This Friday night’s theme for the youth group is about addictions among teens. I want to focus on the psychological addictions such as “being in love”, eating disorders, body image problems, sports addictions, addictions to television and internet, exercise addictions, and sexual addictions. Many times, when addictions are presented and solutions are given, drugs and alcohol, the physical dependencies, are the central focus of the discussion while the more psychological addictions remain in the background.
First of all, we must understand that as fallen people, born into the bondage of sin, we have a tendency to succumb to addictions. The Bible teaches this in several different passages.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3)
In the original Greek the word “all” literally means “all”. Every person has sinned (missed God’s mark or standard, fallen short) and we are sinners, enslaved to our master, sin.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. (Romans 1)
Since we obey sin and reject God, either purposely or accidentally, God has given us over to the dirty desires of our sin nature. The depravity is unbelievable in many cases. We are susceptible to addictions because of this problem. God cannot be blamed because we are the ones who do it to ourselves. Slavery to sin and addictions are just the result/consequences of our poor choices. I would now like to examine these psychological addictions and find some practical solutions.
Being in Love
About the time a teen’s hormones kick in, this desire to be in love appears. Like any other addictive substance, all it takes is “one time” to be hooked. The central focus of this “love” is not the person with whom the person is “in love”. The object is the tingly feeling produced by being “in love”. That is why a person can go from one relationship to the next, because the object is the self gratification of the personal feeling instead of true love which seeks to serve and do the best for the benefit of the other. Many times this state of being “in love” manifests itself in the female gender. There are many teen girls and young adult women who have to be in a relationship. They cannot stand the thought of being single. It resembles an addiction and I believe it is a psychological one. Can this cycle be broken? Yes. How? Teens, like all people, need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We were created for relationship. That is a natural desire but because of sin, that desire gets distorted and we settle for less than what God intends. The relationship mentality shifts from being outward (I want to serve you) to inward (I want to be served by you). When people enter a personal relationship with God through Christ, that desire is met and they are finally “satisfied”. Now they can turn relationships into opportunities to serve others instead of personal addictions. I will address males in the topic of sexual addiction because this is where they manifest this relational distortion. At the end of the article I will give practical tips for overcoming addictions.
Television, Internet, and Sports
Many people become addicted to television, many times, not even realizing it. Television is designed to keep your attention, leading you on from one program to another. Often, people come in from a long day’s work and sit down to “rest” for a few minutes in front of the television. Those few minutes turn into an entire night of being a zombie. The person arises and says, “wow, is it already time for bed?”. The person then exclaims, “well, I will not fall for that again”. The process repeats itself until a routine begins and a habit forms. In 2010, the average number of hours Americans spent in front of the television, per week, was 34. That comes out to about 5 hours a day over a 7 day period, 3 hours short of a full time job. That is staggering. People depend on television. It has become an addiction for many, especially now that smart phones can stream television shows. Many of these “watchers” are teens. This is dangerous because people are no longer interacting in society outside of the workplace. Many people just go home and sit in front of the tube. A large part of this watching is done on sports. Many men go from one sport’s season to another. Here is a typical letter written by a woman about her husband’s sports addiction. Baseball season gives way to Football (both professional and college) which gives way to Basketball (again, professional and college) which gives way to Baseball again etc. The cycle goes on and on and many men get hooked. Watching sports is not bad in itself but when you become a slave to it then it is bad. It has become an addiction. A newly dubbed addiction is the internet since computers are in many homes with easy internet access. There is a new medical term on the books, internet addiction disorder. Some studies claim that anywhere from 5 to 10% of internet users have become dependent. Here are some of the things that the internet can do to cause an addiction; detachment from reality (spending too much time online with virtual people instead of with actual people), time distortion (one link leads to another to another, much like television), and instant gratification (people lose the ability to have patience, they cannot postpone having their desires met). We see these problems manifested among teens and young adults today, the generation that has grown up and is growing up with constant internet access.
The problem of pornography among males stems out of easy internet access and spending many, many hours online, usually alone physically. Teen boys usually tend to show their need for personal relationships through sex. As we saw earlier, girls manifest this deviation from a relationship with God in the form of relationships with males. Males generally tend to manifest this in their sexuality. Sexual satisfaction tries to fill the hole left by the lack of a personal relationship with God. The porn industry has benefited from this by offering this sexual satisfaction instantly. Many males have become porn addicts as a result.
The final addiction in this section manifests itself in the weekend warrior. He is very similar to the man who watches sports constantly, the difference being that he gets out and plays sports, all the time, to the point of obsession. Sports are a vital part of the human experience because they promote exercise, something which every human body needs. But, like all activities, it must be done in moderation. When taken to the extreme, to the point that the person has no time for any other activities, to the point where you do not play out of a desire but out of a “need” then it has gone too far. This problem can be among both men and women but mostly manifests itself among men. A variation of this would be the “gym rat”, the person who spends hours a day in the gym, the person who cannot live without constantly exercising. Again, exercise is vital but it must not consume us.
These activities when blown out of proportion, consume our precious time. God created us to have a relationship with Him by spending our time with Him though Bible study and prayer. This relationship will be manifested in the way we interact with others. Many of the above mentioned activities actually keep us from interacting with others, or interacting with them in a healthy way.
This addiction manifests itself in many different forms. For girls, it can be through eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia. When you do not have a relationship with God then you never feel like you have complete approval. In order to quiet this desire, people seek the approval of people around them. Body image is a problem among teens because the mass media forces its standard of masculine and feminine beauty on them, daily, moment by moment because of the easy access via television, internet, smartphones etc. These addictions become the master very quickly. They never bring satisfaction and always want more and more.
- Admit that you have a problem and cannot change yourself.
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – through repentance and being born again, return to the One who made you and wants to have a relationship with you.
- Romans 12:2 – Do not go on living the way that you always have.
- Hebrews 4:15 – Turn to God for help because He knows what you are going through.
- Psalm 147:3 – God can help you and heal you even if you have made many, many mistakes.
- Chip away at the problem little by little.
- As the old saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day”. If you want to break addictions, know that God can set you free in a single moment but you will have to chip away, one victory at a time, saying no to your temptation.
- Build momentum though little victories.
- As you have one victory at a time, you will notice that momentum will build.
- Change your environment.
- I Corinthians 15:33 – If you lie down with dogs you will rise up with fleas. As Paul teaches, bad company corrupts good morals.
- Be persistent.
- Be content with little victories.
- Identify your danger zones, what draws you to give in to your temptations.
- Be accountable and have a support system.
- Ecclesiastes 4:11-12 – If you try to do it all on your own, you will fail. It is best to have a buddy system or accountability partners.
- Proverbs 27:17 – As you work together with your partner, you sharpen your skills and ability to say no to temptation, being less likely to fall back in the routine of your previous addictions.