to phrase this in some way other than saying that the “first” thing I “must know” is “the greatness of my sin and wretchedness,” the sooner more people today might be willing to listen to whatever lesson comes after such a welcoming (not) introduction.

      Anyway, one of the things I remember most about growing up in the Methodist church is constantly being told how wretched I was. This is not a healthy message for a young person (or even an adult, I would say). I couldn’t wait for the day when my parents no longer made me go to church, and I’ve rarely been back in the 30 years since then. Instead, I’ve been immersing myself in more positive, less humiliating, more forgiving paths to fulfillment and contact with the divine — and repairing the lasting damage to my self image and self esteem.

  2. Audie,
    Sorry, for your negative experiences. I know I don’t know you, but have seen some of your responses on here. Know that in the Heidelberg Catechism, there are these two introduction questions (and answers), only 8 on sin, 74 questions about the love and forgiveness of God, and 44 on our thankful response. I think that is a balanced look at the basic teachings of the church.

  3. Audie,
    I have been thinking about your words and experiences with the church for the last couple of days since you posted what you did. I confess, as a pastor, that they have haunted me.
    I grew up in a church that was in many ways the opposite of yours. I knew I was less than perfect, but the church seems unwilling to admit any faults of anyone. Or at least an unwillingness to believe they were significant. I grew up in church that was more likely to preach self-esteem than sin.
    I grew up, therefore feeling inadequate in the face of a perfect God, and undeserving of His love, even though my church basically said I was worth it. I knew better.

    So today, I attempt to find that balance. My congregation has heard me say, from the pulpit, “I am a sinner.” They have also heard me say, “you are forgiven.” I don’t say this in any type of liturgical way that can mask authenticity (sometimess). But in a matter of fact way. Aknowledging the fact that the church’s job is not to condemn sin, but rather to point to the Saviour. I hope it is alright if I pray for you in recovering from what can only be called sin of the church. Peace.

  4. My experience was the opposite of Audie’s … church was the one place I found unconditional acceptance. The place where my gifts and contribution were appreciated.

    I think I would have taken the comment mentioned in your post in the opposite way … that the individual speaking was giving grace to kids by saying “they’re kids, remember that.” Development is not a linear process, it’s a dynamic process. And sometimes it seems like its going backwards … but while development can go awry, it never goes backward.

    Granted, kids and adults are truly in the same boat … none of us are really (all the time) “where we need to be.” But rather than thinking that such a comment means we are looking at kids more negatively than adults, I would say that such a comment means that we all need others to cut us a certain amount of slack.

  5. Thank you, Ryan. That is certainly one of the most compassionate, and least defensive, responses I’ve received from someone to whom I’ve made such a comment as mine above. I’d like to say more in return, in the same spirit, but will have to wait for a little more time (with which to both reflect on it and write it).

    I did want to say, though, that I had a similar reaction as Kim, to Steve’s original point. As a teacher of young people, I can attest to the fact that there simply are developmental stages that young humans go through, and must go through, and it is counterproductive and possibly even harmful to them to expect them to be something that they simply can’t yet. It’s really really hard to get a group of 5-year-olds to sit still for very long, for example, (“they’re just kids”) — though it’s quite easy to get a group of 55-year-olds to do so. And it’s really really hard to prevent a teenager from going through a rebellious, sarcastic phase as she tests out the waters of independence from her family. To say that a group of kids are “just kids” is, I think, to simply acknowledge that, perhaps, certain of their behaviors are due to their relative stage of moral/social development.

    At a certain point — “adulthood” — though, we should all “know better,” and we should be held to a higher standard of accountability. Sure, we still make mistakes, we still have shortcomings, we still fall short of expectations (our own and others’), but at least we adults have all the necessary *capacities*, unlike “kids.”

    It’s akin to why, when a 17-year-old commits a terrible crime, our legal system distinguishes between trying him “as an adult” or not. And I think that’s a fair distinction.

    And, like it or not, Steve, you ARE an adult. This does not mean you don’t get forgiven, you just don’t have “I’m just a kid” as one of your excuses! 🙂

    Thanks, Steve and friends, for another thoughtful discussion….

  6. Audie’s remarks prompted a humorous memory … of my husband Doug coming home from teaching “Little Dragons” (ages 3-7) karate class. He said it was the most perplexing thing … in class, he felt like he was running in place, due to the problem keeping the kids’ attention; if the pace of class faltered even the slightest bit, somebody was wandering off or aggravating his neighbor … yet, when class was through, the adults watching would tell him how great he was with their kids. Sometimes it really does take an outside-the-class perspective to see what is really going on.

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