Until less than a year ago, I had never heard of the term "emo" before, when I heard it used in relation to young people who cut themselves. Since then I have heard reference to it several times and always it has been used in a negative way.
I understand that the term refers to people - generally teenagers - who are extremely emotional or sensitive. I can't help but ask why there is a trend to label individuals as such? There have always been a significant percentage of people who are emotional and sensitive, but until recently they weren't pigeon-holed like that. Now we have this relatively new culture that belongs almost exclusively to young people who are going through a typically turbulent period in their lives. But it doesn't end there. The term has grown to refer to people in that category who have enormous psychological issues that result in them behaving in ways that are either harmful to themselves or potentially to others. It seems to have developed into a culture that dwells in depressive thoughts and behaviour and manifests itself in anti-social ways - even going so far as planning violent acts such as high school massacres.
I have read in one of the Helium articles on the subject that the term is not meant to refer to such gross cases - that it originated with a particular type of music that has emotional lyrics and also encompasses a style of dress, neither of which are in themselves negative.
However, if these things are part of a bigger picture that has developed, then there is certainly cause for grave concern. It's a very sad reflection on the state of many young people's minds. If they are constantly absorbing depressing messages in the music they are listening to - often in the isolation of their own bedrooms, no doubt - and wearing dark clothes all the time, then they are breeding deeper depression that gradually destroys them. Drug-addiction is sure to be one of the results for many of these young people. For others it leads to horrendous acts of self-mutilation and in some cases goes so far as the ultimate act of self-destruction - taking as many others with them as possible. It's as if they can't bear to die alone in their despair but want to make other suffer as well for how bad life has turned out for them.
To me this makes the "emo" culture something which has such a shocking and terrifying capacity to do widespread harm in our society in so many ways - that it ought to be urgently addressed by the leaders of our youth. While you can't stop young people listening to a certain style of music or wearing certain types of clothes, the issue of depression amongst so many of those who are following such behavioural trends, surely requires a response to meet those young people's overwhelming emotional needs.
Depression and suicide are enormous issues in our society in general and one must ask why they have become like a 21st century plague. What does this say about the state of our souls and needs that are not being met? Why do people feel so hopeless?
I suffer from depression myself - but I have some overwhelming circumstances in my life that have contributed to it, at least in this past decade or so. I have always been inclined to be a sensitive, emotional person though and acknowledge that I may well have experienced minor depression from my late teens. However, on the whole I've always been a characteristically happy person and have felt a strong sense of purpose in my life. I believe that my Christian faith and convictions have contributed to that more than anything.
There is a very old quote that "there is a God shaped vacuum in in the heart of every man, which only God can fill". Might our society find significant inner healing then if it recognized that this vacuum is not being filled by the many other things we try to fill our lives with? So many young people are growing up without the meaning that Christian faith has brought to millions for more than 2,000 years - and which still brings meaning to people in our modern times.
Last week I heard a writer speaking on an Australian TV show and he made reference to this "emo" culture that is so prevalent amongst our young people. He said he wanted to start a new trend and call it the "happo" culture. The idea is for people to think happy, positive thoughts and dwell on the good things around them - finishing each day by making a list of all the things they are thankful for.
I believe there is a huge amount of value in such an approach to life - and it certainly would be good to encourage such a trend in every way possible amongst our young people. But more than anything, our youth need an over-riding reason to be genuinely happy deep within their souls. They need hope, meaning, direction and fulfilment in their lives - and obviously many of them are totally bereft of those things.
One of the great sayings of Jesus Christ is found in the gospel of John and it says "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10: 10 NIV)
The lives of too many are being stolen, killed and destroyed. It's time our generation recognized that our souls have very deep needs that are being ignored, to the detriment of our society as a whole. It may not be "trendy" to belong to the Christian culture, as it obviously is to belong to the "emo" culture - but it certainly does have answers for those whose lives are being destroyed by emotional darkness and despair.