Discernment vs. Deception

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The very essence of deception is that you don’t know when you are in it.  Discernment is the ability to see through the sin. Meaning you are able to understand that this action is going to produce this result BEFORE you do the action.

True Story: A man was stopped at a red light.  The lady next to him smiled and winked at him,  then signaled for him to follow her.  That man ended up sleeping with that lady.  That one single act/choice cost that man his wife and kids and a life-time of regret, pain, misery and tears.  If only that man could have exercised discernment and  seen all the many lonely nights. If only he could have seen himself crying himself to sleep or crying every time he had to say good-bye to his precious daughters after his weekend visits.  Do you think he would have ever followed that lady back to her place?  No, he lacked discernment. The ability to SEE THROUGH THE SIN.

In the book “Got Teens?” By Pam Farrel and Jill Savage they write:
(Note: Emphasis mine)
“Dr. Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Health has been conducting a 13 year study into the minds of teens. He and his colleagues at UCLA, Harvard, and the Montreal Neurological Institute have discovered some interesting insights. Researchers once believed that a child’s brain was nearly complete by age 12, but Dr. Giedd has discovered what all us moms of teens have known all along – they aren’t all grown up yet! (He might have also experienced this at home – he has four teens too!) The good doctor found that the brain undergoes dramatic changes well past puberty. The medical community is looking at how brain development might impact those traits we as moms are so aware of: emotional outbursts, reckless risk taking, rule breaking, and toying with things like sex, drugs, and alcohol.
By the time a child is six years old, the brain is 90 percent of its adult size, complete with all the neurological functions. But Dr. Giedd has discovered a second wave of “proliferation and pruning” that occurs later in childhood, and the final, critical part of this second wave, affecting our highest mental functions, occurs in the late teens. During the teen years, the brain makes fewer but faster connections. Most scientists believe this is from both genetics and by a “use it or lose it” principle. The brain seems to develop from back to front. The functions that mature earliest are the back of the brain, including those that control interaction with the environment, such as vision, hearing, touch, and spatial processing. Next to develop are areas that help you co-ordinate those interactions, such as the part of the brain that helps you find the bathroom light switch in the dark because you know its there even when you can’t see it. “The very last part of the brain to be pruned and shaped to its adult dimensions is the prefrontal cortex, home of the so-called executive functions—planning, setting priorities, organizing thoughts, suppressing impulses, weighing the consequences of one’s actions.” In other words, the final part of the brain to grow up is the part that is capable of deciding, “I’ll finish my homework and take out the garbage, and then I’ll IM my friends about seeing a movie.”
According to UCLA neuroscientist Elizabeth Sowell, “Scientists and the general public had attributed the bad decisions teens make to hormonal changes, but once we started mapping where and when the brain changes were happening, we could say, “Aha, the part of the brain that makes teenagers more responsible is not finished maturing yet.”
The brain matures on a schedule, even with the onset of early or late hormonal puberty. Dr. Ronald Dahl, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh, calls this the “tinderbox of emotions” because feelings hit a flashpoint more easily, but teens also tend to seek out situations where they can allow their emotions and passions to run wild. “Adolescents are active looking for experiences to create intense feelings. It’s a very important hint that there is some particular hormone-brain relationship contributing to the appetite for thrills, strong sensations and excitement.”
“The parts of the brain responsible for things like sensation-seeking are getting turned on in big ways around the time of puberty,” says Temple University psychologist Laurence Steinberg, “but the parts for exercising judgment are still maturing throughout adolescence. So you’ve got this time gap between when things impel kids towards taking risks early in adolescence, and when things allow people to think before they act come online. It’s like turning on the engine of a car without a skilled driver at the wheel.”
And do you ever wonder why teens mis-read your emotions and say, “Don’t yell at me!” or “Why are you always mad at me?” There is a reason for that too. In a series of tests at Harvard, kids and adults were both asked to identify emotions displayed in a set of photographs. “In doing these tasks, kids and young adolescents rely heavily on the amygdala, a structure in the temporal lobes associated with emotional and gut reactions. Adults, rely….more on the frontal lobe, a region associated with planning and judgment.” Adults made few errors assessing the pictures, but the kids under 14 tended to make more mistakes. Young teens frequently mis-read emotions and place anger and hostility where none exists.
And why do teens do more stupid things when they’re with friends than when they’re alone? Yep, science has an explanation for that too! In a driving simulator, when teens and adults were asked to make a decision to run a yellow light or not, both made wise choices when playing the game alone. Teenagers, however, took more risks when playing the game with a group of friends. Statistics show that most teen crimes occur when kids are in a gang or with friends. And it isn’t just peer pressure that makes a teen vulnerable to sex, drugs, and alcohol experimentation. Rapid changes in the dopamine-rich areas of the brain make them at risk to the addictive effects of these factors.
Why is it so hard to get your teen off the sofa to take out the trash? Their nucleus accumbens, a region in the frontal cortex that directs motivation and reward seeking -you got it – is still under development! James Bork at the National Institute on Alcoholism explains, “If adolescents have a motivational deficit, it may mean that they are prone to engaging in behavior that have either a really high excitement factor, or a really low effort factor, or a combination of both.” His suggestion to us moms is this: “When presenting suggestions, anything that parents can do to emphasize more immediate pay-offs will be more effective.” For example, telling your son that if he drinks he will be kicked off the football team is more effective than telling him he may end up on skid row.
And there is a reason you find yourself waiting up for your teens. Their melatonin levels rise slower, so their “nighttime” comes later. For years, studies have been shown that teens learn better later in the day. And they really do need more sleep as their body is changing drastically, so letting them sleep in on occasion on the weekend might make you all happier!
When is a teen’s brain mature? Kids can vote and serve in the military at 18, and they are allowed to drink and gamble at 21, but they can’t rent a car till age 25. The car companies might be the closest at guesstimating. Dr. Giedd says the brain reaches maturity at around age 25. He adds, “There is a debate over how much conscious control kids have. You can tell them to shape up or ship out, but making mistakes is part of how the brain optimally grows.”
Unfortunately our teenagers are put at a great disadvantage, because the frontal lobe of the brain is the last part of the brain to develop which is the part of the brain that contains the discernment brain cells. These brain cells are our discernment brain cells. This fact explains a lot about why teenagers do some of the things they do. You parents of teenagers know what I’m talking about. Those times that you look at your teenager after a particular lame brain idea that he carried out and say: “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???” Well they probably weren’t thinking, because their discernment brain cells aren’t fully developed until age 25. So in an effort to help my teens overcome this brain cell deficit I printed out these questions and taped them on the wall in front of the toilet, so every time they sat on the “throne” they were faced with questions that would help increase their discernment:

Questions to Ponder:

1. Does this decision show respect for God?  Respect for others? Respect for self?
2. Will this choice benefit my reputation?
3. Will it build a record of trust?
4. Will it have negative or positive long-term consequences?
5. How will this decision or behavior impact my family, my friends or my future?

I also had another set of questions that I used for punishments when my first set of questions failed me and they showed a lack of discernment:
Behavior Questions to Answer When One Shows a Lack of Discernment/Character:

1What did I do wrong?
2.  Why was it wrong?
3.  How should I address the situation?
4.  What is the root sin that I need to consider?
(Note: Please write one full page for each of these questions.)

About Professional Parenting

Wife, mother, motivational speaker, author, counselor and teacher. I have 3 adult children and a husband of 27 years. For the past 13 years I have served the youth and their parents at Liberty Church in Marietta Georgia. I loved everything about being a mom: I loved the terrible twos, and the terrifying teens, and the cake in my hair, and the spilled punch. I loved the chaos, the noise, the craziness of tons of kids. It was everything I wanted in my life. I loved that constant overwhelming feeling of someone being completely dependent on me as well as that joyful, aweful feeling of watching that same someone just 18 years later leave me and go off in the world on their own. Interests: * Christian * wife * mom * child training * pre-teens * teenagers * youth group * young girls * young women * seasoned sisters Favorite Books: * "Praying for Your Adult Children" By: Stormie Omartian * "Life on the Edge" By Dr. Dobson (Note: This was required reading for my kids when they turned 13.)
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2 Responses to Discernment vs. Deception

  1. Esme says:

    I don’t think the frontal lobe brain cells that develop last is necessarily a disadvantage…God has a purpose for everything and a reason why he created certain things to function in a certain way. Could it be that He knew that the “lack of discernment” and sometimes not so bright actions of teenagers can be a healthy way of learning to make the right choices and also learning cause and effect, while under the love and care of their parents (the way He designed family), and the consequences (most of the time) are minor in the grand scheme of things. 😉 just a thought….

  2. Hi Esme, If you re-read this blog you will notice that I included much more scientific evidence. I do agree that God always does all things perfectly. Thanks for taking time of your busy schedule to read along.

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