By Sarah Koontz
When I was fourteen, the enemy planted a lie in my heart that grew undetected for nearly two decades.
One day after school, I sat in the wing-backed chair in the corner of my mother’s home office.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
My mom was on a business call. When I entered the room, she paused her conversation, covered the phone and asked me if I needed something.
I shook my head and said no.
So she proceeded with her call, and I sat and listened for the next twenty minutes.
I finally got bored and left the office, searching for something more interesting to do with my afternoon.
But, in my heart, I wondered why Mom didn’t end her call to spend time with me.
Was the person on the other end of the line more important to her than me? Was her work more important than me?
Did my mom really love me at all?
Sadly, my mom carried on with her call—utterly unaware of the significance of that moment in the life of her teenager.
Once I began questioning my mom’s love, I found evidence of it lacking everywhere I looked.
It did not matter that my mom regularly told me she loved me. Her hugs, kisses, and cuddles were not enough to quell the question lingering in my heart.
Every time she talked about work at the dinner table, I saw it as evidence of her lack of love for me. Every time she missed a sporting event, it confirmed my belief that I wasn’t important to her.
Every time she was tired, distracted, or short-tempered—it confirmed my belief that my mom didn’t really love me.
Because the lie was planted in my heart so young, I lacked the maturity and critical thinking skills necessary to recognize and root out incorrect thinking.
In my head, I knew my mom loved me. But in my heart, I doubted it was true. This doubt lasted for decades and nearly destroyed my relationship with my mom.
Do you want to know the saddest part of this story?
I wish I had the words to tell my mom what I felt all those years ago. I’m confident she would have gotten off that call and given me all the attention and affirmation I craved.
But maybe this formative experience was a necessary part of my story. Perhaps all that pain prepared me to be the parent my teenagers need today.
A person with the wisdom and experience necessary to help other parents protect adolescents from common lies teenagers believe about themselves.
How the Frequency Illusion Impacts Teenagers
Have you ever heard of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon?
Also known as “frequency illusion,” this theory postulates that our brains are prejudiced towards patterns [source].
While we fail to notice hundreds or thousands of pieces of information that aren’t repeated, we inflate the importance of events that are repeated.
Although this is a highly effective learning tool, it also causes the brain to lend excessive importance to unremarkable events.
As a mother of two teenagers, I see this form of cognitive bias play out in real life all the time.
I sometimes fear this generation of young people is stuck in a giant game of Where’s Waldo?
They only see the things they are looking for.
When you fear rejection, you see it on every face in the crowd.
When you want to escape your responsibilities, you spot exits everywhere.
When you crave affirmation, you will find it in all the wrong places.
1 Peter 5:8 HCSB says, “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”
Sadly, teens are primary targets in the enemy’s strategy to dismantle the kingdom of God.
How does he attack our kids?
John 8:44b HCSB tells us that the devil “was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.”
All Satan has to do is feed our teens a few cookie crumbs. A few negative thoughts. A few lies.
And they will find evidence confirming those lies everywhere they look.
As parents of teens, it is our job to equip our children with the truth so that they can find freedom from the most common lies teenagers believe about themselves.
Five Common Lies Teenagers Believe About Themselves
Here are five lies teenagers believe about themselves and biblical truths they need to hear from their parents (over, and over, and over again):
Lies Teenagers Believe # 1 – I am ugly.
Teens live in a world filled with photoshopped images and skimpily dressed social media influencers.
They will never be able to measure up to the standard of beauty our society has set for them.
At some point in every teenager’s life, they must learn to respect and appreciate their body as a gift from God (1 Cor 6:19-20).
Christian parents must help their teens establish a biblical definition of beauty (1 Pt 3:3-4).
Remind them that they are “God’s handiwork” (Eph 2:10), and their value is not tied to their physical appearance (Pr 31:30).
Lies Teenagers Believe #2 – I am stupid.
Your teenager is going to make mistakes. Often!
Since they are still developing their identity, they will be tempted to believe they are their mistakes.
As parents of teenagers, it’s our job to help them learn from their mistakes rather than build their identity upon them.
The Bible teaches us to confess and be cleansed from our sins (1 Jn 1:9).
When we take these steps, God “removes our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:12).
God promises to work in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9-10) and willingly gives us the grace and mercy we need (Heb 4:15-16) to endure.
Lies Teenagers Believe # 3 – I am a burden.
Living with teens will test any parents’ patience.
There will be times when you lose your cool and react in a way that you regret.
It is super important for parents to take responsibility for their actions and apologize when they mess up.
If we don’t model humility for our kids (Col 3:12), they will wrongly assume they are a burden.
Our children are a “heritage from the Lord” (Ps 127:3), and it is our responsibility to model and teach truth in our homes (Dt 6:6-7).
Even when teens cause problems, the parent must “bear with them in love” (Eph 4:2) and remind them that they are not a burden.
Lies Teenagers Believe # 4 – I will never be good enough.
Our teenagers are not adults.
They are still “works in progress,” and they are more aware of their shortcomings than most parents realize.
Even if they have an idea of what kind of person they want to be, they struggle to obey authority (Tit 3:1-2), be kind to their peers (Col 3:12-13), and do the right thing (Gal 6:9).
As parents of teenagers, we need to remind them that our love for them is not dependent on their actions (1 Jn 4:11).
God created them on purpose for a purpose (Jer 29:11), and His power is made perfect in their weakness (2 Cor 12:9).
Lies Teenagers Believe # 5 – I am unloveable.
God loves your teenager with everlasting love (Jer 31:3). He delights in your teen (Zeph 3:17) and is compassionate and gracious toward them (Ps 86:15).
Unfortunately, the concept of unconditional love is difficult for most adolescents to comprehend.
They live in a world that tells them how they need to look, act, and talk in order to be accepted by their peers.
They often feel unloveable, and they need their parents to show them the love of God in tangible ways (Jn 15:12-13).
Teens need unconditional love even when (especially when!) they are unloving toward us (Lk 6:27-28).
This is the most challenging part of parenting teens and the most divine!
When we love our children with God’s love, we create a safe environment for them to grow and learn.
Even if they wander away for a while, we will always be a safe haven for them to return to when the world chews them up and spits them out.
Your Teen Needs You To Build Your Life Upon the Truth
Because our brains love patterns, we tend to give excessive importance to unremarkable events.
And if that look, comment, or feeling confirms a lie we’ve accepted as truth—we struggle to see anything else.
This list only scratches the surface of the many lies teenagers believe about themselves.
Sadly, once a lie takes root in their heart, they may not even recognize it until the consequences are far-reaching.
As Christians, we have access to every resource we need to live victoriously (1 Pt 1:3).
But, if we are unaware of the lies lingering in the corners of our hearts—we will never experience the joy of victory.
In order to teach our teenagers the truth, we must first accept it for ourselves. It’s time to root out the lies that linger and build our lives upon the Rock.
Then, we will have the wisdom required to help our teens do the same!
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” Matthew 7:24-27