Making Your Youth a Success
RESIDENTS of one European country were asked to choose from three alternatives: beauty, riches, or youth. The top choice was youth. Yes, people of all age groups regard the teenage years and the early 20’s as a special time in life. And everyone wants youths to make a successful transition from childhood to adulthood. But how?
Can the Bible help? The answer is definitely yes. Let us examine two areas in which God’s Word can be of special help to young people, perhaps of more help to the young than to any other age group.
Getting Along With Others
Jugend 2000 is a report on a wide-ranging survey of the attitudes, values, and behavior of more than 5,000 young people in Germany. The survey reveals that when youths pursue leisure activities—such as listening to music, engaging in sports, or just hanging out—they are almost always with other people. Perhaps more than any other age group, young people want to be with their peers. Surely it follows that one of the secrets of success in youth is getting along with others.
But it is not always easy to get along with others. Indeed, human relations is an area where young men and women admit they often have problems. Here the Bible can be a real help. God’s Word contains basic guidance for youths in building balanced relationships. What does the Bible say?
One of the most important principles of human relations is called the Golden Rule: “Always treat others as you would like them to treat you.” Treating others with respect, dignity, and kindness encourages them to treat you the same way. Kind behavior can neutralize an atmosphere of friction and stress. If you become known for your considerate behavior toward others, you are likely to gain their recognition and acceptance. Does it not make you feel good to be accepted by others?—Matthew 7:12, Revised English Bible.
The Bible advises you to “love your neighbor as yourself.” You need to love yourself in the sense of caring for yourself and having a healthy measure of self-respect, not too much and not too little. Why does that help? Well, if you do not feel good about yourself, you may be overcritical of others, which gets in the way of good relationships. But balanced self-worth is a platform on which you can build strong friendships.—Matthew 22:39.
Once a friendship develops, it needs to be bonded by effort on both sides. Investing time in a friendship should make you feel good, since “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” One form of giving is forgiving, which involves overlooking minor mistakes and not expecting perfection of others. The Bible tells us: “Let your reasonableness become known to all men.” Indeed, “as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” What if a friend points out a weakness on your part? How do you react? Consider this practical advice from the Bible: “Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended,” since “the blows a friend gives are well meant.” Is it not true that friends influence your thoughts, speech, and behavior? Hence, the Bible warns: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” On the other hand, “he that is walking with wise persons will become wise.”—Acts 20:35; Philippians 4:5; Romans 12:17, 18; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Proverbs 13:20; 27:6, REB; 1 Corinthians 15:33.
Marco speaks for many young men and women when he says: “Biblical principles are a big help in getting along with others. Some people I know simply live for themselves and what they can get out of life. The Bible teaches us to think, not so much of ourselves, but of others. As far as I can see, that is the best approach to good human relations.”
What young people like Marco learn from the Bible helps them not only in youth but for years into the future. And concerning the future, we find another way the Bible can be of special help to the younger generation.
Anxiety About the Future
Many young people have an inquiring mind. Perhaps more than any other age group, they want to know what is happening and why. And the Bible, more than any other book, explains the reasons for world conditions and tells us what to expect in the future. This is what the younger generation wants to know. Why can we be sure?
Well, although it is widely believed that youths live just for the present, some surveys reveal a slightly different picture. They show that youths often take careful note of what is going on around them, and then they draw their own conclusions about how life is likely to be in the future. Evidence of this is that 3 out of 4 young men and women think “often” or “very often” about the future. Although youths are generally optimistic, the majority of young people view the future with some anxiety.
Why the anxiety? Many of the next generation of adults already have problems with crime, violence, and drug abuse. Youths worry about getting steady employment in a highly competitive society. They feel under pressure to get good grades at school or to be a high achiever at work. One 17-year-old lamented: “We live in a dog-eat-dog society. Everyone tries to get his own way. You always have to prove what you can do, and that makes me sick.” Another young person, aged 22, said: “Achievers get on in life and can live comfortably. Bad-luck candidates, who for one reason or another cannot keep up, just get left behind.” Why is life so competitive? Will life always be this way?
When young people look with dismay or alarm at society, they are agreeing—knowingly or unknowingly—with the Bible. God’s Word shows that today’s “dog-eat-dog society” is a sign of the times. The apostle Paul wrote about our day in a letter to a young man named Timothy: “Critical times hard to deal with will be here.” Why critical, and why hard to deal with? Because, as Paul further wrote, people would be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, . . . unthankful, disloyal, . . . fierce.” Is that not an accurate description of how many people behave today?—2 Timothy 3:1-3.
The Bible states that these critical times would occur “in the last days,” before major changes are brought on all human society. These changes will affect everyone, young and old alike. What sort of changes? A heavenly government will shortly take over the rulership of human affairs, and subjects will enjoy “the abundance of peace” everywhere. “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” Feelings of anxiety and alarm will belong to the past.—Psalm 37:11, 29.
Only the Bible gives reliable insight into the future. When a young person knows what to expect over the next few years, he can prepare for developments and feel secure and more in control of his life. This feeling reduces stress and anxiety. In this way the special need of the younger generation—to understand society and to know what the future will bring—is addressed in the Bible.
Success in Youth
What is the test of success in youth? An advanced education, material possessions, and a wide circle of friends? Many may think so. The teenage years and early 20’s should provide an individual with a good start for later life. In other words, success in youth may be an indication of what will come later.
As we have seen, the Bible can help a young person to make a success of his younger years. Many youths have already discovered this to be the case in their own lives. They read God’s Word daily and apply what they learn. (See “Tip From a Young Servant of Jehovah,” on page 6.) Indeed, the Bible is truly a book for young people today because it can help them to “be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
[Blurb on page 5]
One of the secrets of success in youth is getting along with others
[Blurb on page 6]
Perhaps more than any other age group, youths want to know what is happening and why
[Box on page 6, 7]
Tip From a Young Servant of Jehovah
Alexander is 19 years of age. He was raised in a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he thoroughly enjoys putting his whole heart into his faith. But this was not always the case. Alexander explains:
“Believe it or not, I associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses as an unbaptized youth for over seven years. During that time, my worship was halfhearted, simply a matter of routine. I guess I just did not have the courage to take an honest look at myself.”
Then Alexander’s attitude changed. He continues:
“My parents and friends in the congregation kept urging me to read the Bible daily, to get to know Jehovah personally. In the end, I decided to try. So I cut down on my television watching and made Bible reading part of my early morning routine. At last, I began to understand what the Bible is all about. I got to see how it can help me as a person. And—most important of all—I understood that Jehovah wants me to get to know him. Once I took that to heart, my own personal relationship with him began to grow, and friendships within the congregation improved. What a difference the Bible has made in my life! I recommend that every young servant of Jehovah read the Bible daily.”
There are millions of young people all over the world who associate with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Are you one of them? Would you like to profit from reading the Bible regularly? Why not follow the example of Alexander? Cut down on less important activities and make Bible reading a part of your daily routine. You will certainly benefit.