Young People Ask . . .
What’s So Bad About Sneaking Out?
“We’d sneak out at midnight and go to the coffee shop to be with some guys. Then we started hanging out at the hill. The kids all smoked, although I never did. We’d sit around and talk about whatever, listening to heavy metal music. Then we’d go home at 5:00 a.m. before my parents woke up.”—Tara.*
“When my dad left for work and my mom was asleep, I’d sneak out the front door. I’d leave it open so that she couldn’t hear me close it—it was a metal door. I’d hang out with my friends all night. Then in the morning when the sun came up, I’d try to sneak back in. Sometimes she discovered I was gone and would lock me out.”—Joseph.
SNEAKING OUT—it sounds exciting and fun. It’s a chance to experience life on your own for a few hours, a chance to do what you want and be with whom you want without answering to anyone. Besides, you’ve probably heard your peers brag about the things that they do and the fun that they have when they sneak out at night. So it may be very tempting for you to try to join them.
In a survey of 110 junior and senior high school students in North America, 55 admitted to sneaking out at least once. Most of them first did so at the age of 14. The problem is so serious that some experts have recommended that parents install electronic alarm systems in their homes to prevent their children from leaving unannounced. Why are so many youths risking their parents’ wrath by sneaking out?
Why Some Sneak Out
Sometimes youths sneak out simply because they are bored and want to have some fun with their friends. The book Adolescents and Youth explains that youths might sneak out “because of some restriction, say over an early evening curfew or grounding that kept them from going to some social event. The youth would go anyhow and sometimes manage to return without having been discovered.” One 16-year-old explained her reasons for sneaking out. “I feel as though I’m a baby and that I don’t have a life,” she said. “My curfew is a lot earlier than anyone else’s. And my parents won’t let me go to the places my friends do . . . So of course I go anyway and lie.” Joseph, mentioned at the outset, began sneaking out at age 14 when he went to a rap concert that his parents had forbidden him to attend.
True, most youths do not have sinister motives for sneaking out. Tara, one of the youths quoted at the outset, said: “The first thing on our mind was not ‘Let’s go commit some bad sin.’ I just wanted to be with my sister, and she wanted to go out and have fun with her friends.” Joseph said: “We just hung out. I wanted to talk and be with my friends.” But while hanging out with one’s friends may rarely lead to major crimes, many youths do get into serious trouble.
Mental-health professional Dr. Lynn E. Ponton argues: “It’s normal for teens to take risks.” Dr. Ponton goes on to explain that it’s normal and perhaps even healthy for youths to want to become independent, to try new things, to be in new and interesting situations. It’s part of growing up. But many youths take risk taking beyond all reasonable limits—especially when they are far away from their parents’ scrutiny. Says Teen magazine: “A formula of peer pressure, boredom, unchanneled energy and perhaps some other catalyst like a beer . . . can lead teens to take the wrong risk—and pay with their lives.” One survey listed some of these risky teen activities, including speeding, vandalism, driving while drunk, and stealing.
Once you have dabbled in disobedience, it is easy to move on to more serious wrongs. It is as Jesus said at Luke 16:10: “The person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” Not surprisingly, then, sneaking out with friends can lead to gross sins. Tara committed fornication. Joseph began selling drugs, got arrested, and went to prison. A Christian youth named John began abusing drugs and stealing cars. Sadly, many youths also reap the physical consequences of such behavior—unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, or addiction to alcohol or drugs.—Galatians 6:7, 8.
Far more devastating than the damage to your body can be the damage to your emotions. A troubled conscience can be very painful. (Psalm 38:3, 4) Joseph says: “There’s a saying that you don’t know what you have until you lose it. Sometimes I reflect back and can’t believe that I was so blind.”
Also not to be overlooked is the possible damage to your reputation. Says Ecclesiastes 10:1: “Dead flies are what cause the oil of the ointment maker to stink, to bubble forth. So a little foolishness does to one who is precious for wisdom and glory.” In ancient times a valuable ointment or perfume could be ruined by something as tiny as a dead fly. Similarly, your hard-earned reputation could be ruined by just “a little foolishness.” And if you are a Christian, such misconduct would no doubt hold you back from privileges in the congregation. After all, how can you encourage others to follow Bible principles when others know that you have not done so yourself?—Romans 2:1-3.
Finally, consider the pain your absence can cause your parents when it is discovered. One parent discusses the horror of discovering that her 15-year-old daughter was not in the house. She describes herself and her husband as being ‘beside themselves with worry’ because of not knowing where their daughter had gone. Do you want to cause such pain and grief to your parents?—Proverbs 10:1.
Getting More Freedom
Understandably, it can be frustrating if your parents seem to be overly strict. But is sneaking out really the answer? Almost invariably, you will eventually get caught. Even if you are clever enough to fool your parents, Jehovah God sees your deeds, even those that are done under the cover of night. (Job 34:21) So sooner or later you will be exposed, likely damaging whatever trust your parents had in you before that. The result? You will lose much of the very thing you wanted—freedom!
Remember: To enjoy freedom, you need to earn your parents’ trust. And the best way to do that is simply to be obedient to them. (Ephesians 6:1-3) If you feel that your parents are being unreasonable in some way, talk frankly—and respectfully—with them. They may very well consider what you say. On the other hand, you may find that they have good reasons for restricting you somewhat. Even if you don’t agree, never forget that they love you and have your best interests at heart. Keep building on the trust that they have in you, and in due time you will get the freedom that you desire.*
‘Do Not Go With Them’
Back in ancient times, God-fearing youths were often tempted to join their peers in wild behavior. Solomon thus urged youths: “My son, if sinners try to seduce you, do not consent. . . . Do not go in the way with them.” (Proverbs 1:10, 15) Heed that counsel when so-called friends try to talk you into sneaking out. Solomon further warns: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.”—Proverbs 22:3.
If you have already begun sneaking out, stop! You are only damaging yourself in the long run. Let your parents know what you have been doing, and face up to any punishment or restrictions they might impose. If necessary, choose new friends—friends that will be a good influence on you. (Proverbs 13:20) Seek out more wholesome and less risky ways of enjoying yourself.
Most important, work on your spirituality by reading the Bible and attending Christian meetings. “How will a young man cleanse his path?” asked the psalmist. He answers: “By keeping on guard according to [God’s] word.” (Psalm 119:9) As you gradually make your mind over to do what is right, you will conclude that while sneaking out may be fun and exciting, it just isn’t worth the risks.
Names have been changed.
For information on earning more freedom, 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.
[Blurb on page 27]
“My parents won’t let me go to the places my friends do . . . I go anyway and lie”
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Sneaking out often leads to serious problems