- The stats are stunning, with 1/3 of kids admitted to Emergency Rooms being assessed as suicide risks.
- The stats are stunning, with that suicide risk stat being in direct correlation with the rise of kids with smart phones using social media.
Kids can be horrific bullies. Kids can be ultra-conformist. If insulted, it’s pretty much 100% certain that kids will take the insult to heart, including the bullies, who are, by the way, the most cowardly, the most projecting of themselves upon others: it’s not them with issues; it’s others! Kids without an identity apart from manipulated reactions to social media use are thus brought to the lowest common denominator of death. If you thought such drama to be limited to those we wrongly call “adults”, you’re wrong; it’s a power thing, even with kids.
Generally speaking, kids don’t have the emotional wherewithal to withstand this kind of assault, or the ability to assault from behind a little screen without having to answer to people right in front of you. That’s why we call young people minors, giving them a different status, limiting their participation in society in all sorts of ways and on all sorts of levels – or at least we used to do that.
But with smart phones, all bets are off. The put-downs, insults, threats and extortion, the sexting, the manipulation, the marginalization… it’s all there, just like with adults. We’re all subject to the weakness of original sin, but kids are less apt to be confronting the world with a full sense of identity and therefore reason and balance.
So, what’s the solution? Merely take away or limit use of smart phones? That’s part of it. The real underlying cause, however, is a lack of identity. Social media has become the identity of kids. But why?
People are seeking self-esteem in the face of a fallen human nature that is so easily manipulated particularly when we have no sense of identity, no base, no foundation, as it were, from which to interact with the world. And people fall, and as they fall, they are smashed down and mocked all the more by those who are just like them, only worse in bullying and cowardice. Seeking self-esteem, they make the absurd claim for themselves that what they do in leveling ranker and insults at others, in hurting themselves with immoral behaviors as manipulated by others, is to do the right thing, because everyone is that way, because in that way they are getting for themselves an identity, however cruel, however much this beats oneself up. “I’m me!” they cry in their self-provided self-esteem, beating themselves up, beating others up. And now they’re adults, they think, being able, however, not to act from any real identity, but in being all the more cruel with those with whom one has chosen to give one’s life in being in mere reaction to them, still defining one’s identity by way of reaction to another. How very mature!
So, again, what’s the solution to a lack of identity, to a lack of self-esteem? Religion.
There’s a politically incorrect answer: religion, which, as a virtue of justice, renders to God that which is due to God, our Creator. God expects us to use our free will to be His good creatures. To use our free will we have to have a base, a foundation of identity from which to act, and this is uncomfortable as people are used to having no identity, to being in mere reaction to others. We don’t like this because we are immediately confronted with the fact that in our weak human nature after original sin we have no way to establish an identity from which to act. For fallen creatures to all of a sudden be good creatures – still in all our weakness in this world – we need the intervention of our Creator, His forgiveness, and the wherewithal – in a bond of friendship, of humble thanksgiving with Him – to have an identity once again, a real identity, that of a creature walking in the presence of his Creator.
Religion: God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to stand in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, to re-establish us before Himself, thankful to Him for giving us our identity which we threw away with original sin and whatever of our own. Jesus rendered to His Father, on our behalf, that which God the Father is due. Jesus is religion Incarnate. That’s religion. That’s all it is. Nothing scary. It’s all Jesus. We have our identity in Jesus.
Self-esteem is no longer sought in reaction to others, which is entirely contrary to self-esteem, making oneself lose one’s self-esteem. Self-esteem in Jesus is now provided by Jesus forgiving us and establishing a friendship with us. He says: “I call you friends.”
We get self-esteem by going to Confession and being brought into this friendship with Jesus. Jesus Himself wanted it done this way. Sin offends both God and neighbor, no matter what, no matter how private – even the “privacy” of hiding behind a screen in social-media. Being reconciled isn’t just a matter of saying, “Sorry, God!” Jesus wants us to be reconciled with Himself and all of us. Saint Paul speaks of this as Jesus being the Head of the Body and we the members of the Body. The priest represents all the other members of the Mystical Body of Christ. When the priest gives absolution of sin in the first person singular – “I absolve you…” – it is Christ Jesus who is speaking, and we are reconciled to both Jesus and our neighbor.
Mind you, the guilt of sin being put aside, while that is a great thing, is only the tiniest part of the story in obtaining self-esteem and identity. The absolution brings about forgiveness by way of flooding the soul with sanctifying grace, with the friendship of Jesus.
Self-esteem? “Jesus, God, loves me!” “Jesus, God, loves us!”
Identity? “I am found by Jesus to be one in friendship with Him. He gives me the base, the foundation, to have an identity in Him. In His friendship I need not give in to the temptation to be in mere reaction to others, to the temptation to be down to the lowest common denominator of death. In Jesus, in His friendship, I can even do something good for others, helping to introduce them all the more to the liberty of wholesomeness, of integrity, of honesty, of goodness and kindness, of friendship with Christ Jesus, who will come to the judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Amen. Maranatha! Come once again to us, Lord Jesus!”
That’s a bit counter-intuitive, isn’t it? Get self-esteem by confessing one’s sins? Yep. I love it. Christianity is full of irony, the wit and wisdom of Jesus. He loves us. Truly.