Children—Does It Really Matter How You Act?
NO ONE had to tell 15-year-old Joanna that how one acts can cause mental anguish. She knew! After a year of promiscuous sexual relations, she wrote in utter frustration: “I am sick to death of life!” A shotgun blast by her own hand ended her misery. What a tragic waste!
You may never have contemplated suicide, yet you know that a person can be so troubled that nothing else seems to matter. Some youngsters try to soothe an unhappy mind by drug abuse, drunkenness or immoral sex. The effects, at most, are temporary. ‘If only I had done things differently!’ is a common plea. No one plans to be miserable. But when misery results, whose fault is it?
Should I Blame My Parents?
One young girl was grief-stricken when her alcoholic father died. She was also rejected by her mother and stepmother. Yet years later she reflected: “We suffer, but we don’t let it destroy us.” Other children also have overcome similar harsh backgrounds. A research psychologist, Arlene Skolnick, after considering hundreds of examples, concluded: “Despite what some psychologists have been telling [parents] for years, they do not have make-or-break power over a child’s development.” Yes, you children have the final say as to how you act.
The Bible agrees: “Even by his practices a boy makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright.” (Prov. 20:11) Not by what type of parents he had or by where he lived, but “by his practices” a child shows what he is. The “activity” of some youngsters has not been “pure and upright.” Since the results are often tragic, you may wonder: ‘How can I control my actions?’
Guard Your Heart and Mind
“My son,” urges the Bible, “more than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” (Prov. 4:20, 23) From the heart come your feelings, motivations, likes and dislikes. What you do is usually decided there.
The heart responds to what you feed your mind. Put right standards into it and these will protect you from attitudes that have ruined countless young minds. “How will a young man cleanse his path?” asks the Bible. “By keeping on guard according to [God’s] word.” (Ps. 119:9) You need to read the Bible and literature that explains it. Mature Christians will gladly help you.
Once these standards are imbedded, you can make it easier—or harder—to keep them there. One youth said: “The movies paint sin as something beautiful. They make sex seem to be the only thing in life that really matters. After a while you feel you’re missing out and that this is what you need to be happy.” This young girl realized how subtly her mind was being influenced. She thereafter avoided movies, TV shows and books that featured violence or sex. The same course can help to guard your heart and mind.
“He Would Never Have Done It Himself”
“He was a good boy, a gentle boy,” sobbed the stepmother of a 16-year-old who was arrested for murder. “He would never have done it himself.” Three other boys were also involved. Imagine if that boy were you. Such anguish—mainly because of his “friends.”
One youngster who got involved in drug abuse because of peer pressure reflected: “I looked at my friends and thought to myself, ‘Where are these kids headed? Where will they be five years from now?’ I got scared and depressed just thinking about it.” He then made a change and began “walking with wise persons.” (Prov. 13:20) “I saw that when I was with good associates they also could have a good time,” continued this young man. “It was really genuine! I had a warm feeling being with them. I felt: ‘This is good.’ And I had none of the guilt feelings I had before.”
Beyond just a “warm feeling,” such good associates can strengthen your resolve to follow the Bible. So seek out as friends those whose practices are “pure and upright.” It will have a powerful effect on how you act.
Separates the Men from the Boys
A baby has no self-control, but you need it as you grow older. “It is better to be patient than powerful. It is better to win control over yourself than over whole cities,” says the Bible.—Prov. 16:32, Today’s English Version.
“Hey, you’re still a virgin!” taunted one youngster. The reply from the young man, who was trying to live by the Bible, was simple: “What takes more strength—to resist or to give in?”
You have to get “control over yourself.” It is a challenge to ‘get tough with yourself’ and not let your mind constantly dwell on sex. During the “bloom of youth” this requires a real fight. (1 Cor. 7:36) Involve your mind in worthwhile activities, perhaps a wholesome hobby or some form of physical exercise. Many have found that this greatly helps. Never forget that if you work hard to control these desires—and persist—the struggle will become easier as you pass this period when sexual desires are at their peak.
Intimately associating with those of the opposite sex just makes your struggle harder. The self-control that you develop by not experimenting with sex before marriage will win respect and prepare you for a happier marriage. It has been said that it is “probably a thousand times easier” to have self-control if one never commits that first act of fornication than it is to stop later.
Also show self-control by heeding the counsel of your parents. Respond to their words of discipline. (Prov. 17:10) At times they may ask you to do something proper that you would rather not do. But learning to do unpleasant things is vital in becoming mature. Self-control brings self-esteem, because it is an inner quality that far excels physical beauty and strength.
A Precious Relationship
No doubt your parents have taught you something about God. However, in the minds of most young persons (as well as adults) God seems remote. But how would you like to have a friend to whom you could tell all your feelings and know he would understand? Someone who would care about you, not about what you have. Even when you make a mistake, and you regret it, he’s there to say, “It’s okay, I’m still your friend.” Would you not cherish such a friend?
This is exactly the kind of relationship you can have with the Almighty God. He invites us to ‘pour out our heart’ to him, because he ‘knows how we are made and is merciful.’ ‘He cares for us.’ (Ps. 62:8; 103:13, 14; 1 Pet. 5:7) By prayer and a heartfelt desire to please him you can build such a friendship with God. One 18-year-old declared: “What I have that I treasure above anything else is my relationship with Jehovah God.” Why is it so vital? “Learning to know Jehovah as my Friend is what gave me the maturity and common sense to resist peer pressure and temptations,” explained another young girl.
“I Have a Hope in Life”
One 15-year-old was asked: “What advantage do you have over those who do not live by the Bible?” Without hesitating, she replied: “I have a hope in life that they don’t. The Bible promises eternal life on a paradise earth for those who obey God.”
Yes, the Bible promises that those who “do good” will survive the destruction of the wicked, to enjoy an “abundance of peace.” Sickness and death will be permanently ended. Even those asleep in the grave will rise. The earth will be restored to a beautiful paradise populated with persons who love one another. All will be given ‘the requests of their hearts.’ Would you not enjoy such a reward?—Ps. 37:3, 4, 10, 11; John 5:28, 29; Rev. 21:3, 4.
This hope provides a strong incentive to obey the Bible. As one young girl, who had just lost her father in death, wrote: “I’d like to live on the paradise earth and see my father again. This is my main goal in life. I will try my very best to attain it!”
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RESULTS OF PROPER ACTION
“It’s a rewarding feeling to know that you are trying to do what’s right. You feel good inside and you sleep well at night.”—18-year-old girl.
“Those that get into drugs and immorality have a lot of problems that I don’t have. Those hooked on drugs wonder why I get good grades and they don’t. Some are worried about getting pregnant or about venereal disease. Many would like to change, but they can’t fight the peer pressure. Living by the Bible is a real protection.”—15-year-old girl.
“Living by the truth in the Bible is the only source of true happiness in today’s cold world. You also find yourself with many real friends.”—16-year-old boy.
“You see how you stand out different from others of the ‘sloppy generation’ in your dress and speech. You notice that even though others mock and tease you, many youngsters respect, yes, even envy, you. Then you get a real personal satisfaction, knowing you weren’t conquered by them, but with God’s help you came off the victor.”—17-year-old boy.
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Your future is in your own hands. Will your actions lead to heartache or happiness?