We continue with the discussion of teen labels today. Many teenagers see themselves this way – Tell me who I am. Internally, teens are growing and changing physically, mentally, and emotionally at warp speed. Externally, there are parental, school, social and community standards who all say, Follow me. I know best. Oftentimes, however, those voices contradict one another. Their rules are different, they argue opposing expectations, and no one will back down from their position of being right. Who in the world do teens listen to? To confuse matters more, some of the “should-be” positive voices that impress their standard on teens are actually harmful (i.e., abusive homes, dangerous friends or fallen mentors) and it convolutes teens’ thinking even more. It’s no wonder why being a teenager can be so frustrating!
So it’s no surprise when, taking all of the above into consideration, at the end of the day the teen relinquishes his or her own identity in defeat and says, Just tell me who you want me to be.
One of the stickiest labels attached to teens is how the opposite gender sees them. I can’t think of many other factors that affect a teen more. For teenagers reading this blog, yes, how we present ourselves to the world, and our desire to be accepted by it, is important. It’s how civilization continues. But, that’s when the labels are positive. What happens when the labels hurt?
When I was in 9th grade, before the reality show “The Bachelor” ever aired, I found myself in the middle of my very own rose ceremony. Forget the fancy dresses, mansions, and Barbies falling all over their Ken. My rose ceremony happened on a baseball field on a Friday night. A large group of guys and girls hung around after the game. In that group was a guy that I had a huge crush on – for years. And, he knew it (ug). I thought he was the hottest guy ever, and oh how his dimples just made me melt. He lived down the street from me, and I found every reason to pass by his house just to catch a glimpse of him and perhaps, maybe, get a Hi from him. I walked the dog, rode my bike, ran for exercise, anything that kept me moving past because I never would have dared to actually stop at his house. I was smitten.
After the baseball game, rumor had it he was going to choose between another girl (I didn’t know her) and me. Oh the thought! I was going to finally find out where I stood with him and if the strong feelings I had for him were mutual. The group formed a circle, and the three of us were in the middle of it. When I look back on this moment, I can totally feel the awkwardness of it all over again and cringe in discomfort at the whole affair.
He looked at both of us with those dimples. Without a word, he walked over to the other girl, took her hand, and they walked out of the circle together and disappeared into the night.
I was…crushed, humiliated, devastated, mortified, angry, hurt, shocked and embarrassed. I felt ugly, hideous, worthless, rejected, stupid, and a host of other feelings. I compared myself to nothing more than the mound of red baseball dirt beneath my feet.
Have you ever said something out loud that you meant to only think in your head? Yikes, I have. This was one of those times. I (accidentally) said under my breath, trying to hold my composure together, Why not me? What’s wrong with me? I never expected a response. A girl standing next to me looked at me as if I really was as stupid as I felt and replied matter-of-factly, Because he knows you won’t sleep with him and turned and walked away.
Whoa. Okay, let me just die and then ask you to repeat that to make sure I heard you right, I thought with my jaw agape.
The roseless ceremony was over, and the group of amused teens dispersed. I was left standing completely alone, in the dark, behind the dugout, stunned and speechless.
I had just found out, very publicly I might add, that my label as a virgin was not a good thing. I found out that it made me lose the guy I really liked and that none of my peers supported me. As I walked away alone, I tried to figure out how he knew. I am a Christian, but the topic of virginity never came up to me by him or anyone. At fourteen, I didn’t understand the powerful impact that personal convictions can have on others – when not one word about it had been spoken.
My knee-jerk reaction, of course, was to move, change schools, change my name, dye my hair, and never ever mention this moment again. But, something surprising happened instead. God showed up – in the dark on the baseball field on a Friday night. How do I know He did? Because He gave me eyes to see a perspective I was completely unable to see on my own.
All of a sudden, my heart saw that the guy that made me weak in the knees had shown his true colors. He wasn’t looking for someone to have a meaningful relationship with, to care about, have fun with and get to know better. He was looking for sex. And with that, he was looking at me as someone who potentially could give that to him. He didn’t care about who I was, my thoughts and opinions, or what makes me laugh or cry – I was seen as a tool for his selfishness. Oh, that changed everything. This great-looking guy suddenly didn’t look so good to me. In that moment, I realized my firm position in that I was not going to ever allow myself to be seen as a tool. He had separated body from mind and spirit when choosing a girlfriend, and now I wanted no part of it.
God reminded me that I am all three (mind, spirit, and body), as much as anyone else. I am valuable. Priceless. Important. Significant. I am worth the wait.
I saw that the amount of value I had put on this guy was not returned, but God loved me before I ever called Him my God. God, indeed, is the polar opposite – loving me unconditionally, not for what I can do, but for who I am to Him. His child. His daughter. Princess in His royal line. Forgiven. Beautiful. The passion of His heart. I saw the experience with this guy for the shallow, superficial event that it was, and I chose to walk in the Truth that I am worth dying for. So are you.
All labels have a cause and effect. I can’t think of one label that is 100% risk-free. Teens who choose to be abstinent walk a difficult (but not impossible!) road. However, it’s a sacred road that spares them from unnecessary physical, mental and emotional drama that is tied to promiscuity.
Do I regret that night? Nope. The Teen Creed offers an excellent piece of advice, Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything. I had fallen for a guy for sure, but after his quick exit from my life, it was God who was there to pick me up, brush off my knees and put my dignity back together like Humpty Dumpty.
I wasn’t ashamed of the label that was pinned on me that night instead of a rose. Actually, I was secretly glad that not only did this guy know where I stood in my convictions, but others did as well – without me ever having said it. This experience spurred in me a stubbornness to be resolute in my convictions until my wedding day. I was never going to set myself up to feel like a faceless, nameless tool again. And, perhaps it helped encourage other girls standing around that they too could make the precious choice of abstinence and save themselves the grief.
Regardless of your yesterday, you have the freedom to choose your actions today. Although this guy never gave me another chance (nor did I want one), God is the God of second, tenth, and a thousand chances. More than giving me a rose, God gave His Son for me – and for you. Now that is true love.
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