A young Black woman with her eyes closed, hands clasped in front of her face and head bowed in apparent prayer. She is wearing a black medical mask

Teens Take a Deep Look Within at Religion, Spirituality and ‘My Healing Era’

A young Black woman with her eyes closed, hands clasped in front of her face and head bowed in apparent prayer. She is wearing a black medical mask
(Photo by Gracious Adebayo on Unsplash)

Commentary, Various Authors 

Editor’s Note: We asked high school students: Does a particular faith play a role in your life, and/or has there been an event that spiritually helped guide you or comforted you? Tell us about it. 

Their responses have been lightly edited. Content warning: The following contains brief mentions of suicide.

A specific faith doesn’t truly play a role in my life, rarely has it guided or helped me. In fact, it’s only frightened me more, usually. Faith has terrified me as it made me assume simply because I am queer that I am not accepted and never will be. Overall, that fear now has faded, but I still did live with the fear that I would be simply rejected. Faith rarely has comforted me besides one time. After a rather bad fight (among) my family, my brother sent me to my room alone. I could still hear them arguing as I shook on my bed, and in that moment, I played something in an attempt to calm myself and prayed that everything would be all right. Soon after, my sister came to hold me as I was rather young. It felt like a large relief off my shoulders.

— Willow Martinez Gomez, 16

I think my family, more specifically my mom, believes I’m Catholic because they are. I wouldn’t consider myself to be Catholic or even religious. I think it’s because of how religion/Catholicism was presented to me now and growing up. When I was younger, I would be sitting in church, bored, and my mom would give me her phone to watch YouTube. On Ash Wednesday, my mom told me that you’re not supposed to eat red or white meat. I saw her eating white meat like an hour later. I went to my baby sister’s pre-baptism seminar. It’s just the priest going on and on about what being baptized means. The first thing she said after we left was that she didn’t know a thing the priest was saying. Funny thing is, the priest was the same priest that baptized me years ago. I say all that to say, I think the reason I’m not very close to religion is because it wasn’t really presented to me as something important.

— Janna Nievarez, 14

God plays a role in my life. There have been many terrible situations that I’ve been through but God helped me escape and get through them. For example, when I went through something horrible for a few years, God helped me get out of it because I believed in him.

— Adriana Chicas Funes, 14

No, not recently to be honest. It’s been a lot, physically, mentally and emotionally. You can just tell when someone has uncleansed or evil spirits on them. Like, for example, let’s say you’re at school, and three random people you’ve never met just start making fun of you out of nowhere. You can’t use your physical eyes; you have to use your spiritual eyes and see it’s one spirit on all of them. That’s why you got to be careful who you hang around or what energy they put you in.

— Jawione Smith, 17

An event that spiritually helped guiding me into becoming a better person with self-respect (led to) my healing era. In 10th grade, I was breaking down a lot because of mental health issues. My friends had to leave or be late to their classes to help comfort me, and what a friend told me while I was sobbing my eyes out because I was freaking out and didn’t know what to do next really hit me. She gave me a strong, empowering, motivating speech about self-respect that really hit me deep. I started going on to this healing phase, and that really helped me physically and mentally. Before my healing era, I was a complete mess. I didn’t want to eat anything at home for maybe about a week and a half, and I didn’t want to do anything other than sleep in all day with my cat next to me. Once my parents found out I was starving myself, they forced food into my mouth. I kept turning my head and refused to eat. They decided to hold me down like a baby and forced food in my mouth, and they had to stay in the room and watch me swallow the food. One time at school, with my friends, we were all laughing. Then, suddenly, I started crying out of nowhere for no reason. That was when I started to lose it at school every day. I came to school, then started crying in class. When the teacher noticed, they would ask if I’m ok. I said, yes, I’m fine and then went outside to get some air, and I started to cry even more with my vision being blurry. Then, my friend comes up to me and another one comes running from a different part of the school after they were told that I wasn’t OK, that I was crying and breaking down. We had this therapy talk with each other, and it made me feel much better because it was nice knowing that my friends also go through a lot of things and we can heal each other. And I was given some helpful advice on how to heal myself. I started to shut out everything in my life from contacting me and be with myself in peace and started to find who I was as a person that was being hidden under all the gloomy and dark thoughts that I’ve been having and let me come back into the world as a new person, a new me.

— Ashley Rodriguez, 17

>>>Read: Self-Harm Breakdown From a Teen Who’s Been There

Yes, there is a particular faith that does play in my life, and it helps a lot. I sometimes go to church with my grandma because we are believers in Jesus and God. We thank him for what he has done in our life, mentally and physically. He has comforted me many times where I was struggling. Sometimes, I struggle in school or have personal things going on and am stressed. I pray to him whenever, and I ask him for help and guidance and to lead me in the right paths, etc. I feel like he answered because there have been times where I wasn’t stressed anymore. Though people will sometimes stress from time to time, I still feel he has helped me, especially with past events that I couldn’t get over. He has helped me overcome certain situations.

— Asia Belcher, 16

The event that spiritually helped guide me and comforted me was when I was misunderstood by others that were not accepting who I truly was. This took a big role in my life to just focus on myself spiritually, which helped a lot because I was around people who seek attention, putting people down, trying to be who they weren’t, which affected my mental and physical state, being around them. I’m proud of myself for taking knowledge of the people who were surrounding me and cutting them off for many of the reasons and situations they had put me through.

— Ruby Alcaraz, 16

I come from a religious family, and as a young child, I would always go to church with my grandma and take classes. But I’ve (grown) farther and farther away (from our religion) since my parents believe but don’t practice it. I’ve been having personal problems, and there is a quote in the Bible: “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The ‘worst’ is never the worst,” Lamentations 3: 28-30. These words have inspired me to keep on pushing every day, no matter how hard it may seem sometimes. It has taught me to not look back, that everything happens for a reason, and to simply just wait for what God has planned for me.

— Emely Pascacio, 16

Our lives are greatly shaped and enhanced by religion. It provides consolation, faith, and a moral compass, acting as a guiding force. Religion gives us a stable foundation for navigating life’s complexities and helps us comprehend the mysteries and meaning of life. Furthermore, it cultivates a feeling of togetherness and inclusion by establishing relationships with individuals who hold similar convictions and principles. Religion-related rituals and practices give us opportunities for introspection, prayer, and meditation as well as for communication with the divine. In the end, religion shapes our viewpoints, decisions, and drives us to live moral lives with meaning and purpose while providing comfort, encouragement, and fortitude in the face of hardship and uncertainty.

— Saqr Ali, 16

I was having problems with some girls in eighth grade. They said some words to me that hurt, but the more I thought about them, they weren’t entirely wrong. In seventh grade, I acted very differently and much more immature than after that incident. I decided to look at things through others’ perspectives and found that I could really hurt others around me with the short temper and the way I would “mess around” with them. Now, instead of being so harsh, I learned to listen to others more and be careful with the things I say. That situation really helped me realize how bad I used to act, and I really regretted it. I’m still learning a lot, and my best friend is a huge help. Even though I still mess up sometimes, I’m thankful that the people I’ve chosen to be around don’t really judge me for the smallest slip-up and try to understand and let me know when I’m in the wrong instead of just leaving me alone and making me (feel like) a bad person.

— Alba Santos, 15

There’s no particular faith that plays a role in my life. However, there has been an event that spiritually helped guide me to the right path. Throughout my life, I was mostly chill because I would play lots of video games to help me escape reality, but everyone knows it’s impossible to keep your emotions bottled in. One day, my mental (health) dropped to its lowest, and I started thinking about suicide. However, during the time I was thinking about suicide, I randomly started to see things differently. I had a better perspective on life and I now try not to let my mental (health) sink. So the thought of suicide is an event that spiritually helped guide me.

— Anthony Escobar, 17

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Sort of, I’m Muslim and wear hijab and read the Quran, so I’d say so. I haven’t had anything spiritually happen to me. Nor do I really believe in spiritual things even though it is said in the Quran that ghosts are in fact real but I just don’t know. But I do have Allah to help guide me in life and my family. I’m Muslim because my parents are Muslim, so I’m like born into Islam. I do often wonder if I’m in the right religion or if I’m doing the right thing and often say if I wasn’t born into Islam, I’d be an atheist.

— Fatima Aloidi, 16

Growing up, I was influenced by both (Protestant) Christianity from my mother’s side and Catholicism from my father’s side. With weekly church services and religious events, faith was constantly present. This parenting instilled in me key principles such as compassion and forgiveness. I learnt to respect Christianity’s variety, which made me more accepting and tolerant. Faith became a crucial component of my life, teaching me how to find satisfaction and power in it. This has influenced my relationships, decisions and worldview, causing me to treat people with compassion and respect. Finally, Christianity and Catholicism have had an influence on my commitment to making a positive difference in the world.

— Gilomoises Matias, 17

Not really. I am Catholic. I do believe in Jesus and La Virgen. But that’s really as far as it goes. I don’t go to church, and I don’t pray every night. I don’t really believe in the church. The church is way different than the religion. I don’t have to pray in a church so that God will listen; I can pray in the bathroom, and he will still hear me. Also, a lot of the time when you donate in church, the money doesn’t even go to the church. It goes to the priest. That’s why you’ll see them drive nice cars and such. Also, in reality, we’re not supposed to sell things with the cross or Jesus on them. It’s supposed to be a sin.

I’ve never had a moment in my life that has spiritually guided or comforted me. I don’t think it will happen to me because of my beliefs. I do believe it could happen to others. Everyone’s beliefs are different. I don’t bash others’ religions or followings. It’s your own life and you can believe and live your life as you would want.

— Cecilia Ponce, 16

I wouldn’t really say that there is a faith in my life that can boost me up or help me get to where I am going because I am not a religious person. I’m more of a spiritual kind of person, more within myself. From time to time, I read astrology, pay attention to angel numbers, signs, and ask the universe to guide me to where I need to be, just talking into the universe so that it can sort of happen. If it pops up, I will read an astrology post that connects with me or my zodiac sign, and the post would explain how you may feel this certain day or even what you should focus on to help you get there. Having faith that helps you get through the day can really be good for your mindset and mentality.

— Cherish Starks, 16

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