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Hard Edged

Posted on: January 26, 2021

Today on the blog we have a guest post from Nick Wright, a psychological coach with a wealth of youth work experience. Nick has written a short e-resource for those who work with young people sharing some lessons from radical Christian youth work. Nick explains more in the post below and you can download the resource here.

Teenage years are often characterised by idealism, passion and energy. It’s something that those of us who have left those years long behind can sometimes yearn to re-capture, even for a moment. If somebody had told me back then to calm down, to do the sensible thing with my life, I would have rejected it outright as boring, mediocre and lifeless. I think (and I hope) I probably still would. Yet what happens if our zeal is genuinely misguided, seriously harmful to ourselves and to others?

In the Bible, Proverbs 19:2 cautions that ‘zeal without knowledge isn’t good’, a sentiment echoed later by Paul in Romans 10:2 and Galatians 1:13. It’s as if we can get carried away with a vision, an idea or a goal that is, in the language of leadership writer John Kotter, ‘convincing to the mind and compelling to the heart’…and yet, fundamentally, wrong. It can all too easily become a blinding passion that satisfies our need for agency in the world, and yet derails us and others around us.

I once spent some time working with neo-Nazi teenagers in Germany. Deep inside, they were often broken people, hurt from relationship breakdowns, struggling to make sense of their worlds and grasping at solutions they hoped would bring them hope. It was hard, at first, to see beyond their dress and outward behaviour. Everything about them, and what they stood for, screamed to me of hate yet, if I were to have any hope of influence, I would need to learn to love, and hear, first.

I didn’t find that easy. They appeared, to me, as set firmly in a delusion; one that could lead to the most dangerous and devastating consequences in the world. Over time, however, I noticed patterns emerging in their life stories, recurring themes that gave a glimpse into their needs and desires that, if fulfilled in more constructive ways, could lead to totally different outcomes. Jesus is the way, truth and life. His hard-edged call to radical relationship, truth and purpose can change…everything.

Nick Wright is a psychological coach and former Youth & Community Work consultant, mentor and trainer. (