Youths—Guard Against Leading a Double Life
“Rejoice, young man, in your youth . . . But know that on account of all these the true God will bring you into judgment.”—ECCLESIASTES 11:9.
1, 2. What example is there of a youth leading a double life?
“FROM infancy I was brought up in a Christian environment, among Jehovah’s Witnesses,” wrote a youth. “Still, the life I lived, even while at home, was the complete opposite of the standards and thinking of my parents. My life for the most part was a loose life, an undisciplined life of the world.”
2 The youth further explained: “Even before I reached the age of ten, I started playing both worlds as best I could—to get acceptance and friendship at school and still be accepted by my parents. At school I conformed as much as I could in style and conduct . . . But at home I was completely different. I was the well-behaved Christian my parents expected.”
3. (a) What confidence do we have, yet what do we realize? (b) What prompts our directing attention to youths?
3 We realize that this youth’s conduct is not representative of most of you young ones in the congregation. The majority of you, we are confident, are honest with your parents and the congregation, and this warms our hearts. At the same time, we know that some put on a front of being upright, and as best they can, they conceal from older ones a course of wrongdoing. Hence the question: Are you the kind of person that you make us think you are, or are you leading a double life? We do not ask this in a spirit of finding fault but, rather, because we truly love you and want to help you to enjoy your youth by living it in a way that will please Jehovah.—Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10; 12:14; 2 Corinthians 5:10.
4. How have some adults also led double lives, but what has been noted recently among young people?
4 Still, you may ask: ‘Why pick on us young ones? What about adults?’ There is no question that they also must guard against leading a double life. Gehazi, the attendant of Elisha, acted deceptively, trying to cover up the fact that he accepted gifts from Naaman. (2 Kings 5:20-26) And Ananias and Sapphira, who were adults, played false by saying that they had given to the apostles the entire price of the field—trying to make themselves look good—when actually they held back some of the money for themselves. (Acts 5:1-4) The reason, however, we are directing attention to you young ones is that there has apparently been an increase in the incidence of this problem among you.
Why Some Lead a Double Life
5. (a) Why do some youths lead a double life? (b) How are youths often treated when they live commendable lives, and so what do some do?
5 Why is this? One youth pinpointed a major reason, explaining: “I didn’t want to lose my friends by being different.” It is true that being different in a wholesome way often makes one the brunt of ridicule. (Compare 1 Peter 3:16; 4:4.) To avoid this and to gain the acceptance of their peers, some youths will even get drunk or have sex relations. A 13-year-old non-Witness girl, who earned all A’s and always participated in class discussions, lamented: “Guys will never be interested in someone as predictably good as me. . . . I’m considering letting my grades slip or something to liven up my reputation.”
6. How was Peter influenced into wrong conduct, and so how should this affect our judgment of youths?
6 Significantly, the apostle Peter himself once thought more of his image, or reputation, than of doing what he knew was right. When Jewish Christians from Jerusalem visited Antioch, Peter withdrew from association with the Gentile Christians because of fear of criticism by the Jews for mingling with these Gentiles. (Galatians 2:11-14) Since even mature Christians have thus succumbed to peer pressure, is it any wonder that inexperienced youths might do so too?—Proverbs 22:15.
7. What may tempt some youths to lead a double life?
7 A related reason why some young ones lead a double life is that they believe they are missing out on fun. They hear youngsters at school talk about their activities—how great the party was, the terrific music, the drinking, the drugs, what a great high they had! Or they hear how he, or she, can kiss and make love. So a desire to experience these things is aroused, and the young ones are influenced to try out what the Bible calls “the temporary enjoyment of sin.”—Hebrews 11:24, 25; 1 Corinthians 10:6-8.
8. What is the basic reason youths lead double lives?
8 However, the fundamental reason some youths lead a double life is that Jehovah and the coming new world simply are not real to them. They do not truly believe Jehovah’s promises or the warnings issued through his Word and his visible organization regarding the consequences of disobeying Jehovah. (Galatians 6:7, 8) They are unlike Moses, of whom the Bible says: “He looked intently toward the payment of [God’s] reward. . . . He continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” To Moses, Jehovah and His promises were real. But those who lead a double life lack that faith. All they see is what Satan wants them to see—the glitter of his system. And so they go after the temporary enjoyment of sin and yet, at the same time, try to put on a front of holiness.—Hebrews 11:26, 27.
Parents, You Can Contribute
9. (a) How can parents contribute to their children’s leading a double life? (b) What do older ones need to appreciate and be alert to do?
9 The youth quoted at the outset observed: “What made me unpopular at school brought acceptance and a smile of approval at home. But I needed more than that. I needed someone I could hold on to, talk to, and confide in, and I wasn’t getting that from my parents.” Parents, are you being careful not to contribute to your children’s leading a double life? Are you providing them with the personal attention and guidance they need? Older ones must appreciate the tremendous, faith-undermining pressures that our young ones face in school and be alert to do everything possible to encourage and help them.—Psalm 73:2, 3; Hebrews 12:3, 12, 13.
10. (a) What curiosity is it the responsibility of parents to address? (b) What often is the consequence when parents fail to provide guidance?
10 Often a youth’s questions revolve around relationships with members of the opposite sex, a subject that, unfortunately, many parents avoid. “They never had a heart-to-heart talk with me,” related a pretty 15-year-old honor student. “Everything I learned about sex I had to learn on my own. . . . I was too ashamed to bring it up although there were so many things I wanted to know.” What was the result? She said: “The invisible wall grew thicker between my parents and me, and I became a very curious, foolish and susceptible girl.” Yes, she succumbed to the sexual advances of a young man, but who would you say shared responsibility for this?—Proverbs 22:3; 27:12.
11. (a) How can parents show that they love their children? (b) How are youths likely to respond to such love?
11 It is vital that parents show their youngsters that they truly love them by spending time with them, sharing in confidential talk, and providing guidelines. (Proverbs 15:22; 20:18) “I have the feeling if they really cared about me they would make some rules,” observed another youth. Even if young ones resent your rules and regulations now, later they will look back on them with appreciation. A youth wrote her mother: “As one who was constantly testing the boundaries, looking for soft spots and ways to escape the tough rules and regulations, I am ever so grateful you kept a tight rein on me.” So show that you love your children by requiring that they comply with your guidelines. May you never contribute to their leading a double life by failing to keep open the lines of communication or by failing to be there when they need you!
12. What unwise attitude of some parents contributes to their children’s leading a double life?
12 Parents can also contribute in quite a different way to their children’s leading a double life. The remarks of a New Jersey state superior court judge illustrate. “Teachers,” the judge said, “try to discipline children for wrongdoing in school and then are upbraided by parents instead of being supported.” It seems some parents mistakenly believe that their youngsters can do no wrong. Even when Christian elders or other responsible ones in the congregation bring the wrongdoing of their children to their attention, the parents turn a deaf ear. By so doing, they contribute to the duplicity of their young ones.
What a Double Life Really Is
13. Leading a double life really amounts to what?
13 This is vital to consider: Leading a double life really amounts to playing false—being an impostor, a hypocrite. (Psalm 12:2; 2 Timothy 3:13) It is being like Satan, who “keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15) It also means being like those religious leaders of whom Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you resemble whitewashed graves, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of every sort of uncleanness. In that way you also, outwardly indeed, appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27, 28) Clearly, leading a double life is a serious offense against God.
14. Why should one want to avoid leading a double life?
14 Another fact for serious consideration is this: A hypocritical course cannot be concealed indefinitely. “Even by his practices a boy makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright,” the Bible says. (Proverbs 20:11; Luke 12:1-3) Yes, your activity, whether good or bad, will eventually become known. And the Bible shows that God will punish hypocrites with severity. (Matthew 24:51) Surely you should want to avoid leading a double life!
How to Avoid It
15. What will help youths avoid leading a double life?
15 One way to avoid leading a double life is to face up to what it really amounts to and then ask yourself: Is that how I want to be remembered, as a hypocrite, as an imitator of Satan and the Pharisees? Of course not! Something else that will help you avoid leading a double life is to think of the personal heartache and tragedy such a life will bring you. Recall what happened to Gehazi for trying to live a lie. Naaman’s leprosy stuck to him, and he was a leper for the rest of his life. And Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead by God for trying to put on a pretense of generosity.—2 Kings 5:27; Acts 5:5, 9, 10.
16. What happened to one youth who got involved in a worldly life-style?
16 There are also modern examples. A youth in the United States had begun to study the Bible and attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall. But then he began dabbling in a worldly life-style and discontinued association. Years passed, and he wrote: “About two months ago I asked God to send me a Witness because I felt the desire to start over again. I started to study again when the bomb exploded. I was diagnosed a month ago as having Kaposi’s sarcoma, part of the new incurable AIDS syndrome.” He concluded: “If I had only followed and obeyed Scriptural warnings back then, I would not be in this situation today.” Surely you want to avoid any such sad consequences! The world really has nothing of value to offer.—1 John 2:15-17.
17. What further consideration should help youths avoid leading a double life?
17 What will also help you avoid leading a double life is to consider the effect that doing so will have on Jehovah’s name. The youth mentioned in the introduction said that someone who saw him accept a cigarette commented: “I didn’t know Jehovah’s Witnesses could smoke. Aren’t you a Witness?” He later said that the question made him feel terrible because what he was doing was bringing reproach on Jehovah. Do you want that? Do you think so little of our God that like unfaithful Israel of old you will bring shame upon his name?—Psalm 78:36, 37, 41; Ezekiel 36:22.
18. (a) How would parents likely react if they learned that their child was leading a double life? (b) Why should this deter Christian youths from leading a double life?
18 Besides, consider the name and the feelings of your parents. “The day came when my parents learned what I really was,” wrote the above-mentioned youth. “It shocked them. And for the first time in my life I saw my mother and father cry. They were so hurt by what I had done.” Your parents would probably cry, too, if they learned you were leading a double life. Is that what you want? “A good name is more desirable than great wealth,” the Bible says. (Proverbs 22:1, The Jerusalem Bible) By leading a double life, you destroy your own good name. But that is not all. You also spoil the good name of your parents and drag it in the mud, causing them humiliation and embarrassment.—Proverbs 10:1; 17:21.
19. How did the misconduct of Jacob’s sons reflect on him, and what lesson can be drawn from this?
19 Jacob’s sons well illustrate how children can ruin their parents’ good name. When Jacob’s daughter Dinah was violated, her brothers slaughtered the men of the city and then plundered the city, causing Jacob to lament: “You have brought ostracism upon me in making me a stench to the inhabitants of the land.” God even directed Jacob to leave the area. (Genesis 34:30; 35:1) You too can cause the name of your father and mother to stink, making them ashamed to face even their neighbors and friends. Indeed, as the Bible says: “A stupid son is a vexation to his father and a bitterness to her that gave him birth.”—Proverbs 17:25.
20. What grand gift have Christian parents made available to their children?
20 We are confident, however, that you do not want your parents to suffer vexation and bitterness. So consider the effects of your actions upon them. Also, if you are privileged to have Christian parents, think of what they have given you—not just life—but something more precious. The Bible says of Jehovah: “Your loving-kindness is better than life.” (Psalm 63:3) By rearing you in the truth, your parents have made God’s loving-kindness available to you, helping you to have a relationship with him. Having this is better than having life itself because even if you should die, God will restore you to eternal life in Paradise.
Help Others Avoid It
21. (a) What responsibility do youths have that know of the wrongdoing of others? (b) What fine example did one 13-year-old provide?
21 What if you know of someone who is leading a double life? First, encourage the person to approach the elders. And what if he or she refuses to do that? Then it is your Scriptural responsibility to report it. (Leviticus 5:1) We realize this may not be easy, but it is the right thing to do. “The wounds inflicted by a lover are faithful,” the Bible says. (Proverbs 27:6) A 13-year-old girl, after hearing a talk explaining her Scriptural responsibility, went to a friend that she knew was engaging in wrongdoing and told her she should confess to the elders. “I went and checked to see if she had talked to any elder,” the girl writes. “She hadn’t. So I went and talked to one of them.” The young girl asked: “Did I do the right thing by turning in my ‘ex-best friend?’” Of course she did! While the immediate consequences of doing this may be grievous, the result afterward can be joyous, even lifesaving to the wrongdoer.—Hebrews 12:11.
22. What wise course are youths encouraged to take, and what will be its outcome?
22 Yet all of this can be avoided if you do not lead a double life in the first place. So be wise. Develop a strong personal relationship with God, as you would with a close friend. Do this by regularly praying to him, by asking for his help, and by diligently studying his Word, the Bible, so that you truly come to appreciate his qualities. Youths, you will then be blessed and will make the heart of your parents glad. But even more important, you will make the heart of Jehovah glad.—Proverbs 27:11.
How Would You Respond?
□ Why do some youths lead a double life?
□ How do some parents contribute to their children’s leading a double life?
□ Leading a double life really amounts to what?
□ How can youths avoid leading a double life?
□ What responsibility do youths have if they know of other young ones who have committed serious wrongs?
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Talking confidentially demonstrates the parent’s love
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If you are aware that another has committed a serious offense, encourage that one to report it