Why Am I Afraid to Share My Faith at School?
“There have been some great opportunities to talk about my beliefs at school. But I let them pass.”—Kaleb.
“Our teacher asked the class what we thought about evolution. I knew this was a perfect chance to share my faith. But I completely froze and said nothing. Afterward, I felt really bad.”—Jasmine.
IF YOU are a Christian youth, perhaps you can relate to the experiences of Kaleb and Jasmine. Like them, you may love the Bible-based truths you have learned. You may even want to share them with others. Still, you might dread the thought of speaking up. But you can develop more courage. How? Take the following steps:
1. Define your fears. When you think about sharing your faith, it’s easy to imagine the worst-case scenario! Sometimes, though, you can shrink your fears simply by putting them into words.
Complete the following sentence:
● This is what I fear might happen if I talk about my beliefs at school: ․․․․․
If it’s any comfort, your fears may be a lot like those of other Christian youths. For instance, 14-year-old Christopher admits, “I’m afraid kids will make fun of me and tell everyone I’m weird.” And Kaleb, quoted at the outset, says, “I was worried someone would ask a question and I wouldn’t know the answer.”
2. Accept the challenge. Are your fears completely unfounded? Not necessarily, as 20-year-old Ashley recalls. “Some kids pretended they were interested in my beliefs,” she says. “But later they turned my words against me and teased me in front of others.” Nicole, 17, had this experience: “A boy compared a verse in his Bible with the same verse in mine, and the wording was different. He said that my Bible had been changed. I was stunned! I didn’t know what to say.”*
Situations like these can seem pretty scary! But instead of running away, accept such challenges for what they are—a normal part of your life as a Christian. (2 Timothy 3:12) “Jesus said his followers would be persecuted,” says 13-year-old Matthew, “so we can’t expect everyone to like us for our beliefs.”—John 15:20.
3. Think of the benefits. Can any good come out of a seemingly bad experience? Amber, 21, thinks so. “It’s hard to explain your faith to people who don’t respect the Bible,” she says, “but it helps you to understand your own position better.”—Romans 12:2.
Look again at the scenario you described in Step 1. Think of at least two good things that could come out of that situation, and write them below.
Hint: How might making known your faith lead to a decrease in the peer pressure you face? How will speaking up affect your self-confidence? Your feelings for Jehovah God? His feelings for you?—Proverbs 23:15.
4. Be prepared. “The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer,” says Proverbs 15:28. Besides meditating on what you’ll say, try to anticipate questions others may ask. Research those topics, and plan out answers you feel comfortable giving.—See the chart “Plan Your Response,” on page 127.
5. Get started. Once you’re ready to talk about your beliefs, how should you start? You have options. In a sense, sharing your faith is like swimming: Some people ease their way into the water; others jump right in. Likewise, you could start the conversation on a nonreligious subject and gradually test the water, so to speak. But if you find yourself worrying too much about what might go wrong, your best option may be to ‘jump right in.’ (Luke 12:11, 12) “Thinking about sharing my faith was always harder than actually doing it,” says 17-year-old Andrew. “Once a conversation was started, it was much easier than I thought it would be!”*
6. Be sensible. “Sensible people always think before they act,” wrote Solomon. (Proverbs 13:16, Today’s English Version) Just as you wouldn’t dive into shallow waters, be careful not to jump into pointless arguments. Remember, there’s a time to speak and a time to keep quiet. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7) At times, even Jesus refused to answer questions.—Matthew 26:62, 63.
If you do choose to reply, you might keep it brief and be discreet. For example, if a classmate taunts, ‘Why don’t you smoke cigarettes?’ you could simply say, ‘Because I’m not into body pollution!’ Depending on the response, you can decide whether or not to explain your beliefs further.
The six steps outlined in this chapter can help you to be “ready to make a defense” of your faith. (1 Peter 3:15) Of course, being ready doesn’t mean that you’ll never feel nervous. But Alana, 18, observes: “When you explain your beliefs despite being scared, it makes you feel as if you’ve accomplished something—you’ve overcome your fear and taken the risk that it might not go well. And if it does go well, you’ll feel even better! You’ll be glad you had the courage to speak up.”
Stressed out at school? Find out how you can cope.
Bible translations use different wording. However, some are more faithful to the original languages in which the Bible was written.
See the box “Conversation Starters,” on the previous page.
“Always [be] ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.”—1 Peter 3:15.
Rather than tell your classmates what they should or should not believe, state confidently what you believe and why you feel that your conclusions are reasonable.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Some of your classmates may admire you for sticking to the Bible’s moral standards, but they may be too shy to ask about your religious beliefs.
A classmate I could talk to about my beliefs is [write the name of at least one person] ․․․․․
The topic I think will interest that person most is ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● What might be an underlying reason why schoolmates ridicule your religious beliefs?
● If you decide to talk about your beliefs, why is it important that you speak confidently?
[Blurb on page 126]
“When I was younger, I didn’t want to be different from other kids. But then I began to appreciate how my faith contributes to a better quality of life. That realization boosted my confidence—it made me feel proud of what I believe.”—Jason
[Box on page 124]
● “What are your plans for the summer?” [After response, mention your spiritual plans, such as attending a convention or expanding your ministry.]
● Mention a news item, and then ask: “Did you hear about that? What do you think of it?”
● “Do you think that the world’s financial situation [or another problem] is likely to improve? [Allow for response.] Why do you feel that way?”
● “Do you belong to a religion?”
● “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” [After response, share your spiritual goals.]
[Chart on page 127]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Plan Your Response
Suggestion: Discuss this chart with your parents and with fellow Christian youths. Complete the chart. Then see if you can think of other questions your classmates may ask, and plan responses that you feel comfortable with.
Why don’t you salute the flag? Don’t you love your country?
I respect the land I live in, but I don’t worship it.
So you wouldn’t fight for your country?
No, and millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses in other lands wouldn’t fight against this country either.
Why won’t you accept blood transfusions?
I accept safe transfusions—the kind that don’t carry the risk of AIDS or hepatitis. But the Bible says to abstain from blood, so that’s where I draw the line.
But what if you were going to die unless you took blood? Wouldn’t God forgive you?
So-and-so is a member of your religion, and he did such and such. Why can’t you?
We’re taught God’s requirements, but we’re not brainwashed! We all have to make our own choices.
Isn’t that a double standard?
Why don’t you believe in evolution?
Why should I? Scientists don’t even agree on it, and they’re supposed to be the experts!
[Picture on page 125]
Sharing your faith is like swimming. You can choose to start slowly—or just take the plunge!