By Alex Gudenkauf
Today we live in a culture that has lost the value of love. No longer are relationships built on trust and respect but on sexual relations. Our society has a false definition of love and uses that definition to make a lot of money. We cannot turn on the television without seeing at least one reality TV show that is based on this “love.” Similarly, celebrities who continue to have relationship after relationship are revered as great people. Radio stations continue to play music that has sexual references and adult novels are becoming best sellers.
All this public attention reinforces the idea that love is not built on letting someone completely submerge into one’s life but instead is rooted in sex. Living as a teenager in this kind of world is very difficult, even to go to school without encountering this type of relationship. People have lost their sense of what relationships and dating should really be. A walk down the halls of any high school reveals multitudes of people holding hands, talking about trading sexual favors, the party they went to, and even some people kissing. Social media and popular culture have made this mindset spread like wildfire.
Our society is slowly imploding. Knowing this, it is increasingly difficult to live life as a Catholic teenager. Following the church’s teachings becomes difficult when following them results in being made an outcast. It is not “cool” to live a life devoted to God. This is just one more complication added to a life that is nothing but stress. We are forced to make many important decisions; the last thing needed is negative pressure from peers and, likewise, adults. We as teenagers realize that adults mean to look out for us, but sometimes we do not feel comfortable coming to adults. This is because we sometimes feel inferior to their opinions on our situation. Please keep in mind that fear and judgment are not the best ways to get a point across to teenagers. The best thing at this time in our lives is to receive very clear advice and forgiveness for our mistakes from influential adults. That advice should be centered on the idea that love is completely giving oneself up for another. It is letting someone completely into our lives.
We must remember that we are called to live like Jesus and Jesus lived a life that went against the social normality. So we, too, must live like Jesus and not give into the social ideology that love is only sexual. First we must let God completely into our lives and love him with all our being; from this we will find strength and guidance. Only after we truly love God can we find true love on earth. True love will be there through the highs and lows. True love will get us through every single tough time, no matter the gravity of the situation. Though the world may not be changed in a day, by our love we may merit a change in just one person. And to just that one person, it may mean the world.
(Alex Gudenkauf is a member of the Diocesan Youth Ministry Commission (DYMC), a junior at Iowa City West High School and a member of St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville.)