“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” – Proverbs 20:5
It’s always easiest just to focus on behavior modification, because behaviors are much more obvious than “the purposes of a person’s heart.” Deeper motivations take time to uncover; but if we can uncover them, we’ll be able to affect a much more substantial change in those we care for. As James K.A. Smith wrote in You Are What You Love, “Our wants and longings and desires are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behavior flow.”
Over the next couple of days we’re going to be exploring some of the deeper motivations that might be shaping the way your teens think about a couple of different aspects of sexuality. Understanding deeper motivations can shape how we frame these discussions, so we’ll unpack some common mindsets, motivations, and patterns of teenage logic. Along the way we’ll look at some more ways to contextualize these discussions for different age groups.
You may feel nervous. But remember that God—the same God who pursues you and works to restore you and your family—is also the God who created sex. This means that ultimately, at the deepest level, in these conversations you are on home turf. So be encouraged! We’ll give you everything we’ve got to help you feel as equipped as possible.
One of the ways to mark a little girl’s transition into a young woman is by an increased desire to hear words like Song of Solomon 4:7 spoken to her by someone she finds attractive: “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Most young women want to be affirmed in their beauty and desirability. We met a student once who told us that she might consider it an honor if a boy asked her for naked pictures—not that she even intended to send them, but for her, being asked would’ve been the ultimate affirmation of her desirability.
Simultaneously, as little boys start becoming young men, some may begin to evaluate themselves by questions like, “If I wanted to lose my virginity, could I convince someone to sleep with me?” or “Could I convince someone to send me a naked picture?” Even if they don’t intend to act out the answer, they may feel a similar impulse to test out their own level of attractiveness, and desirability.
For both young men and women, self-esteem issues can be a major factor in the decision to become sexually active early on. If they already tend to be down on themselves, and then someone begins showing them a lot of attention, they may feel a strong temptation to absorb as much of that attention as possible in whatever ways they can. The cost of premarital sexuality may not feel as high as the cost of remaining socially disconnected.
It’s normal for teenagers to begin evaluating themselves in terms of their desirability. There’s a part of us that will always be somewhat aware of how attractive we are to others, but that doesn’t have to become what we cling to for a sense of value.
Strong affirmations of masculine identity from fathers to sons (when possible), and strong affirmations of feminine identity from mothers to daughters (when possible), can help establish a deeper sense of value. Saying things like, “I’m proud of the man (or woman) you’re becoming,” and then calling out specific good things you see in your son or daughter can go a long way toward building in them a strong sense of self, one that won’t be as desperate to prove its value through sexual exploits.
As Dr. Jordan Peterson once put it, “there are very many people who have not heard an encouraging word in their life. It takes so little to encourage them that it’s rather tragic.” May that not be true of your sons and daughters.
Over the next three days, we’re going to share three different clips from an interview that Axis team members Bryan and Emily did with David Galvan, the former Director of Education for a Lifetime, which equips teens to make healthy sexual choices. In this 4.5 minute clip, Galvan talks about how to leverage circumstances in age-appropriate ways to invest in our kids’ sexual health. Take note of any approaches you’d like to implement with your son or daughter.
“Father, thank you for my daughter (or son). Thank you for the woman (or man) they are becoming. I pray for your guidance on how to empower and encourage them, as well as for your discernment and clarity on which questions I should be asking them. Help me to find questions that invite discussion, which feel welcoming and not like I’m trying to trap them. Bless our conversation, and use it to bring us closer to each other, and to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”