Audrey Rae, Braxton, and Charlotte-
It’s been a week since tragedy struck our town. It’s been quietly reaffirming to see things slowly gain a semblance of normalcy again. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the situation, teenagers, and my ministry to youth. In this reflection, I remembered an interesting situation.
I once had a student ask if it would sound judgmental to tell her friend that it’s bad to have two boyfriends, each unaware of the other. It boggled my mind as to why that would be an issue, so I had to explain to her something, and the explanation got me thinking about other things in life that people really seem to have confused. So, with that being said, here are some simple life lessons that could really help give you perspective. I’ll likely write entire letters to you about some of these, but for now, here’re some important differences.
- There’s a difference between judgment and discernment. You shouldn’t judge others, that’s a simple life rule, but that doesn’t mean you can’t discern some logical conclusions to their actions. It’s unwise and cruel to play with peoples’ hearts (like having multiple boyfriends). It’s bad for you to do drugs. You shouldn’t bully people. These are simple deductions that can help guide someone away from hurting themselves or others. It’s simple discernment. Now, once you add on things like “…and you’re a worthless addict” or “…and you a ho”, that’s when it becomes judgment. It’s okay to use discernment to help people make wise decisions, just don’t judge their character because of it.
- There’s a difference between being conceited and being confident. When you have true talent, don’t be afraid to admit it. Now, I don’t mean that you should brag about it to others and recount tales of your own glory, that’s when it falls into the realm of conceit. What I mean is, if someone asks for a person who is talented in a certain area and you are genuinely talented in that area, don’t be the person who feigns modesty, speak up. Be proud of the talents you have gained and have worked hard on. But be warned, this is a fine line to skate and your pride will want you to cross it often. Just remind yourself, “I am good, but that doesn’t make me better.“
- There is a difference between love and infatuation (and, by extension, infatuation and attraction). Hoo, boy, has this culture got this one mixed up. We seem to have taken each step of significant relationships and given them an upgrade, only to have the highest fall off the scale and be forgotten.
Attraction is when you see someone and, in our base emotions, like the way they look. This has nothing to do with personalities or getting along, it’s just physical. Many today would call this “a brief infatuation”, but infatuation is something so much more important than this.
Infatuation is when you’ve met someone, you’ve connected, and something special happens. You can’t stop thinking about them, you want to buy things for them, you want to talk to them all the time, they are the thing that’s on your mind. You get giddy when you see them, you can’t help but smile when someone says their name, they simply make you feel great. Some would call this falling in love, but love is so much more significant than this.
Love is a choice. You can’t stop infatuation, it just takes you over, but love is when you choose to live sacrificially toward someone else. It’s when you make a point to be patient, kind, slow to anger, honest, and so many other things with a person. Even when you don’t feel the infatuation, you choose to love.
Don’t get these confused, that’s how so many get broken hearts.
- There’s a difference between disagreement and intolerance. It’s okay to disagree with someone. Seriously, it is. If someone says, “I think ‘X’ person should be president” and you think, “‘Y’ person is clearly the better candidate” that doesn’t mean you have to hate each other, or that the other is a fool, ignorant to obvious truths. It just means that you disagree on something fundamentally down the line. Too many people think that if you disagree, it either means you’re a hateful person or moronic. But that is simply pride making people think that they are absolutely right and nothing else is acceptable. Don’t be afraid to admit that you have a separate opinion, just don’t think less of the people who don’t share your opinion. Be accepting of debate, be excited for challenge, be knowledgeable of what you believe, and be kind to those who disagree. Who knows, they may change your opinion. I know I’ve shifted my opinions more than once due to honest, well thought debate.
- There is a difference between adulthood and obstinacy. I have spent more than a decade working with teenagers, and a decade before that being one, and there is a cry that comes from every generation: “I’m (X) years old now! Stop trying to tell me how to live my life!” Please don’t think this. Ever. Like, seriously, ever. To be completely obstinate and to snub advice when it is offered is simply to live the same mistakes that so many before you lived, history repeating itself yet again. You should be begging those older and wiser (make sure it’s both of those) than you for advice. You should be carrying a notebook and paper with you, asking what mistakes others have made and how to avoid them. Reaching a certain age doesn’t mean you suddenly have all the answers or that you’re prepared to face every situation in life. Being an “adult” doesn’t change that so many before you have precious life experience that you do not. I still seek advice from those more experienced than me and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I suggest you do the same.
I offer you these pieces of advice, in hopes that you can learn these things so much earlier than I learned them. Please take them to heart.
I love you, kids.
1 Corinthians 1:4
Christian, husband, father, and pastor. Also a proud and dedicated nerd. One of the dads at TheDadLetters.com and author of TheLivesIHaveLived.wordpress.com.