Navigating Your Child's Education: Grades 9-12

3 min read

How Praising Our Teens Can Hinder Their Spiritual Development

Jun 6, 2019 9:25 AM


Nothing is more insidiously dangerous than the pursuit of the applause of men. Nothing is more temporary, more meaningless than the applause of men.Yet, sadly, it can creep into our spiritual walk. Jesus warned us that such a life as His disciples erases any chance of receiving His "well done" and undermines our relationship with Him. The reason is obvious. When we do our "spiritual stuff" in order to impress men and gain their approval, we are actually worshiping ourselves in His presence. We have set up an altar to ourselves in our hearts--His temple. Men applaud--and we are deceived into thinking that He is pleased with us. He is not--not in the least.

One of the saddest things associated with teaching in a Christian school is the number of students who graduate and then walk away from Him, from His love, from the cross. And some of those are students who were leaders while at the school. They received applause for their "spiritual stuff" at home, school, and church, but then they move out of that familiar environment and into a world that does not applaud the genuine disciple and His obedience to Christ and His call on their lives. No applause for serving Him? Applause for not serving Him. They pursue the applause.

This is a difficult-to-navigate component of spiritual development in adolescence. Obviously we want to encourage them when we see that they are pursuing the things of God. But if they come to expect praise and applause for their religiosity, their "faith" may crumble as they move out of our homes and the familiar environment.

Their "excuse" is that they have discovered the "real world." They have not. Their "real world" is a dark place filled with blind people pursuing a life devoid of satisfaction and meaning. A world that is so dark that it thinks its darkness is light. That is a a life of illusion. Delusion. There is nothing "real" about it. All reality rests in and comes from a relationship with Christ--and can be found nowhere else.


We must remind our students that the "real world" they long to be a part of is a lie--an attractive lie, but a lie perpetrated by the one who is the father of lies. His lie--his "real world"--kills (John 10:10).

New call-to-actionWe must remind our children and students both with our lives and our words that following Jesus brings joy, peace, and meaning to one's daily life. He is Truth. Following Him--and Him alone--will not gain them the applause of men. It will gain them the "well done" of the Lover of their souls. He is the One who lived in the so-called real world, despised its applause, and brought the inextinguishable light into the darkness. To pursue the applause of men is to walk in darkness, to encourage those in the darkness to believe that the darkness is light. To follow Him by faith--to please Him--is to shine a light in the darkness, to rescue the delusional from the path of eternal destruction, from an eternal life of separation from the presence of the Source of all that is really real. Jesus Christ.

Pray for your children, warn them of the applause of men, in word and in a life well-lived --the life of unwavering discipleship. Demonstrate to them that such a life alone gives one meaning and purpose. Be sure they know which life is real and Whose applause will be worth it all.

Al Iten
Written by Al Iten

Before passing away in January of 2021, Al had 40 years of classroom teaching experience. He also spent time writing textbooks. He loved teaching ideas, critical thinking and writing. He was passionate about encouraging his students to pursue God in all things.