Young People Ask . . .
Live a Double Life—Why Not?
“I was living a double life—one with my Christian friends and another with my school friends.”
The situation of the young woman quoted above is hardly unique. But what is meant by “living a double life”? Ruth Bell, author of the book Changing Bodies, Changing Lives, defined the practice as “anything you are doing that you don’t tell your parents about.”
This author interviewed dozens of young people and reported: “Many teenagers said they had things going on in their life that they just couldn’t talk to their parents about. The most common areas for secrecy were sex and drugs and drinking, but people also mentioned things like staying out late, picking up strangers, skipping school, fighting, and going around with friends their parents didn’t like.”
Sad to say, even some youths raised by Christian parents hide what they are from their parents and others.a (Compare Psalm 26:4.) Around parents and fellow believers, these youths appear to be upright and God-fearing. But away from such scrutiny, they behave as if they are different people altogether.
Just what moves a youth to carry on a double life?
The Lure of Independence
The Bible says that eventually “a man will leave his father and his mother.” (Genesis 2:24) It is only natural, then, for you to want to grow up, to think for yourself, to make your own decisions. The problem is that you may not be ready for adulthood. Lacking life experience, you still need the support of godly parents.—Proverbs 1:8.
Many youths balk at accepting this fact. According to the book How to Survive Your Child’s Rebellious Teens, many youths want to “flex their maturing muscles, as it were, test their newly developed strengths, and declare their independence.” When parents refuse to give permission to do things they consider unwise—or wrong—some youths rebel. And they may feel little remorse for this betrayal. One teenage girl says: “I feel good doing things [my parents] don’t know I’m doing because it makes me feel important. I have a separate life from them and I don’t think they’re on to it at all. . . . They wouldn’t believe half of what I’m doing.”
‘My Parents Are Too Strict’
Why, though, do even some youths who are receiving fine Christian upbringing engage in covert wrongdoing? When Awake! put this question to a group of youths, one teenage girl replied: “They’re angry at their parents. They want to get back at them for restricting them.” No doubt about it, Christianity is a restrictive way of life. Jesus said: “Narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life.” (Matthew 7:14) If you want to receive God’s gift of everlasting life, you simply cannot do some of the so-called fun things that other youths do. For example, wild parties, drinking matches, premarital sex, loose conduct, all are things condemned in the Bible.—Galatians 5:19-21.
Then there is the fact that some parents may seem to be unusually strict. “We can hardly see any movies,” complained a young girl named Kim. “I had also cut down a lot on the time I spent listening to music, and I tried to be selective. But my father has forbidden us to listen to just about any music at all! We can listen only to classical and jazz records.” Faced with what they see as unreasonable restrictions, some youths begin to feel envious of the freedom their peers enjoy.
The Desire to Fit In
A young woman named Tammy recalls: “I started out by using bad language in school. It made me feel I was more like the rest of the kids. Later I tried smoking. I would also drink alcohol to the point of feeling high. Then I started having boyfriends—secretly because my parents were strict and didn’t allow me to date.”
A teenage boy named Pete had a similar experience: “I was brought up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I was very afraid of being teased, so I always tried to be with the in crowd. I tried to be popular. I would lie and make excuses as to why I didn’t receive any presents during religious holidays.”b Once Pete began making small compromises, it was not long before he engaged in more serious misconduct.
Such experiences highlight the truthfulness of the Christian apostle Paul’s words: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) So if you associate with youths who do not respect your Bible-based values and morals, you can easily be drawn into their life-style. Interestingly, though, the apostle was not talking specifically about associating with unbelievers when he issued that warning. He was warning against associating with those within the Christian congregation who fail to uphold Christian teaching. (1 Corinthians 15:12) Similarly today, there may be youths associated with the congregation who do not adhere to or recommend proper Christian living. They can place subtle pressure upon you to lead a double life.
Consider, again, Tammy, who admits that her parents are “very loving.” She describes her father as “almost bubbling over with zeal, always talking about how Jehovah cares for us.” He even serves in the congregation as an elder. How, then, was she misled? “Bad association within the congregation,” she says. “Others would tell me about the fun they would have at different parties and about the drinking they were doing. Or they would talk about their boyfriends and how they would go out dancing after congregation meetings.”
Warding Off Calamity
Do not excuse such misbehavior of young ones by reasoning, ‘It’s just a part of growing up’ or, ‘All kids hide things from their parents.’ Note the warning God gives young people at Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10: “Rejoice, young man, in your youth, and let your heart do you good in the days of your young manhood, and walk in the ways of your heart and in the things seen by your eyes. But know that on account of all these the true God will bring you into judgment. So remove vexation from your heart, and ward off calamity from your flesh.”
Living a double life may seem like fun. But ultimately it is a lethal trap. (Compare Psalm 9:16.) Disobedient acts inevitably lead to more serious acts of wrongdoing. Young Pete, for example, was already indulging in sexual misconduct when he left home at age 17. By age 18, Pete had been jailed for armed robbery.
Often many youths seem to get away with their mischief. You can easily begin feeling like the Bible writer Asaph, who admitted: “I was jealous . . . I saw that things go well for the wicked. They do not suffer pain; they are strong and healthy. They do not suffer as other people do.” But the seeming security of the wicked proved to be a cruel illusion. Concluded Asaph: “[God] will put them in slippery places and make them fall to destruction!” (Psalm 73:3-5, 18, Today’s English Version) With good reason, then, the Bible warns: “Let your heart not be envious of sinners, but be in the fear of Jehovah all day long.”—Proverbs 23:17.
What about the notion that disobedience to parents helps a youth grow up and become independent? This flies in the face of the Bible’s counsel to listen to your parents. (Proverbs 23:22) Really, foolish or irresponsible behavior would only impede your emotional and spiritual development. Rather, it is by applying Bible principles that you become “a full-grown man” with “the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.”—Ephesians 4:13.
True, some parents may seem unreasonably strict. But is that not because of their deep love for you and their desire to protect you? So if you feel that your parents need to lighten up a bit, why not talk things over with them—instead of secretly rebelling?c Doing the latter would bring great grief to them, to you, and, above all, to Jehovah God himself.—Proverbs 10:1; 27:11.
What, though, if you have already begun leading a double life? Is there any way to break free from it? Future articles will discuss these questions.
a See the article “Youths—Guard Against Leading a Double Life,” in the August 1, 1988, issue of The Watchtower.
b For a discussion of the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses on religious holidays, see the brochure School and Jehovah’s Witnesses, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
c See chapter 3 of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Pictures on page 26]
Do you live a double life?