John Keats once wrote the following:
“The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature imagination of a man is healthy. But there is a space of life between in which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the ambition thick-sighted.”
This is the space of life I find compelling–the space I’ve made it my life’s work to speak into. Most adults complain about teenagers, and many of their complaints are valid. Few people know better than high school teachers how whiny, ungrateful, and annoying teens can be. But if you take a moment to really understand where teens are coming from, you can see that these undesirable qualities come from deep insecurities and fears about the future. They are coming to terms with a harsh and frightening world, and they know that soon they will have to face that world on their own. Teens’ frustrating attributes arise from a lack of wisdom and maturity, and those are reasons for us to reach out to teens, not shun them or write them off. The beautiful thing about teenagers is that most of them have not yet adopted the hard-edged cynicism of the world. They are desperately seeking, searching for meaning, because their lives are “in a ferment.” Sometimes they externalize their inner chaos; sometimes they internalize it. They need compassion. They need to have truth spoken into their lives. They need people to come alongside them, put a hand of compassion on their shoulder and point the way toward the light. They need adults they can trust, who are willing to look past their foolishness and see the men and women they can become.
They need love. Lots and lots of love.