Young men, read at your own peril

by Rod Smith

The Mercury, Expanded / read at your own peril

Dear Teenage and Young Adult Men:

First: It won’t surprise me if you think I have nothing to teach you. This sentiment often comes with youth. There was a time when I too knew everything. Nonetheless, I hope you will learn willingly, before life forces its necessary lessons upon you as it most surely will.

Second: I do not address you because of my successes. Rather, it is because of my failures. I write from painful experience, as one who has needed a lot of forgiveness from many people. I write because, at your age, I was unavailable for correction or learning.

Third: There are controversial points up ahead, and so if you are easily offended, stop now. Read no further. This is especially true if you are religious.

Here goes:

1. Combat deceit. Treat it like a mortal enemy. Tell the truth. Your masculinity is most clearly demonstrated when you are true to yourself and lovingly truthful to others. Being a “real” man is not measured in or how far you can kick or throw or hit a ball. A “real” man is a truthful man.

2. Find people to whom you can really talk. Look first for this in your parents. If there’s a hindrance, some blockage, that seems to prevent this, work doubly hard at removing your side of it. I know it’s not always comfortable to let a parent in on your life, but you do want to be exceptional, don’t you? Exceptional ALWAYS begins with the people closest to you. If this is impossible to achieve with a parent, get yourself “outside” mentors. Pay for this if you must. It’s worth it.

3. Chase a fine education. The harder you work NOW and the more education you get NOW, the more options you will have later in life. The less you plan NOW, the more free time you have NOW, the fewer options and the less free time you will have later – when you really need it.

4. Understand that there’s more to life than sport – watching it, playing it, and winning. If winning costs your integrity, rather lose. Scores come and go. Reputations stick. Playing sport supposedly develops character. This is hardly evident if you look at the lives of many professional athletes. Crave good character, not wealth or fame. Wealth and fame are fleeting. Integrity is not.

5. There’s more to relationships than what you can get. If you focus on what you can give, how you can serve, how you can improve yourself – as opposed to seeing how you can triumph over others, you will pave your own way to a life of deep fulfillment. No one can love and control the same person. While I am unsure this is possible, try to get rid of your jealousies before you fall in love.

6. No matter how rich or poor you are, or where ever you live there are seven major INTERNAL battles you will inevitably face – beat them (more than they beat you) and you’ll probably “win” at life. Lose repeatedly at one, even one, and life will be an uphill battle for you for a very long time:

(a) The urge to be deceitful (covered above).

(b) The urge to steal (time, money, or credit for things you did not do).

(c) The urge to use others (which of course includes pornography).

(d) The urge to use illegal substances or over-the-counter drugs (even those that help you stay up and study).

(e) The urge to spend more money than you have.

(f) The urge to blame anyone or anything for how things or you are.

(g) The urge to think life or someone “owes” you something (entitlement).

Resist these urges while you are young. Get used to them – regard them as “default struggles” since not one goes away permanently.

7. If you run in Church circles, you are going to hear a lot of veiled talk about the horrors and dangers of masturbation. The western church, it appears, is somewhat obsessed with this topic while apparently lesser matters like equity in society, world hunger, the voice of women, and human trafficking fall off the radar screen of many Western churches. Relax. You are no more capable of escaping the love of God by ANYTHING you EVER do or don’t do than you are cable of emptying the oceans of all water with a teaspoon. Anxiety and guilt over masturbation are far more damaging to your spiritual life than the act will ever be. Besides, the Will and the Love of God are Infinitely more Resilient than your natural urges. Don’t let your youth leaders guilt you into thinking you’ll ruin your future or damage the Will of God by anything you do or don’t do – it’s hogwash. Relax.

7. Engage in meaningful causes greater than your own comforts, pleasures, and security, and you’ll be amazed at how little of your time will be spent on the trash that occupies your entitled, self-obsessed peers.

Peace. May you be more available to guidance than I was at your age.

Rod Smith

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