Teenagers: Deciding Early
Memory is reserved for the human family. While it is true that animals--even plants--have a sort of memory, it is not of the moral sort. Human memory is the foundation for all learning. Learning is basically piling new information on top of memory. We become quickly disquieted when we can’t remember something or especially when a loved one has lost the faculty for recalling things. Memory loss is the sign of serious problems.
Moral decisions are the product of a good moral memory (II Pet. 1:12-13). Life consists in a series of judgments, comparisons and distinctions. The whole of our knowledge is greatly affected by these things; in fact, it consists of them. These judgments, comparisons, and distinctions must result in good choices for life to be rich, full, and rewarding and they are all dependent on good moral recollection. Remember when your parents told you, “remember who you are?” They were stressing the importance of your moral sense, of using what you “know” (remember) so you will be what you should.
I have jotted down some things for young people that might help as you begin to make use of this great moral faculty to make those all-important early decisions.
Remember–there is strong evidence that the habits formed in your teenage years will likely not be broken; of if they are, only with great concentration. It’s vital that you make good habits early. For instance, your regular attendance at the services, your exposure to good bible instruction, your devotion to daily prayer, your dedication to piety and goodness, if they are done as a matter of course, will become a part of your life, and the devil will have considerable difficulty in wresting them away from you (compare Prov. 3:21-26). On the other hand, if you begin early to practice duplicity, dishonesty, disregard for authority, hypocrisy in your dealings with others, these become habits that may well follow you all the rest of your life (look at Prov. 4:23-27).
Remember–that you are not born good or bad; you become so only as you decide to do so. But look carefully to your natural tendencies. To be good, you must do good. To be evil, you must do evil. Your natural abilities have considerable to do with what you become. If you have a good concept of what is evil, if you have listened carefully so that you can identify it easily, you will be far less likely to become an evil person. But you have to learn to look at yourself honestly. If you have predispositions toward certain things not in your best interests, you must decide how you’re going to handle them. If you know what is good and know the value of choosing it, you will likely make good choices when temptation comes (Jas. 1:12-15). And remember, there is always a way of escaping temptation; it is your job to find it and use it (I Cor. 10:13).
Remember–to learn from your mistakes rather than trying to excuse them, or blame others. And you will make them, be sure of that. It’s actually easy to practice self-justification. There is always something or someone on which to blame your failings or mistakes; the devil sees to that. But if you start early with that sort of thing, it will haunt you all the days of your life. You will use it to excuse all manner of things– failure, procrastination, even laziness; and, worst of all, sin. There is just no place where you can justify the use of self-justification, so don’t even start with it. Be up front. Admit wrong. Confess sin. When you’re to blame, take the blame (Read Ezekiel 18:19-24).
Remember–to live with what you have been given. Life is too short to decry continually what might have been. In the ultimate reality, every person is unique, interesting, enjoyable. So don’t try to be someone you’re not. Just act natural and folks will like you. Actually, you can’t be who you aren’t anyway, so don’t try. If you have considerable talent, you can devote it to good or bad; it’s your choice. Use your talent, but for the good of others. If you are introverted and timid naturally, you can allow that to make you bitter at those who are extroverted and out-going. Don’t do that. Don’t let your inadequacies make you worse; rather, use them to make yourself better. Attitudes about self and work and compassion and service are formed early. Get involved early in doing good (Gal. 6:10) and chances are the process will never end. Be sure to examine yourself (Gal. 6:4) periodically and make sure you’re headed in the right direction (Gal. 6:7-8) and you will likely continue to do it as long as you live.
Remember–there’s a heaven and there’s a hell.