Phoniness, hypocrisy, and disillusionment
What the teen cannot bear, as Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye declares, is “phoniness”—hypocrisy and inconsistency—in their hunt for a harmonious truth, a felt wholeness of personal values and reality. In my work with parents and teachers, I sometimes share that “me, me, I think…” or “not me at all…” can sound irritating, self-centered, and self-obsessed. It isn’t. It is the cultivation of the only instrument that teens—or any of us—have for knowing: our inner instrument. At a surface level, in our everyday lives with teens the questions and debates of individuation may sound overdramatic. But given the deep stakes of the developmental work under way, the emotion is appropriate.
Miller, Dr. Lisa. The Spiritual Child (p. 236). St. Martin's Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
What most teens, who developmentally are challenged to form their identity and find the reference groups to which they belong, find most troublesome is phoniness and hypocrisy. Disillusionment is a big experience in adolescence as parents and other authority figures are de-idealized and a more accurate awareness of the authority figures functioning sets in.
This de-idealization occurs in religious training and adherence as well. The phenomenon of teen rebellion and opposition and resistance to external controls is well known. At the same time as the de-idealization is going on, an interior compass is being developed which guides the person in decision making. This often is an unconscious process and gaining the approval of one’s reference group and avoiding their disapproval becomes paramount.
The covenantal nature of Unitarian Universalism becomes important for teen development and yet commitment to the covenant is very weak in most cases if it exists at all. Perhaps this lack of commitment to the covenant is because the seven principles calling for affirmation and promotion are so weakly explicated and rarely recognized as indicators for the interior moral compass. Parents have a huge role to play in explicating these principles and talking with their teens about how to apply these principles in their daily lives and decisions making. Examples by the parents and other adults is the best teaching pedagogy.
- How often do you talk with teens about the principles and their application?
- When opportunities to demonstrate good decision-making are available, are the principles used as reference points?
- Have you ever talked with a teen about the interior compass which is based on genuineness and authenticity and not on hypocrisy and dissembling?