Matt Damon as Jason Bourne
Kids, don’t try this at home!

The Bourne Syndrome

During high school, I was told I ought to start keeping a journal and recording my thoughts. It seemed as impossible as it was uninteresting—my life has never been exciting. Why write about it? Despite this self-deprecating attitude, I did manage to record a few odds and ends throughout my formative teenage years.

In particular, I wrote about two occasions when my family visited the Christian Conference Center at Cannon Beach, Oregon. Unlike the rest of my family, I spent my days grappling with angst, disillusionment, and insecurity. What follows is an entry from my little black book that I haven’t forgotten:

Summer ’97, Cannon Beach Oregon
Robin and Jenny. Snow melted through my hands during that memorable week in Oregon. How could I have been so stupid? Easy, I was me. And Lito lead the competition… not that I couldn’t have won. Rather, I let my own insecure feelings dictate my actions (or lack thereof). A huge and terrible loss…

Summer ’99, Cannon Beach Oregon
Robin. She was back. Impossible? Yes, but somehow, some way, destiny had arranged our meeting. I had resolved to talk with her – to see if she remembered that 12 year old dork who didn’t have the guts, no, didn’t have the nerve. Sure enough, history repeated itself. I waited too long, I lost the girl. Jon was Jon again. Will I ever learn? Will I someday take it upon myself to pursue a girl? Having the answers is not my present state.

Someday, somewhere, somehow, Jonathan David Sulzbach will be a someone, a somebody, a something! Yet until that day, until God chooses, I will simply be what I am – an enigma to my own knowledge. I see myself as someone that I pretend to be, yet I am not that. This guessing game continues, my quest for love (or whatever it’s perceived to be), I will continue my quest to find myself – whoever, wherever, and whatever I may be. Only God knows the answers to this quiz, only he can know the outcome. And so it is that I wonder what my purpose is on earth, and just who is Jonathan David Sulzbach?

—The Journal of Teenage Angst

From these excerpts, my focus in life was obvious: girls. Due to my ignorance about God’s character and what being a Christian meant, I was lost in my own trivial pursuits. Sure enough, I was trapped in the Bourne Syndrome.

Diagnosis Anonymity

What’s a syndrome you ask? A syndrome is a collection of related symptoms that identify a particular disease or disorder. The following is a list of the symptoms I exemplified during the time I wrote my journal entry, and they are indicative of the Bourne Syndrome (tBS):

  • Lack of personal identity
  • Restless pursuit of person or thing
  • Low self-esteem, depression

The character of Jason Bourne is the quintessential hero without an identity. Much as Bourne struggles to understand who and what he is, many young men who are less agile and skilled in self-defense do not know their own identity. Worse, they try to craft one they think will appeal to others. It’s safe to say that guys suffering from tBS are primarily involved in at least one of two full-time activities:

  1. Soulful longing for a girlfriend
  2. Obsessive video game habits

The Long, Dark, Tea-time of the Soul

Men have wasted years of their lives in pursuit of unrequited love. I am one of them. Some women are oblivious to the power they have over men. Others are very much aware. No matter how greatly a man my value his superiority over his fellow men, what matters most is his standing with the women-folk.

Believe it or not, our every word, action, or thought associated with the woman in question can impact our emotional well-being. Didn’t get to talk to her at church? The whole day is ruined! Worse, we may try to be something we’re not.Every guy tries to impress a girl once or twice, but some guys will alter their schedules or even their appearance for the sake of a smile.

I remember deciding how to comb my hair based on what one girl told me she liked. Never mind it looked terrible on me. Does your crush like a guy who wears cologne? Quick, buy the expensive stuff! Dab a little behind each ear or just buy the shampoo version. Does she like voice impressions? Make her laugh until her stomach hurts. Poke fun at your own insecurities! She’ll think you’re humble.

Going to such extremes can be disheartening and frustrating, especially if you fail to elicit the desired response. All too often we place our hopes, dreams, and self-esteem on the shoulders of a particular young lady who merely shrugs, oblivious or unfazed.

It’s not the fault of the ladies, guys. As Christians, our self-worth should grow out of the knowledge that we are loved and valued by our creator. Our Christ-like demeanor and actions should be what women find attractive in us.

So, what of the burgeoning desire for a romantic interest, a girlfriend, a throng of womanly admirers? The “throng” idea is completely out. Forget it right now, and remember: you can’t sing, you can’t dance, and you’ve no business wearing tight pants. Instead, you must focus your attention on something appropriate for your life stage, something that leads towards God and his will for your life.

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

Psalm 119:28

In the process of doing so, you may eventually find a special somebody, and even get married, but that’s not where your focus should be. Yeah, it’s harsh, yeah, it’s unpleasant, but it’s reality. Sometimes reality stinks.

The Fortress of Digital Solitude

As for virtual reality, this is huge. You’ll recall sufferers of tBS spend most of their time devoted to one or more of the following: girls or games. Perhaps it’s wrong to say it’s an either/or scenario, as the two really do go together. Guys who don’t receive the attention or self-esteem they so strongly desire from the ladies often turn to video games instead.

Don’t have a strong sense of self-identity? Assume one of hundreds in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)! Need to feel like king of the hill? Hone your sharp-shooting skills and snipe other players in the head in various WWII and distant-future first-person-shooter (FPS) games. Create a unique username and amass a reputation as the most efficient, deadliest button-masher or mouse-clicker online. Or, stay offline and immerse yourself in single-player games. Go ahead, enjoy your solitude and forget those useless social skills. They didn’t help you with the ladies anyway.

All of this may read like hyperbole, but there’s truth to it. I like video games and I don’t mean to bash them; I’ve owned well over a hundred during the last decade alone. The point isn’t that games are evil but that they often lead to excess, robbing you of time better spent with friends, family, or following through with other responsibilities.

There’s also the small matter of monetary expense. Games aren’t cheap, and your wallet isn’t fat. College can deplete your life savings in a quarter and gas prices are absurd; you’d be wise to save up for both instead of playing the latest and greatest console or computer game that will be outdated in just a few months (and worth considerably less on resale).

So, the bottom line is this: if you meet any of the criteria for tBS (lack of identity, restless pursuit, depression), you need to evaluate your priorities. You shouldn’t avoid talking to girls; they’re people too. You needn’t swear off video games altogether; they can be a lot of fun. Your self-worth need not come from a ravishing beauty with two X chromosomes; your retreat from defeat need not lead to digital overdose.You should, however, have your focus on the things of God and what you can do to reduce distractions.

Closing Thoughts

Take a critical look at your life priorities and see how they compare to what God has called you to do. Don’t know what God’s will is? Perhaps you should press pause and spend a little time in his Word and in prayer. Discover your identity as a young man of God and strive to bring him glory in all things.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:105

One small caveat: You may disregard all of this if you were once a trained assassin who became a security risk and the woman you loved was shot in the head. You’re obviously a fictional character, so you can’t receive life advice through my blog. The proper course of action is to reclaim your identity, prove your supremacy, and deliver an ultimatum to those responsible—thereby ensuring your legacy.