Youths—Your Part in a Happy, United Family
“I proved to be a real son to my father, tender and the only one before my mother.”—PROVERBS 4:3.
1, 2. What problem exists in some Christian homes?
HOW refreshing it is to pour out your apprehensions to someone who cares about you, tries to understand your feelings, and offers empathetic counsel! And when that one is a parent, you are blessed indeed. But how close do you feel to your parents?
2 Two teenagers with Christian parents wrote: “Our main problem is communication. We just can’t seem to talk with our parents. We both love our parents very, very much, but we can’t seem to communicate. I’ve prayed constantly about the matter but can’t come up with an answer.” Why is there at times a lack of meaningful communication even in Christian homes? Is there a way out of such a predicament?
Why a Communication Gap
3, 4. Cite some reasons for lack of communication between parents and children.
3 The youngsters previously quoted disagreed with their parents over choice of entertainment and friends. Disagreements, coupled with the feeling that your point of view is ignored, can shut down communication. But why do these differences occur? Proverbs 20:29 suggests one reason. It reads: “The beauty of young men is their power, and the splendor of old men is their gray-headedness.” Because youthful “power” is untempered by the harsh realities of years of experience, you young people can overlook dangers, feeling that ‘nothing wrong can happen.’ Your parents, however, from wisdom gained as a result of age—or even from bitter personal experience—know differently. Though understanding your feelings, they may be aware of subtle hazards that you do not see.—Proverbs 29:15.
4 At other times, there may be a lack of communication because you find it difficult to talk about certain painful emotions. Because of conflicts with others or because of your own shortcomings, your heart may be in pain. You may react as did Job, who felt that even his own brothers, his intimate acquaintances, yes, even his own household, had turned aside from him. (Job 19:13-19) In some instances, a gap develops because a parent ‘stops up an ear’ when a youth tries to disclose delicate feelings. (Proverbs 21:13) One teenage girl complained: “I hurt a lot, I would cry a lot and dad would say, ‘Crying isn’t going to help,’ so I put my feelings inside of me. I shed no tears around him, and there was no communication at all.”
5. What is the first step toward improving meaningful communication?
5 Yet, regardless of your parents’ attitude, there is much that you can do to improve the communication! Start by honestly evaluating your relationship with your parents. For instance, the nation of Israel pretended to be close to their heavenly Father, saying: “My Father, you are the confidential friend of my youth!” But in reality, a strained relationship existed because of their rebellious actions. (Jeremiah 3:4, 5) Are your parents really ‘confidential friends’? Could you be doing things, even inadvertently, that hinder communication? Can you say as did Solomon: “I proved to be a real son to my father [and my mother]”? (Proverbs 4:3) What can you do to draw closer to them?
“Loving-Kindness and Trueness”
6. (a) According to Proverbs 3:3, what qualities will help a youth ‘find favor with God and men’? (b) How can one ‘tie these about one’s throat’?
6 Wise King Solomon considered what was needed for a youth to “find favor and good insight in the eyes of God and of earthling man [including one’s parents].” His answer? “My son, . . . may loving-kindness and trueness themselves not leave you. Tie them about your throat. Write them upon the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:1-4) Loving-kindness and trueness will draw you closer to your parents. But these qualities must become an intrinsic part of your personality, ‘tied about your throat and written upon your heart.’ Often, in Bible times, a signet ring was hung by a cord around the neck. (Genesis 38:18) This ring was priceless because without using it, no document could be made authentic. The wearer of the ring never forgot it and was constantly reminded of its high value. So loving-kindness and trueness should ever be kept in mind and their value never forgotten. But just how can you manifest these qualities?
7. How can loving-kindness be expressed in order to improve communication?
7 “Loving-kindness,” according to the sense of the original Hebrew word, means “loyal love” and implies personal commitment in a relationship. So are you loyal to your parents and committed to keeping emotionally close? At Zechariah 7:9, 10, loving-kindness is associated with mercy and compassion. Are you compassionate regarding the pressures your parents face? The loving-kindness of some people “is like the morning clouds and like the dew that early goes away.” (Hosea 6:4) Does your loving-kindness disappear in the heat of an argument or when you do not get your way? When upset, do you keep ‘the law of loving-kindness upon your tongue’? Loyalty and compassion are vital to communication.—Proverbs 31:26.
8. How can a youth display trueness?
8 “Trueness” creates intimacy, since trust is essential to any close relationship. Do not be like the “men of untruth” who hid what kind of persons they were. (Psalm 26:4) You may be tempted to live, in effect, two lives—one when around your Christian parents and another when out of their sight. Such a course can lead to tragedy, especially when you face a serious problem and are ill-equipped to handle it by yourself. Think, too, of the breakdown in trust when a course of falsehood is uncovered. “My parents know much more than I think they know,” said one young Christian. “If I try to hide something from them, I am only kidding myself and trying to fool Jehovah.” Yes, be determined to develop an inward truthfulness. But is manifesting trueness limited only to avoiding ‘crooked’ speech and deeds?—Proverbs 4:20, 24; 10:9.
‘Talk Straight From the Heart’
9. What problem did two youths overcome, and what was the result?
9 Some youths are not honest about their feelings toward their parents. For instance, one of the youths mentioned in paragraph 2 admitted: “To keep peace, we began saying what we knew our parents wanted to hear, but we kept our real feelings inside us.” These teenagers sought help. They were urged by an elder to approach their parents and to imitate the youth Elihu, who said: “I talk straight from my heart.” (Job 33:3, Beck) After fervently praying, they finally bared their hearts to their parents, explaining their bitter feelings. (Compare Proverbs 12:18.) Though stunned to know that his children felt that way, the father admitted to them that he had overdone matters. He was glad they spoke up. The daughter concluded: “Our family situation is slowly but surely getting better. When we started to communicate more freely, then we could see the reasons for their rules. They stopped speaking down to us as if we were babies. We began to understand one another much better.”
10, 11. (a) According to Proverbs 27:19, what can add to warmth in a Christian family? (b) How can youths apply this verse?
10 Opening up to your parents builds heart communication. When you talk in a calm, respectful manner, your parents can sense what is in your heart. (Proverbs 29:11) You also see qualities in their hearts. This frank and sympathetic dialogue helps you to know your own heart better. Proverbs 27:19 states: “As in water face corresponds with face, so the heart of a man with that of a man.”* Just as you see your facial reflection in a pool of still water, so by heart communication with your parents you may see that their emotions and motivations are not so different from your own. This interchange creates mutual understanding and caring, which are essential for a warm family.
11 So be willing to talk with your parents about even painful matters. Express your fears and failures as well as your joys and successes. Talk about your goals in life and your prayers. Resist the urge to ‘isolate yourself.’ (Proverbs 18:1) Regularly try to spend some private time with a parent, so that you can share such intimacies. Some young people have found that they can do this between calls while working with a parent in the preaching work, while taking long walks together, or even while engaging in some forms of family recreation.
12. What realities must be faced by youths?
12 Though your efforts to develop meaningful communication will usually have good effects, neither you nor your parents are perfect. Parents may at times act unjustly, lack sensitivity to the feelings of others, or fail to set the proper example. They may even be unbelievers and may not always deal with you according to Bible principles. Some of you may live in a one-parent home or in a stepfamily, both of which have unique pressures. Regardless of how close you are to your parents, at times you will feel emotionally alone. How can such adversity be faithfully endured?
Learn to ‘Carry the Yoke During Youth’
13. Why does Jeremiah’s statement at Lamentations 3:27 seem unusual?
13 When commissioned by Jehovah, the prophet Jeremiah exclaimed: “I actually do not know how to speak, for I am but a boy”! But Jehovah reassured him and strengthened him. Because of his sufferings, fears, and discouragements he at times felt like quitting, and once he said: “Cursed be the day on which I was born!” (Jeremiah 1:6, 19; 20:7-9, 11, 14) Later, he wrote: “Good it is for an able-bodied man that he should carry the yoke during his youth.” (Lamentations 3:27) But how could the carrying of a yoke of adversity be considered beneficial? The example of Joseph well illustrates this.
14, 15. (a) What was Joseph’s experience as a youth? (b) How was he ‘refined by the saying of Jehovah’?
14 At the age of 17, Joseph received in a dream a divine promise that he would hold a prominent position. But, alas, his jealous brothers sold him into slavery! He ended up in Egypt and was later bound with chains in a dungeon on a trumped-up charge of attempted rape. (Genesis 37:2, 4-11, 28; 39:20) This exemplary youth and heir of a glorious promise was confined within the dreary walls of a prison hole. As a stranger in a foreign land, he was without a friend to sympathize with or to intercede for him.
15 “With fetters they afflicted his [Joseph’s] feet, into irons his soul came; until the time that his word came, the saying of Jehovah itself refined him.” (Psalm 105:17-19) For 13 years, Joseph suffered as a slave and a prisoner until Jehovah’s promise came true. By this experience he was refined. Jehovah, though not causing the troubles, allowed them for a purpose. Would Joseph preserve his hope in “the saying of Jehovah” despite being in the crucible of adversity? Would he bring to maturity his fine qualities, and develop the needed patience, humility, spiritual strength, and determination to handle a difficult assignment? Well, Joseph came out as gold from the refiner’s fire—purer and even more precious to God, who used him wonderfully thereafter.—Genesis 41:14, 38-41, 46; 42:6, 9.
16. How should a youth view adversity?
16 Both Joseph and Jeremiah suffered through no fault of their own. They had already cultivated godly qualities. However, they were refined even more as they coped with adversities. How much more is such refining needed by youths who have erred! Discipline, which may be hard to take, yields righteousness if you are trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-7, 11) This training can develop an inner strength like heat-tempered steel. As “Jehovah continued with Joseph and kept extending loving-kindness,” so he will give you strength beyond what is normal and richly reward your endurance.—Genesis 39:21; 2 Corinthians 4:7.
17. What effect did adversity have on one young girl? What do you learn from this?
17 As an example, a young girl whose new stepfather seemed overbearingly firm and insensitive to her feelings about her beloved father’s death considered running away. Realizing that this would only cause more problems, she stayed—and endured. Now, nearly 13 years later, she concludes: “The discipline of my stepfather made me a better person. When I was living alone with my mother, I was spoiled and rebellious. I always wanted to have things my own way. I learned to consider others. Jehovah also answered my many prayers for strength to get over my father’s death and to get closer to my stepfather.” Yes, learning to live with hardship will draw you closer to Jehovah. Thus he can become your Friend, ‘your confidence from youth.’—Psalm 71:5.
18. (a) What will determine how a youth’s life turns out? (b) Why should youths hold their parents as precious?
18 Never forget that your home environment alone does not determine your personal worth or how your life will turn out. Rather, “by his practices a boy [or, girl] makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright.” (Proverbs 20:11) Your own upright practices will endear you to God and give your life meaning and worth. No family is perfect, but look for the positive qualities in your home. Think of the sacrifices your parents have made to provide you with food, clothing, shelter, medical needs, and the like. Rather than repaying with ingratitude, “honor your father and your mother.” Hold them as precious, of high value.—Ephesians 6:1-3; Proverbs 16:20; 17:13.
19. What rewards come from heartfelt obedience to one’s parents?
19 Meaningful communication with your parents will deepen your love for them. Obedience then will come from the heart. “My son [or, daughter], my law do not forget, and my commandments may your heart observe,” urges the wise father, who then points out the rewards, “because length of days and years of life and peace will be added to you.”—Proverbs 3:1, 2.
Commentator A. Cohen states concerning this verse: “In the heart of our friend we see our own character reflected. . . . It is in the frank and sympathetic intercourse of friendship that we really get to know ourselves, and to realize what is in us.” (Proverbs, The Soncino Press) The Bible version by W. F. Beck states in part: “So you can see yourself reflected in the heart of another man.”
Do You Remember?
□ What can cause a communication gap?
□ How can a youth express loving-kindness?
□ In what ways will trueness improve family communication?
□ What will bearing the yoke of adversity accomplish for a youth?
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As the yoke of adversity refined Joseph’s personality, so enduring hardships as a youth will refine your personality