“Oh, you think YOU’VE got problems?”

Steve HeyduckNot long ago I heard someone speaking to a group of at-risk youth. The speaker had herself grown up in a residential care setting, but had since graduated from college and was now getting ready to launch into the mission field.

As an introduction, the speaker shared how, upon going off to a large state university, she had encountered many students her age, most of whom had grown up in traditional two-parent families. The speaker shared how one of these fellow freshmen had been lamenting one time about a very traumatic point in her life – the year she hadn’t made the drill team.

The speaker and her audience laughed it off with a good strong sense of “you call that a trauma!?” Making light of a relatively easy life was smooth, sure entre to claim the attention of the listening youth.

At the time this all made sense to me.  I knew this group of youth, and every one of them had the kind of life story that would make getting cut from the drill team like a walk in the park.

I have been re-thinking this recently.  I don’t think it is a good idea to discount anyone’s experience.

During my seminary years we would made a list of things NOT to say in a pastoral counseling situation. At the top of the list was always “Oh, you think YOU’VE got problems?”

We all know people who have had easy lives compared to ours. We also all know people who resilience amazes us.

What we don’t always recognize is that everyone has plenty of their own stuff.  And no one deserves to have their stuff discounted.

Rev. Steve Heyduck

Methodist Children’s Home
1111 Herring Ave.
Waco, TX 76708
254-750-1310 – office
254-715-4956 – cell


  1. Steve,

    I just surfed on oer the the youth worker movement page this morning because I’ve been kind of fed up with the drama that’s been happening in the youth group at our church. There are a lot of love triangles, misunderstood facebook posts, and general backbiting going on, and I was hoping to find something that might help me out.

    After reading your post, I realized that my attitude to all of this lately has been “So you think you’ve got problems…” As an adult, I just want to tell the youth in our group that these boyfriend/girlfriend issues and petty fighting over nothing will all go away, and that 20 years from now, no one will care who said what on facebook. But I realize that’s demeaning to their experience, and I know I would have hated if an adult had conveyed that kind of feeling to me when I was a teenager.

    Thanks f

  2. There is a balance needed. No matter how small something seems to us it can still be a trauma to the individual if it is perceived that way. The goal of the youth leader becomes not to belittle the problem but help them work through it (validation, listening, referring, and only when necessary give advice) and see the larger picture of God. We all need help giving up our selfish desires and giving our selves to God’s Kingdom. When we rest in the yoke of Jesus then the backbiting and other issues will not matter as much. Easier said than done, but through prayer and asking questions that redirect the student to God may help further the process.

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