Who's Delinquent?

Teenagers get a bum rap. Always have. For some reason, if you're between twelve and twenty, you're suspect. Cops stare and senior citizens glare. Why? Well . . .

You drive too fast, you think too slow, you aren't responsible, and you can't be trusted. The music you listen to is wild-n-wicked, the stuff you read is shallow or sleazy, the places you go are loud and low class. Your clothes are wrinkled, your room's a wreck, your car's a god, your friends are cheap, your ghetto blaster's too big, and your work is sloppy. And dare I mention manners? You talk with your mouth full, you slump and slurp, you don't look people in the eye, you treat your brother and sister like they have leprosy in the advanced stages, and you belch like there's no tomorrow. You're allergic to things like homework, dirty dishes, elevator music, vacations with the family, hanging up the phone, saying "Thank you," the "off" switch on the TV, getting up in the morning, and going to bed at night.

If you've got a few bucks, you're probably dealing drugs. If you're interested in church, it's probably because there's some fox you're lookin' at. If you date a lot, you're probably messing around. If you don't come home when you said you would, you're probably where you shouldn't be. If you're not into the preppy Joe College scene, you probably have no ambition. And if you don't get a job, you're a slob. If you smile real big, you're up to something. If you frown at times, you've got a rotten attitude. If you cough a lot, you've been smoking pot, and if you weave out of your lane, you're obviously drunk.

Getting weary of all this? So are they. Having reared four of them and having talked with hundreds of others, I can tell you they frequently feel "I can't win." There are exceptions, I realize, but by and large, the teens of today are loaded with talent, have incredible potential, and whenever they get their rears in gear, can accomplish phenomenal feats.

I played a little ball in high school, but never in all those years did I ever meet, read about, or hear of another athlete who could come close to the raw skill of teenagers I see on tennis courts, basketball courts, and gridirons (not to mention the Olympics). I was involved for two years on the drama and debate teams, but the natural talent I see among teenaged actors, actresses, and public speakers today is enough to make me shake my head in amazement. These kids are unreal! And unless you are really into electronics, don't try to fool 'em with computer talk and don't try to beat 'em in video games. And if they get turned on spiritually . . . their level of zeal and joy is somewhere between maxi and mega.

Okay, okay, so they're not there when it comes to the finer things in life (were you?). Or finishing what they start (did you?). Or seeing the pitfalls ahead of them (could you?). Or being grateful, thoughtful, unselfish, and responsible. But what they may lack in those areas, they make up for in saying what they really think, giving themselves to what they really believe in, and surviving a jungle-like obstacle course of intense peer pressure, parental nagging, and teacher harassing.

Frankly, I'm crazy about teenagers. With all their imperfections, I appreciate their gut-level honesty. (Have you noticed? They can spot a religious phony a block away.) I also admire their resilience amidst the disillusionment of parents who split up, and I applaud their effort to stay morally pure while wading through the cesspool of magazine racks, lurid rock concerts, movies full of lust and profanity, and late-night cable TV. What surprises me is that more aren't delinquent.

And before you and I get smug, let's do a little remembering back when we were in our teens. I'm convinced that by the time I got out of high school, I'd gone through five, maybe six, guardian angels. Scripture says that heaven rejoices when one sinner repents. For the longest time I've had this secret theory that Michael and Gabriel threw a series of celestial parties when some of us turned twenty. I mean, you and I weren't exactly Buffy and Jody at Happy Days High. Which reminds me of a piece that came from the oldest seafood place in Philadelphia. While you're waiting for your lobster, this provides food for thought.

Who Is to Blame?

We read it in the papers and hear it on the air
of killing and stealing and crime everywhere.
We sigh and we say as we notice the trend,
"This young generation . . . where will it end?"
But can we be sure that it's their fault alone?
Are we less guilty, who place in their way
too many things that lead them astray?

Too much money, too much idle time;
Too many movies of passion and crime.
Too many books not fit to be read
Too much evil in what they hear said.
Too many children encouraged to roam
Too many parents who won't stay home.

Kids don't make the movies, they don't write the books
They don't paint the pictures of gangsters and crooks.
They don't make the liquor, they don't run the bars,
They don't change the laws, and they don't make the cars.

They don't peddle the drugs that muddle the brain;
That's all done by older folks . . . eager for gain.
Delinquent teenagers; oh how we condemn
The sins of the nation and blame it on them.

By the laws of the blameless, the Savior made known
Who is there among us to cast the first stone?
For in so many cases—it's sad but it's true—
The title "Delinquent" fits older folks too!

I love teenagers. I appreciate their gut-level honesty and admire their resilience.

Charles R. Swindoll Tweet This

Excerpt taken from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. For additional information and resources visit us at www.insight.org.

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