Young People Ask . . .
A Double Life Who Has to Know?
“Mom and Dad had been taking me to Christian meetings, and I knew right from wrong,” admits Robert. “But I wanted to be liked and accepted by the other kids at school. So to be cool and popular, I started smoking in the sixth grade. In the seventh grade, I started using LSD and smoking pot. In the eighth grade, I started shooting a drug called speed. I fooled everyone—but I was miserable.”
MANY youths today—including some reared by Christian parents—lead double lives. Not that all become drug users, as did Robert. But behind the backs of their parents, some youths do secretly date, drink, wear outlandish clothing, listen to wild music, attend rowdy parties, and engage in a host of other activities that are frowned upon or forbidden by their parents. Are you following such a life-style yourself?
If so, you probably know that what you are doing is wrong. Like Robert, you may even suffer the pangs of a guilty conscience. (Romans 2:15) Still, the thought of revealing your misdeeds to your parents is not a pleasant one. And when you consider the likely consequences, the argument ‘What my parents don’t know won’t hurt them’ may seem to make sense. But it could hurt you.
You might feel, for example, that you have some legitimate gripes about the way your parents do things. Perhaps you do. But even if they are at times unreasonably strict, uncommunicative, or arbitrary, does that justify continued disobedience? Not according to God’s Word, which counsels: “Be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20) And what if you feel you are legitimately angry with your parents? Does it make sense to vent that anger by secretly violating God-given standards? In effect, you would then be acting as if you were “enraged against Jehovah himself.” (Proverbs 19:3) The right thing to do would be to approach your parents and calmly discuss with them any grievances you have.—Proverbs 15:22.
Equally faulty is the belief that by maintaining silence you protect your parents from emotional upset. One 16-year-old boy said: “I wouldn’t talk about something that disappoints [my parents].” Again, such slick reasoning is nothing more than self-deception. As the Bible puts it, it is a case of someone acting “too smoothly to himself in his own eyes to find out his error so as to hate it.” (Psalm 36:2) When you really care about your parents’ feelings, you avoid disobedience in the first place. Besides, any attempts to keep them in the dark will probably prove vain, for doubtless others already know about your secret life.
Nothing Is Hidden
The ancient Israelites found this out when they tried to get away with secret wrongdoing. Warned the prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who are going very deep in concealing counsel from Jehovah himself, and whose deeds have occurred in a dark place, while they say: ‘Who is seeing us, and who is knowing of us?’” (Isaiah 29:15) The Israelites forgot that God saw their deeds of misconduct. In due time, he called them to account for their errors.
The same proved true for some Christians in the first-century congregation. Read for yourself at Acts 5:1-11 the account about Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. When a special fund was set up to care for needy Christians, Ananias sold a field and boldly claimed he was contributing the entire proceeds of its sale. In reality, though, Ananias had “secretly held back some of the price” for his personal gain. Was God fooled by this pretense of generosity? Not at all. “You have played false, not to men, but to God,” said the apostle Peter. “On hearing these words Ananias fell down and expired.” Sapphira, who was an accomplice, was struck down shortly thereafter. Both apparently forgot that God “is aware of the secrets of the heart.”—Psalm 44:21.
Likewise today, even if you are successfully hiding misconduct from your parents, you cannot hide such misconduct from the watchful eyes of Jehovah God. “There is not a creation that is not manifest to his sight,” says Hebrews 4:13, “but all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.” Could you possibly feel more exposed than that? And in time your hidden sins will be revealed to others as well. Says Proverbs 20:11: “Even by his practices a boy makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright.” Another proverb says: “He that is covering over his transgressions will not succeed.”—Proverbs 28:13.
A young woman named Tammy learned this as a youth. Although raised by Christian parents, she fell into smoking, drinking, and dating unbelievers. Tammy tried hard to keep her vices secret, but she recalls: “My parents noticed changes in me. I became rebellious and developed an independent attitude. When a person is leading a double life, it’s bound to show up sooner or later. For me, it was sooner. My father caught me meeting a boyfriend at a nearby school.”
How Jehovah Feels
Therefore, what your parents don’t know can—and probably will—hurt them in due time. Even more important, have you asked yourself, ‘How does Jehovah feel about those who live a lie?’ Answers Psalm 5:5, 6: ‘Jehovah hates all those practicing what is hurtful; he will destroy those speaking a lie. A man of deception Jehovah detests.’ Do not delude yourself into thinking you can appease God simply by putting on a show of devotion when you attend religious meetings. He knows when people ‘honor him with their lips, but their hearts are far removed from him.’—Mark 7:6.
A youth named Ricardo, who got involved in sexually unclean conduct, thus confessed: “A person has a terrible feeling when he knows that he has grieved Jehovah.” But is it really possible to grieve Jehovah—that is, make him feel bad? Indeed it is! When the ancient nation of Israel abandoned God’s Law, they “pained even the Holy One of Israel.” (Psalm 78:41) How pained he must be today when youths reared “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah” secretly do wrong things!—Ephesians 6:4.
Realize, then, that you cannot stay in hiding forever. You owe it to God, to your parents, and to yourself to come clean and confess to what has been going on in secret. Admittedly, this may result in embarrassment and perhaps some grievous consequences. (Hebrews 12:10, 11) If you have carried on a pattern of lying and deception, you have undermined your parents’ trust in you. So don’t be surprised if they restrict you more than before. Tammy recalls: “After I was caught with my boyfriend, my father was scared. Now he realized I could not be trusted. It meant keeping a constant eye on me.” But Tammy recognized that she was simply reaping what she had sown.—Galatians 6:7.
You can also expect your folks to be hurt and angry. Their name and reputation have been blemished. (Compare Genesis 34:30.) If your father is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he may possibly have to relinquish some of his congregation privileges. (Titus 1:5-7) Yes, as Proverbs 17:25 says, a rebellious youth can be “a vexation to his father and a bitterness to her that gave him birth.”
Author Joy P. Gage poignantly describes how some parents feel when a child rebels. She says: “Some cry quietly. Some cry hysterically. Some cry behind closed doors. They cry for all their yesterdays. They cry because suddenly there are no more tomorrows. They cry for what might have been. They cry for what surely is to be. They cry out of anger. They cry out of frustration.” Understandably, it will not be easy to face having caused such grief for the two people who love you more than anyone else in the world does. Says Tammy: “I look back and wish I had not caused so much sadness to my father and mother.”
However, you cannot go back and undo the past. And as painful and difficult as it will no doubt be, you have an obligation to try to set matters straight. (Compare Isaiah 1:18.) That means telling your parents the truth, acknowledging their hurt and anger, accepting whatever discipline they mete out. Your telling the truth can be the first step in bringing joy to the hearts of your parents, and to the heart of Jehovah God, as well as gaining the joyful satisfaction of a clear conscience for you.—Proverbs 27:11; 2 Corinthians 4:2.
But just how should you go about telling your folks? How can you escape living a double life? These questions will be discussed in our next issue.
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Telling the truth can bring relief to you and your parents