The other day, I was called by the assistant principal of the high school where my 17-year-old son attends as a senior and told that my son was the victim of an assault. Talking at length about the matter, I learned that the young man who viciously attacked my son was handcuffed and taken to jail. While he was in jail, authorities discovered that this person was a felon wanted in another state (he had recently moved into this school district). Because he already had outstanding warrants for his arrest, he was extradited back to that state to stand trial.
Reflecting on the event, I was pleased that my son had the courage to try to be a peacemaker. He didn't know that this young man was a time bomb waiting to go off. My son survived with a bruise on his head, a broken thumb and a lesson he'll probably not soon forget. In the future, he will have to add discretion to his courage.
High school never used to be like this, at least not when I was growing up. Some young people today have more angst and anxiety than most parents can imagine. If it isn't the frustrated, misunderstood boy in a man's body, it could be the temptation to try some illegal drug or the latest party stimulant—not to mention the ever-present fixation on sex.
Living in such an environment, teens today need courage under fire, for surely right values are under attack wherever they turn. Perhaps the lack of clarity between good and evil dissipated when our courts prohibited God and the Bible from being discussed in the classroom. MTV has a stronger voice than God or the church in most teens' lives these days. Everyone, it seems, is focused on personal happiness. After all, we regularly hear that girls just want to have fun. And, of course, so do boys.
Goodness and happiness: an either/or choice?
Regrettably, many view happiness and doing what is right or good as an either/or choice. Recently, I read a book by Peter Gomes that contrasted goodness and happiness. To illustrate this difference, the author reviewed the week that Princess Diana died in a tragic car accident. Incidentally, Mother Teresa of Calcutta died that same week. Here are his comments:
"Diana, Princess of Wales, became the twentieth century's iconic figure in the search for happiness. In her life, all of the difficult aspects of happiness as a life's objective were played in a vivid parable more compelling than Hollywood could have possible imagined, simply because it was real and not fiction. A beautiful child of privilege by the standards of the world, long before she met her prince she should have been happiness personified; and then as a royal princess, with all that goes with that title, she should have known even greater happiness.
"Then, when that happiness was exposed as fraudulent, she should have been happy in the pursuit of real happiness, and just when it appeared as if that real happiness was within her grasp—and hence in ours, as voyeuristic investors in her happiness—it was all taken away. Because it was taken away from us, her adoring public, we went into a mourning shock, certainly for her, but even more for ourselves" (The Good Life: Truths That Last in Times of Need, 2002, p. 197).
He continues: "With the almost strangely simultaneous death of Mother Teresa within the same news cycle, an unappealing but quite explicable comparison was immediately thrown up for the world's consideration. The world was not brought to a halt by the death of the tough old nun whose name had become synonymous with virtue and goodness, and although we felt as if we ought to see some moral equivalency in our grief, when all was said and done, we could not, for in the contest for our primal affections and basic self-interest happiness trumps goodness. Mother Teresa represented the 'fragility of goodness,' while Diana, Princess of Wales, represented the 'fragility of happiness'" (p. 198).
"Few people ever associated Mother Teresa with the conventional notion of happiness, largely because we could not imagine ourselves as happy in doing what she did. Goodness was her province, without contest. As for Diana, Princess of Wales, her happiness represented our happiness, for so many of those most devoted to her could easily imagine themselves happy in doing what made her happy. Who couldn't? In her constant pursuit of happiness, even in the failure of her happiness, she had legions of companions who could match her public failures against their private failures, her human battles against their eating disorder and self-esteem difficulties, her failed marriage and frustrated relationships against theirs.
"With each and all of those failures many millions of men and women could and did identify. When the fragility of her own happiness came to its ultimate end in death, with no opportunities for an improving second, third, or fourth chance, so died the hopes of many of her devotees. Goodness was attached to her, and probably more so than was happiness to Mother Teresa, but it was not the death of goodness that was mourned by an emotionally paralyzed public in the streets of London on that late August day. It was the death of happiness—of hers, and of ours" (pp. 198-199).
The unsettling truth about this illustration is that goodness is not in fashion today. The quest to be happy is more palpable than the quest for goodness. People don't want to be encumbered by someone's view of what is "good." If there are not clear standards of what is right and wrong, then confusion and frustration must surely follow. The scripture says, "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law" (Proverbs 29:18 Proverbs 29:18Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.
American King James Version×).
What will you stand for?
Teens today need courage to do what is right, especially when goodness is fuzzy to most of their peers. How do you deal with peer pressure? Can you state your values with your head up high and challenge the amoral direction many are going?
There have always been temptations and with a demonic spirit guiding this present evil world (Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
American King James Version×; 2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×), it is the courageous ones who will stand in the end. The apostle John writes in the book of Revelation, "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8 Revelation 21:8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
American King James Version×, emphasis added).
If you want to find true happiness, the road that takes you there is one that is described in the pages of your Bible. Christ explained to His disciples that the right way is not easy. "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:14 Matthew 7:14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it.
American King James Version×). If you sincerely want to find that way which leads to life, why not begin by studying our free booklet The Ten Commandments? Be sure to request your free copy today or read it on-line.
I applaud young people today who must demonstrate more courage than many a soldier in war or firemen entering a burning building. Dealing with confused and lost souls in a shifting social environment is not for wimps, but warriors. Doing what is right, even while under fire, takes courage. In the end, those who stand for something will not fall for everything that comes around. You can be a leader to show others the way. Stand fast for goodness and you'll find lasting happiness. YU