A smoke screen is a commonly deployed military tactic using smoke to hide movement from an enemy’s line of sight. When studying the Bible with teens, the term “smoke screen” refers to a commonly deployed tactic designed to avoid exposure of the heart. Smoke screens, though not unique to teens, are important to understand and overcome.

Each of us have areas in our lives and places in our hearts we do not want exposed. Sometimes we are afraid of what others may feel about us; sometimes we realize these areas in our lives and places in our hearts need to change, but we don’t want to change them or even believe that we can.

Practically, smoke screens are often the emotion we express, the issue we lead with, or the confusion we claim, in order to deflect what is really going on in the heart. When emotions are present, the words that are flowing out of a teenager’s mouth are rarely communicating what is actually driving them.

The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.
Proverbs 20:5

Getting past a smoke screen takes understanding and the willingness to go deep. It takes understanding and depth to remain calm when our teen is using emotions to derail a conversation that might be getting to the heart of the matter at hand. We learn depth when we are willing to look into our own hearts and be honest about the smoke screens we use.

Depth also comes from sharing our dreams and desires as well as the disappointments, fears, failures, and experiences that have influenced and shaped our lives. Teens, like adults, put up smoke screens because they are afraid. Demonstrating courage and vulnerability with our heart will encourage a teen to be vulnerable with his or her heart as well.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3:13

The most common trap parents fall into is being vulnerable with their past but leaving out the challenges they face ‘today.’ As much as our teens enjoy hearing about our past failures, weaknesses or disappointments, they are most impacted by how we live our Christianity today. Teens live in the moment, not in the past. We need to live our Christian life in the moment and not in the past. The past is informative to teens, but not relatable.

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:14

This scripture is talking about the word of God. When we make the word of God a constant in our lives, it trains us to distinguish good from evil. This is maturity. Often we take this to mean that we can identify good and evil around us. However, and more importantly, it also means that we can identify the good and evil within us. So maturity is about awareness. When we are aware, we can identify our own smoke screens.

What to Do

Sit down with someone who knows you and is comfortable telling you the truth. Ask them, “How aware do you think I am? Do I use smoke screens?” Ask for any examples they’ve noticed, if they have them handy – specifics always help things hit home!

Mike Query

Mike Query

Mike is a digital marketing manager for the Bay Area Christian Church and is a regular contributor to Inspire. He's passionate about web strategy, music, mentorship, and his quest to find the best burrito in the Bay Area.