By Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor, clinical and educational psychologist
When young people commit acts that run contrary to normalcy, we are quick to assign the label ‘mentally ill’, without possibly going to the root of the matter. This was seen in the recent desecration at the Cathedral by a young medical student, the shooting deaths of children in schools abroad by a 17 year old and so on.
Over the last two weeks, in group therapy sessions with highly functioning teenagers and young adults, the topic of spirituality was addressed. Many of them stated that they no longer believed that God was there for them in their lives as He had forsaken them in times of need—failure in exams, the death of a parent, and close relationships. They had prayed fervently to God, to no avail, as their prayers had gone unanswered.
In writing this article, I decided to ask random young persons about their thoughts on the lack of spirituality in their lives. Many felt that social media convinces you that other things are more important (material things, beauty, complexion, assets) and the fast pace of the world does not allow us time to sit and meditate.
One young man admitted that he had always believed in God but when he told his parents that he was unsure of his sexuality, his parents made him believe that God did not accept him and had turned on him. How could he then relate to a God who considered that he was an ‘outsider’?
Like many of his friends, he also felt that religious leaders were corrupt as could be seen in the accusations of sexual assault and fraud in many religions, so how were they expected to be ‘spiritual’ when their spiritual leaders had failed them? Most of them believed in God, but hated Him. What a dilemma!
In unpacking this dualism and conflict of faith, I came upon a term ‘Misotheism’, coined by an English professor, which states that ‘intelligent persons reject God from a sense of moral outrage and despair because of the amount of suffering and injustice that they witness in the world’.
They are not atheists, as they believe, but they hate God. They may vent their rage against God by desecrating holy images, being blasphemous in their circle of friends, and have an aversion to anything that is sacred and scriptural. They feel that God is merciless towards them so they too, show no mercy!
It was interesting and encouraging therefore, to note that Msgr Pereira in his response to the young man’s sacrilegious act, said that mercy was the order of the day and that no charges would be laid against him. Rather, we needed to explore the underlying issues that may have led to this seemingly disrespectful behaviour.
When I then asked the young adults what were their recommendations to the elders in the society, especially those involved in the formation of spiritual morals and values, their responses were hopeful:
In Jesus’ Resurrection, let us be open to mercy and forgiveness, into a renewal of faith and hope for our self and our loved ones, especially our young people. One young woman, Jordanna’s advice to young people, and to the medical student in particular is: ‘Do not be too hard on yourself. Forgive yourself. One mistake that you make is not the end of the road. You are not destined to fail. You are created by a God of mercy and compassion. Believe this to be true. Believe in yourself and your capabilities, even if no one else does!’
I second Jordanna’s comment. Anyone else?