We have been absent from the blog for a few weeks now due to traveling. A sweet time visiting our son and his family in Michigan, attending a niece’s wedding in Dallas. Now, enjoying the beauty on Orcas Island in the San Juans. Though the time to record words on paper has been limited, the thoughts and discussions have been ongoing.

On the plane flight to Seattle, Cheryl and I were discussing “validation” and how important it is for each of us. We had recently read an article on this topic…

How Does God Validate You? by Mark Carpenter

Everything a man does is a search for validation.

We agreed that all of us need it, men and women, married and single, young and old. And even if we don’t fully understand our need for validation, we continually seek it.

Cheryl asked me how I sought validation as a teenager and our conversation turned to the closely related topic of “peer groups.”

Growing up in a small town in the 1960’s, my experience may not be typical, but the process of seeking validation from parents and peers is similar for kids growing up anywhere and at any time.

As early as I can remember, there was a group that I wanted to be with. My selection criteria was not sophisticated. There were simply those guys and girls I wanted to be with, the “A” team, and there were others whom I did not pursue. Validation came as I somehow managed to be included and even enjoyed a small measure of leadership.

After high school, my A-Team friends led me to join a fraternity. Living in the fraternity house and away from our parents, we reveled in a new freedom. Life as an “A teamer” couldn’t be better, at least for those of us who had a high draft lottery number. We were somewhat assured that our lives would not be interrupted by a tour in Southeast Asia. Regarding grades…well, with some heroics, we could pull our grades out later.

But in late 1970, I decided to start breaking with some aspects of this A-Team life. The team began to change because the pursuits of the team had changed. In our fraternity, alcohol had traditionally been the familiar intoxicant. But, new and less familiar substances were rapidly becoming available.

To stay with the group, I needed to keep buying in. The price had grown and was now in direct conflict with my parents’ values. (So was alcohol consumption for that matter, but somehow drugs felt like a complete break with everything they were and everything that I thought I was.) What’s more, I had a new girlfriend (Cheryl) and the buy-in price was also in conflict with her values. The price to be paid to stay with the A-Team was more than I wanted to pay. Fortunately, I chose a different path.

As Cheryl and I thought about this together, from the perspective of being parents and now grandparents, we were struck by the power of the validating influence of parents and peers. Another group of influencers are mentors–we might call them parental extenders. (See recent post, When Sin Looks Normal: How to Help Your Teen.)

Scripture explains reality.

  –Graeme Goldsworthy

It seems that as pre-adolescents and even as adolescents, we don’t know (or we are at best unsure of) who we are. Yet, it is here that we begin our search for validation.

We wonder, “Maybe, if I am “that guy,” I will be who I want to be. Another way of saying, I will be validated. So, we want to be “that guy.” Or, maybe we want to be “not that guy,” but we still have an identity in mind.

This is where our desired identity needs to be shaped by the truth. A critical element because, without the truth, we parents are merely validating our children’s pursuits of whatever thing their heart becomes attached to.

Validation is not all about cheering our kids on to win any race of their own choosing. It is more about cheering our kids on to run the right race.

In I Thessalonians, Paul, describing himself as a spiritual parent, gives us the direction we need.

Just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. —I Thessalonians 2:11-12

As Paul assures us, parents are equipped to encourage and exhort, to validate their children, and also to recognize and encourage the peers and mentors who will do much of the shaping.