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A question was posed to me by a man who has a nationwide outreach ministry to teenagers. He asked, "How can we stop teen violence?" I will share some of my response to him with the hope that others will get some insights. I am not an expert. I'm only sharing my own thoughts on this important topic:
What is violence but an outward display of pent-up anger, frustration, and rage. According to the Bible,
no one will be able to stop all the violence that occurs. Things like crime and various violent acts will continue
to take place in the world until Jesus Christ returns to establish His kingdom and rule the world with justice,
equity, and fairness, and in perfect peace.
However, much violence can be curtailed when we learn to love, forgive, and reach out to other people with
compassion. We need to consider others first and ourselves second. For violence, I believe, is selfishness in action.
Yet society needs to be alert and sensitive to the struggles a young person may be having. We need to learn how
to spot trouble and reach out to those who are angry, and who are hurting. Teenagers who unleash hurt upon
others are more than likely hurting within themselves.
Young people also need to know that violence is wrong. It is a terrible and abhorrent thing to unleash violence
upon others, even if they did something to make you angry.
Teenagers are usually impulsive, and they act out without thinking of the consequences. They're not good at
problem solving, and it may seem normal to leash out violently. But it's not normal. It is wrong. And there are
consequences for doing acts of violence that may haunt a young man for years to come. He will end up hurting
both himself and his victims. He hurts his family, too.
I wish I could get young persons to see and meet those who've come to prison as adolescents. These guys were
sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen years old when they got busted for committing a violent crime. They got no
sympathy from the courts. Instead, they got slammed with long sentences. They've thrown away their lives when
each one made his decision to do violence.
I think that much teen violence comes from pent-up anger and frustration that is simmering beneath the surface.
A victim of bullying, for example feels lonely and rejected. It becomes easy, therefore, for him to brood, and to feel
he is worthless. After a while he starts to think that the torment of being bullied will never stop unless he hurts his
tormentor. He begins to fantasize about getting revenge, and he may eventually strike out in a violent rage.
Some young persons may feel cheated at love, or that life has dealt them a cruel hand. But as best as is possible,
family members and friends, teachers and guidance counselors, youth ministers, police officers, and everyone in
the community need to be on point, watching for those who are troubled, angry, withdrawn or hurting.
Do not expect a troubled teenager to communicate his or her feelings to you, either. Most teens who are angry brood
a lot. They try to keep their anger bottled up. But they will drop many hints that something's not right. And you have
to be concerned and alert enough to watch for such things.
Furthermore, teenagers need to be responsible for their violence. A person who hits or destroys someone's life must
be held accountable. I am not referring to "Zero Tolerance" where a harsh punishment is inflicted on a young person
and no room is allowed for mercy and mitigating circumstances. But in a civilized society, damaging lives and property
of others cannot be permitted.
Most of all, teenagers need to be taught to value life. Life is something to cherish and respect. It is a gift from God, and
it is sacred.
In addition, teens, I believe, need to know that there is a God who created them and who cares about them. They also
need to learn how to solve their problems (and everyone has problems) without reaching for a gun, knife, or club.
In my opinion, being violent is not a sign of manhood and maturity, but of childishness and stupidity.
August 28, 2004