Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Break Free From a Double Life?
“I disregarded everything my parents said,” confesses Ann.* “I was rebellious and started lying to them. I would tell them I was going shopping, but I was really going to see a boy.”
ANN was leading a double life, and soon she was disregarding not only her parents but also her Bible-trained conscience. Ann, you see, was secretly having sex relations with her boyfriend. She recalls: “I tried to push Jehovah out of my mind altogether.” Nevertheless, she soon ran smack into the sobering piece of reality that ‘whatever persons are sowing, this they will also reap.’ (Galatians 6:7) Ann got pregnant. “I love my child with all my heart,” she says, “but no one should have to go through this. Not unmarried. Not alone.”
Have you in some way become trapped in a double life—hiding what you are from your parents and fellow Christians? Perhaps you are simply hanging out with some school friends whom you know your parents would disapprove of. Or maybe you have fallen into more serious misconduct, such as smoking, alcohol abuse, or premarital sex. In any event, as with Ann, it is just a matter of time before serious consequences result.*
Even so, some youths don’t let this fact deter them at all from their rebellious course. They are like the man who looks at himself in the mirror and “immediately forgets what sort of man he is.” (James 1:23, 24) It is our hope that you are of a different sort. Perhaps you have already begun taking a long, hard look at yourself—and don’t like what you see. You want to change. You see the need to change. The question is, how do you change?
Repentance—The First Step
First, you must make a conscious decision to change. Acts 3:19 urges: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah.” Repentance, however, is more than a feat of intellect. To repent means to “feel regret, contrition, or compunction, for what one has done.” The Bible writer James exhorted: “Give way to misery and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves in the eyes of Jehovah.” (James 4:9, 10) How can you feel bad about something you have enjoyed up till now? Think about how wrong it is. Think about how it has hurt God. Think of the problems your hidden course has caused you and the lies you have had to tell to conceal it. Remind yourself that God detests the practice of deception! (Psalm 5:6) Meditating on these facts can help you reject wrong conduct both intellectually and emotionally.
Simply feeling bad about what you are doing is not enough, though. A young man named Robert, who got involved in a secret practice of drug abuse, admits: “I was miserable. I knew right from wrong. Still, I continued leading a double life.” Courageous action is thus needed! At 2 Chronicles 7:14, God said that if sinners would “humble themselves and pray and seek [his] face and turn back from their bad ways, then [he himself would] hear from the heavens and forgive their sin.”
‘Seeking God’s face’ means to approach him in prayer, confess your wrong, and beg for forgiveness. This may not be easy to do, but you will no doubt feel greatly relieved for having done so. Said the psalmist: “When I kept silent my bones wore out through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me. . . . My sin I finally confessed to you, and my error I did not cover.”—Psalm 32:3-5.
Telling Your Parents
Someone else needs to know about your problems. But who? Confesses a teenager named Brian: “One of my biggest mistakes was going to my so-called friends with my problems instead of going to my Christian mother. But I was scared to communicate with her because of how I thought she would react, so I turned to my friends, who just led me further and further away from the truth.” Don’t make the same mistake. Give your heart to your godly parents. (Compare Proverbs 23:26.) They have a right to know what you have been doing. Chapter 2 of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work has a number of suggestions on how to approach your parents in this regard.*
Naturally, they will not exactly be happy about your having lied to them. But parents invariably have strong feelings for their children. Writer Clayton Barbeau observes: “They aren’t going to disown you because you have made a mistake or got into some sort of trouble. Kids have become pregnant, come down with a sexually transmitted disease, developed an alcohol or drug problem or gotten into other trouble and predicted their parents would react with horror and revulsion, dynamite the house, and leave the state. But when they’ve told their parents, they’ve found themselves given a hug or an arm around the shoulder, and told, ‘Well, you’re really in a mess, and we’ll just have to see what we can do to get you out of it.’” Yes, when the initial shock and anger wear off, most parents try to be supportive. How much more so is this true when parents are God-fearing! Their main concern should be, not to shame or hurt you, but to set matters straight. (Compare Isaiah 1:18.) In this regard they may also arrange for you to talk with the congregation elders.—James 5:14, 15.
True, there will be some well-deserved punishment from your parents to endure and perhaps some tighter restrictions. But this can actually help you to avoid falling back into your old ways. Besides, talking matters out with your parents and seeing their loving concern may very well change your perception of them. Up till now, you probably resented their rules and restrictions. Admits one girl named Paulette: “It’s hard to accept the counsel and guidelines given to us by our parents. But I have come to realize that these are for our own benefit and lasting happiness.”
Changing Your Associations
Rarely does a youth pursue a double life on his own. You may even have had a chorus of peers cheering you on in your rebellion! To avoid reverting to a secret life, you will need to change your associations. Said the psalmist: “I have not sat with men of untruth; and with those who hide what they are I do not come in.” (Psalm 26:4) Breaking off old friendships is not easy. Like the psalmist you may need to pray: “From the man of deception and unrighteousness may you provide me with escape.” (Psalm 43:1) Work in harmony with this prayer by telling your old associates that you have changed and are determined to do what is right. Rather than being a secret disciple of Jesus, tell others of your faith. (Compare John 19:38.) Usually, bad associates will quickly seek other companions.
Next, you need to replace bad associations with wholesome friends. Are God-fearing youths in short supply? Then think of the prophet Jeremiah, who said: “I have not sat down in the intimate group of those playing jokes and begun exulting. Because of your hand I have sat down all by myself.” (Jeremiah 15:17) It would be better for you to keep to yourself than to stay involved with youths who will drag you down spiritually. Usually, though, real friends can be found if you put forth effort. Tammy, for example, began associating with a cousin who was a full-time evangelizer. “We became very close,” recalls Tammy. “On the days I was not in school, I would go out with her in the preaching work. This helped me to make changes in my life.”
But “the very best protection,” says one German youth, “is a good conscience, which results from a close relationship with Jehovah God.” One young girl who fell into leading a double life admits: “I never developed a close relationship with my Father, Jehovah.” Through prayer and personal study, she began to change things. “Now I have a relationship with Jehovah that no one can ever take away,” she proudly says. You too can enjoy such a close friendship with God. He will guide and support you, even when you find changing your old ways difficult. Says Psalm 37:24 of a faithful servant of God: “Although he may fall, he will not be hurled down, for Jehovah is supporting his hand.” Yes, with Jehovah’s help, you can break free from leading a double life.
Some of the names have been changed.
See the “Young People Ask . . .” articles appearing in our December 22, 1993, and January 8, 1994, issues.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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“I tried to push Jehovah out of my mind altogether”
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You must make a conscious decision to change
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Explain to your old friends that you have changed and will no longer join them in wrongdoing