Monday, September 24, 2007

Rethinking L.A.

There are some great things going on in L.A.! If you've never heard of O2MAX Fitness Center, you should really visit their site.

O2 MAX, the club for teens opening this Fall will offer teens a positive place to workout, meet a friend, read a magazine, bring a laptop, I.M., study, download music, get a tutor, or just hang out. In other words, O2 MAX will be a place teens can call their 'home away from home' - only now they can associate the routine habits of their daily lives with a healthy and fit lifestyle. - O2 MAX

Staying healthy and physically fit is a critical part of being fully alive!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Rethinking Temptation III

Every human being has been tempted. It is a part of life itself, though giving in to temptation is a choice, not an inevitability. Whenever someone is faced with temptation, there is always a way out, a way to stand up under it. Why do we allow ourselves to fall into temptation? Because whatever we are being tempted with holds itself up as the good thing that we truly desire, when in fact it is nothing but a dangerous impostor. As adult leaders, we will cross paths with innumerable students who are being tempted or who are giving in to temptation. How do we help them to resist temptation and uncover their true longings?

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rethinking Drugs & Alcohol

Drugs & Alcohol: The Story of Ricardo

Ricardo was a tenth-grade student who had always maintained passable grades. He had a few fairly solid friendships and had a pretty active social life on the weekends. The average Friday night in autumn usually involved going to the high school football game with several of his friends. His friend Thomas had already acquired one the most coveted of all the high school trophies, a driver’s license, which enabled Ricardo and his circle to be much more mobile.

When the football game was over, a number of other socially active students in school would find a place to “hang” and party. Ricardo, Thomas, and the others would usually join them at another student’s house (if the parents were out of town) or in a secluded spot in the woods nearby the football stadium. Alcohol was prevalent at these party locations, usually supplied by someone’s older sibling. Drugs could also be found among several of the groups that joined the revelry. It was not uncommon for these carousals to last until one or two in the morning or until the beer had been entirely consumed.

Ricardo’s parents had always been clear about their position on underage drinking and drug use. It was unacceptable in their family. Ricardo’s older sister Maria had managed to successfully steer her way through high school without getting involved in either drugs or alcohol. So far, Ricardo had not partaken in the consumption of alcohol or of illegal drugs, either, but he did attend the after-game parties. He knew that his parents would disapprove of his involvement in activities such as these, even though he remained clean and sober. This often led him to lie to his parents about his postgame whereabouts. He felt guilty, but what could he do?

To say that he was never tempted to drink a beer or do a shot of vodka would be untrue. His friends, including Thomas, would all drink and party pretty heavily, although they usually respected Ricardo’s choice not to partake. Ricardo would try to mingle with the others at the party, but without a drink in his hand he felt awkward and socially “out.” It seemed that those who were drinking had a wonderful excuse to go up to a nice-looking guy or girl and strike up a conversation. They could do the things they really wanted to do all along—and then have an excuse if it didn’t turn out well the next morning. Those who were stoned were able to talk about their current highs and past highs with great ease, as they sat around in a circle listening to the latest emo band. Ricardo was there at the scene of the party, but on another level, he felt that he was not really a part of the action.

As he and his friends waited for Thomas to sober up so he could drive them home, Ricardo thought long and hard about giving in and having a beer. How bad could it be, anyway? It was just one beer offered to him in a friendly gesture by a guy he had never met. Ricardo’s friends watched closely, as he didn’t say no right away as he always had before. He felt like the cartoon character that had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. The angel reminded him, “If you do this, the respect that your friends have for your previous decision to be drug and alcohol free will evaporate. Flee from this temptation! Hold tightly to your integrity!” To that the devil sang alluringly in retort, “They never respected you anyway! Do this and you will have true camaraderie! Do you see the others who hold their cans, bottles, and cups—how they laugh and carry on and live life to the full? That could be you if only you would drink and be full.”

Ricardo drank his first beer that mild October night. To say that his life took a downhill turn from that moment on would be untrue. As the devil on his shoulder predicted, he laughed and socialized with the people around him. To the casual observer, this was nothing more than a typical weekend night at an average high school gathering, but Ricardo sacrificed some important strategic ground that night. From that point on, the devil or Siren on his shoulder had an established beachhead from which to further compromise Ricardo’s integrity.

The Real Danger.
What perils lie in succumbing to the temptation to drink alcohol or use drugs? More than most adolescents can possibly foresee. Simply observe the lives that have been ruined by substance abuse. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol leads to a multitude of teenage deaths each year. Yet despite the statistics and warnings, many students continue to engage in this hazardous behavior.

Drug addiction and alcoholism are on the rise. Those who are in recovery typically declare that their involvement with substance abuse began during their adolescent years. Countless problems arise from chemical dependency, including criminal behavior, an increased mortality rate, divorce, and loss of interest in life. Patterns of substance abuse can also be passed down to subsequent generations.

Some may suggest that to bring up this endless array of pitfalls after discussing Ricardo and his first beer may seem a little extreme. After all, he was a good kid and he only had one beer. But ask those for whom life has been laid waste by the scourge of drugs and alcohol, How did it start? It started with just one beer and led to alcoholism. It started with only one joint and led to harder drugs and addiction.

The little decisions that compromise our integrity as human beings can lead to devastating consequences farther down the road. Chemicals cloud the real person and bury the desire for abundant life in a murky pit of despair and confusion. Ricardo and others might not wind up in a drunk-driving accident or addicted to drugs, but understanding how precious life is, can we afford to take this gamble?

The Real Desire.
What strong desire does the temptation to engage in drinking and drug use play upon? What do Ricardo and millions of young people like him hope to find by turning to chemicals? That is where we must start to uncover the root of the temptation. Like everyone else, adolescents want to feel good. More teens than can be counted, however, do not feel good. Some are depressed, and the euphoria of the buzz or the high allows them to forget their depression momentarily. Others are hurting on the inside from soul-wounds received at the hands of a parent or a friend. They don’t want to feel this pain any more. They want to feel better, so like the Homeric Lotus-eaters, they self-medicate. The desire to feel good is common to all of humanity, but can be easily misdirected by the Siren of drugs and alcohol.

Chemicals are also able to tempt by inflaming the desire in adolescents to have companionship. Believe it or not, it seems easier for young people to strike up a conversation with someone if they are holding a drink than if they are not. Why? The drink enables them to avoid the risk of revealing who they really are. People often feel that they can only be themselves when they are drinking, and that is a sad situation. The reason is that the drink gives them something to hide behind.

If a student unveils his real likes and authentic personality when he is drinking, it allows him a way out if he perceives that others did not approve. He can always fall back and say that it was the alcohol that “made him do it.” It takes a lot more courage to be yourself when you have no excuses available if people do not like who you really are. Every time you behind a drink or a joint, it makes it more difficult to be yourself without using a chemical. Students, like everybody else, have a strong desire to be known.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Rethinking Popularity

Popularity: The Story of Natalie
Natalie had entered seventh grade eager to meet new people and make new friends. Her best friend Katie was in several of her classes and sat with her in the cafeteria. Natalie was energetic and outgoing, whereas Katie was more reserved and introspective. The two had been good friends since elementary school and spent many summers together swimming and riding bikes. From the beginning of the new school year, Natalie began noticing that certain groups of students seemed to be more respected and well liked than the rest. They were the popular crowd, attractive, athletic, and social. Perceiving that she was no more than a cipher in this populous middle school, Natalie began to feel a longing to be a part of the “in crowd.” She found herself wanting to dress like the popular kids, spending a great deal of her weekly allowance and her parent’s money at the trendy stores in the local mall.

As much as possible, she played the part. When the cool kids laughed, she laughed. When they were angry, she was angry. When they made fun of others, so did Natalie. One day, the popular students decided to poke fun at her friend Katie. In gym class, Teivel, one of the popular girls, taunted Katie about the way she wore her hair. A few others joined in the harassment, and soon a small group was laughing and pointing fingers at Katie. Natalie, who was standing nearby, had an important and defining choice to make. What price would she pay to be popular? On the outside of the circle were the popular girls whom she had been trying to impress for some time now; inside was her best friend, Katie, whom she had known since she was little. The temptation and pressure to take part in the tormenting and to identify with the popular crowd was growing by the minute. In the end, she gave in and pointed her finger at Katie in a mocking gesture, making fun of the friend who had been so loyal to her all of these years.
The Real Danger.
Why is yearning to be popular a bad thing? Adolescents want many different things, so why categorize the desire to be popular as a temptation? Look at the foundation of popularity. What is it? If you boil it down, popularity is almost completely based on the opinions of others. Certain people are popular or unpopular because of what other people believe about them. The teens that strive to be popular and to climb up the social ladder tend to base their sense of self-worth on the opinions of others. If the right people smile at them or talk to them, they have a great day. However, if this just doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, their day has been torpedoed.
A healthy young person is one who understands that happiness is a choice and that the opinions and attitudes of others should not determine what kind of day it will be. The quest for popularity is a siren song that will lead only to disappointment, negative feelings about oneself, and a self-image that is to a great extent based on the approval of others. It simply establishes an unhealthy pattern that can follow a person into adulthood.
The friendships of those who are tempted by popularity are often formed for the wrong reasons. True friendship is typically about common interests and a respect for one another. Social climbers develop friendships not out of respect for others or mutual interests but rather for what the other person can offer in the way of increased social status or prestige. Friendships such as these usually lack any real foundation and are quickly disposed of if one individual is no longer socially useful. Betrayal is not uncommon in social-ladder relationships, leading to a “soap opera” atmosphere among popular cliques. Seeking to form friendships in order to advance social standing is a dysfunctional model that can impair relationships throughout a lifetime.
Young people who are lured by social advancement usually have little or no sense of self. They have spent so much time and energy trying to be what they think other people want them to be that they have absolutely no idea who they really are. The things that are held up as important to the popular crowd subjugate outside interests and passions. This can lead to an adulthood of striving to be what a person perceives others want them to be. These are the bones upon which the Siren of popularity perches.
The Real Desire.
When a student is tempted by popularity, what is being revealed about the heart’s deep longings? The secret to unveiling the real desire is to examine the impostor, the siren song. Why is it so seductive? What does it claim to offer the young person who is chasing after it?
Popularity offers the illusion of belonging to a group. There is always a popular clique or social group in a school, youth group, club, or sports team. And unfortunately, the adult world is not much different. Human beings want to know that they belong to something, that they are a part of a greater whole. This is the good thing that the heart of the adolescent deeply craves.
We were made to live in community with one another. Popularity seems to offer water for this thirst, but the reality is much different.
Popularity grants friendship, although the friendship—if that is what it can truly be called—is tenuous at best. It is usually based on what the other person can do for you and what you can do for them, not simply enjoying one another’s company. The desire to have friends is very real and good. The friendship developed by social climbers, though, is a deceptive alternative. These “friendships” lack key ingredients—mainly trust, respect, and the authentic joy of being in the other’s presence.
The Siren of popularity also professes to provide an identity. This identity, though, has as its foundation the shifting opinions of others in the group. If the rest of the popular group considers you to be popular, then you are allowed to maintain that identity. If your musical tastes, style, or relational choices begin to differ from the group, however, your identity is jeopardized. Basing one’s sense of identity on the likes and dislikes of others is a dangerous route to travel. The rocks of the Sirens’ islet are not far off. The desire to understand your place in the world is noble and universal. Who am I? Where do I fit into the big story? What is done with that desire in youth can establish patterns that last throughout a lifetime.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Rethinking Temptation II

What is temptation? Temptation takes a real, legitimate desire and offers up a deceptive or dangerous alternative in order to fulfill that longing, a “Siren’s song.” Over the next few posts, we will examine several universal siren songs of adolescence in order to explore the difficulties that can stem from giving in to temptation. We will also strive to identify what the young person is truly longing for. Stay tuned...

Labels: , , ,

Academics Blogs - Blog Top Sites