Tough-Love Letters to a Troubled Teen I

August 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm 2 comments

     Dearest Maisie,

I usually look forward to sitting down to write to you every week, but today I find that I’m procrastinating, thrashing about for words; no idle chitchat about homework and weather seems appropriate under the circumstances of our bright, beautiful grandniece having gotten herself kicked out of school. I guess I’ll just dive in, and pray that God will guide me to say useful things. 

I need to start by assuring you that I do understand resentment and anger. Life on this earth is fraught with reasons to accumulate both. Uncle J. knows that firsthand. He was only twelve when he learned that he would never get the chance to live a “normal” life; that he would have to watch everything he ate and drank, and give himself insulin injections multiple times each day. As he grew older, he learned that diabetes could cut his life shorter than some, and that he might have severe problems related to his condition, problems like heart disease and loss of vision, or even amputated limbs. 

When he was only 33, he lost his youngest brother, first to mental illness and then to a premature death from a seizure. And perhaps his greatest agony was when he lost his family to an unwanted divorce and he didn’t see his children for months on end. He used his faith to get him through each hardship, but still, there are scars and there is underlying pain. 

I, too, have known reason for emotional distress. My mother – damaged by the desertion of her own father at a very young age – passed along her defensiveness and insecurities to me, communicating confusing messages about relationships; my own family turned their backs on God and my parents’ marriage ended in a bitter divorce; my brother chose drugs and alcohol over his family, even over his beautiful baby boy; and I spent many years accepting poor treatment from others because I had such a low regard for myself. Floundering and searching for two decades, I accumulated a huge load of anger – eventually mostly at myself, for wasting so many of my early years. 

We also have a friend who suffers from cerebral palsy, traceable to physical complications at birth . From his earliest years he has been virtually wheelchair-bound and often ostracized by others, left to reasonably wonder why his lot in life is what it is.  

So we certainly recognize how life can deal you blows that cause deep and excruciating wounds. Of course, we can never know exactly the degree or the nature of the anguish that churns inside of you because of your family split and your early shuttling between households while your parents sorted out their own issues, but we do understand that it exists and that there may be good reasons for it. What we are struggling to grasp is how that rage becomes your master, a cruel dictator that drives you to lash out and attack those who may have once been a source of tribulation to you, but who are now earnestly trying to learn from their mistakes and help you heal and make a future for yourself. 

I do know that I have traits I want desperately to be rid of, and that it is a slow and trudging process, even with God’s unwavering care. Our humanity always wants to hold onto behavior patterns that feel comfortable and familiar, no matter how self-destructive they may be. Sometimes, still, it feels like the old urge to wallow in resentment is bigger than I am, and that I may never enjoy full control of it. Maybe that’s what’s going on in your life right now. But I have said to you before – and I will keep repeating it until I am too old and weak to give voice to it – that so much of your future happiness, contentment, peace of mind, and success in life depend on your decisions and choices and actions right now. You can look back and say, “Whew; dodged a bullet there,” or you can pay with future grief for indulging your wildest impulses in the present. 

Perhaps it will help to think about that: The foundation you lay with your actions when you are fifteen can be the deciding factor in whether you live a life of continued torment or put your many gifts to good use for your own satisfaction and the betterment of the world around you. 

There is a huge ripple effect from our conduct. A momentary action embarked upon in a state a thousand miles away can bring either joy and peace or hurt and worry to so many around you, from your immediate family to distant relatives to those of us way up here in the North Country, who pray for you daily and grieve over every misstep you make – knowing, as we do, how you will suffer for today’s actions tomorrow. 

You may not want others to care, but they do; you may not want God to have anything to do with your life, but He does. It wasn’t until I faced up to those facts that I was able to stop sabotaging my life and start building it; to let go of my own hurts and resentments and start the healing process that allows a person to become a positive force on this planet of ours.

Please, please; do not wait until something happens that will be gravely difficult to undo. God is all about second chances and fresh starts – just look at the apostle Paul! – but I don’t imagine that mankind’s legal system is as forgiving.  

We love you, we will always love you; nothing you can do could make us stop loving you. But respect is important, too: self-worth can crumble if the admiration of those you care about erodes. As corny as it sounds, we feel your pain. Not because we can live inside your skin and know it, but because we are all flawed human beings, scarred by life’s injustices and slights, and we each have to learn to overcome them in order to have any peace and hope.  

That’s God’s other Big Thing – peace and hope. Initially, when what we’re doing isn’t working, we may turn to Him in desperation. But eventually we learn that He is the Mover and Shaper of all that we are willing to hand over to Him. What a relief that is, ‘cuz the world’s way too big for me to tackle on my own. 

Loving you and missing you and aching for you –

                                                          Aunt Suz

Entry filed under: Advice For Life. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

Makeovers, Before and Afters, and Happy Endings Tough-Love Letters to a Troubled Teen – II

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Keith  |  August 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    A life not grounded in Christ will be adrift and the inevitable “scratches and dents” that are experienced will collect and only grow into bitterness.

    • 2. kirkhams  |  August 23, 2010 at 8:06 pm

      How very true: It’s both that simple and that difficult for rebellious, prideful man to accept.


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