I’ll be transparent. Being a teenager is hard. With school, work, college applications, keeping a social life and an abundance of other things, it begins to stack up.
Being a Catholic teenager is even harder. You get caught up in a whirlwind of expectations that you know aren’t right. Social media and everyday society will tell you it’s OK to be wild and crazy during your youth. It tells you to throw caution to the wind by disrespecting your body, your morals and your faith. The environment around you is constantly telling you that the time of religion is gone, that sin is in and that God is dead. After a while, you often begin to think the same things.
When I think about the world I live in today compared to the life my parents and teachers lived, I often wonder why they are so surprised by how teenagers act. Parents wonder what is wrong with teenagers today. They wonder why we are so different from how they were growing up. I never really understood why they questioned the way we act.
But then I remember they have never had to deal with any of the pressures we deal with on a daily basis. It’s no wonder they are so shocked. So here it is — here is why it’s so hard to be a teenager, especially a faithful one.
It all comes back to expectations. Expectations are literally everywhere we look. When we look anywhere online, on television or on social media, we are met with a thousand different boys and girls who are doing whatever they want and having an amazing time while doing it. Even though we are always told not to wear those kinds of clothes, hang out with that crowd, drink this, do that or go there, if someone else is doing it and seems to be having more fun, then what could possibly be so wrong with it? Parents of teenagers never had to go through this. They might have heard of a party that was going on and had to deal with that pressure but never did they see the fun those people were having in numerous forms of media that’s right in the palm of their hand.
It’s hard to be a Godly person when you’re being told that the new lifestyle you need to live is the exact opposite of that.
I have consistently seen friends of mine decide they would rather fit in with the crowd than do the right thing. One of my best friends had a boyfriend who would pressure her into going to parties, drinking and making bad decisions in general. I haven’t spoken to her since my sophomore year of high school, but needless to say she isn’t doing well in her school or social life.
As a consequence of seeing our peers living in a way we were told to stay away from, we have to choose between two completely different ways of living. We must choose between what our friends and acquaintances are doing and what our parents want. That is an extremely difficult decision to make.
Most teenagers will end up doing what their young friends are doing in order to fit in. As cliché as “peer pressure” sounds, it’s cliché for a reason. Peer pressure is a very real problem. Nobody wants to be the singled man out. Not many teenagers look forward to Sunday Mass, therefore going to church is against the crowd, which can sometimes be considered an embarrassment.
The simple fact of the matter is this: As long as teenagers seek to be as inconspicuous and “normal” as possible with their fellow teenagers, their faith is threatened.
Whenever someone asks me about my Catholic faith, I passionately answer any question they have. However, the notion they preserve is that as a Catholic, I can’t have a social life. They think that because I will not do the things other teenagers do — or rather, make the mistakes other teenagers make — that my life is pretty boring. However, I never take this personally because I know that because my social life and religious life are not two separate things, and that makes me infinitely happier.
As I said, being a Catholic teenager is hard. However, that makes it all the more rewarding. Despite the intimidation of being different from the average teen, knowing that you are doing what is best for you is important. Everyone must go through struggles to test their Catholic faith.
Parents often forget that struggles are necessary to get stronger. Something I’ve noticed is the teenagers who go to church and have a strong faith are so rooted in their faithfulness that it seems like nothing will ever tempt them from it.
Because the struggles that we face in this time are so difficult, if you do manage to successfully turn to your Catholic faith with trust, you are stronger than most.
Ardyn Townzen is a senior at Bentonville High School. She attends St. Stephen Church in Bentonville.
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