The letter I wish someone would have written to me when I was a teen

One of the most important qualities a person can have is integrity. This is the quality of being consistent throughout. For example, if a block of cement used to build a bridge is solid all the way through (there are no cracks on the interior), it is said to have integrity.

When it comes to people, we say they have integrity when we trust they act and speak in a consistent manner, that they say what they mean and mean what they say. They act in an honorable fashion regardless of whether people are watching. They don’t say one thing in public and something else in private. Integrity means a person is the same on the inside as they are on the outside.  People who have integrity are trustworthy.

Trust is an important aspect of any relationship. Two people really can’t get along very well if they don’t trust each other. People who do trust each other can share rich, meaningful relationships. For young men and young women, a commitment to chastity makes these relationships possible. A wise person once said the fruit of chastity is friendship. Trust makes this so.

Chastity simply means respecting human dignity – your own and the other person’s. Living a chaste relationship means seeing that relationship in the proper context of society, each relationship having an important and distinct role. Married couples have their role, dating couples have their role, and single people hoping to one day find a life-partner have their role.

Chastity and integrity go together in the sense that chaste actions need to be the result of chaste thoughts. It doesn’t really do any good to pretend a relationship is one thing in public while it is something else in private. Our society is filled with hurting people caught up in these kinds of broken relationships.

A relationship that lasts – whether platonic or romantic – is based on love. Love means to will the good of the other, even if it means less for yourself. People think love is all about fireworks and passion, but that is only a small part of it. The more important components of a meaningful life-long relationship are gratitude, humility, sacrifice, honesty, prudence, temperance and courage.

A marriage relationship is special among all the social interaction that leads to human flourishing. A marriage doesn’t just bring together a man and a woman; it brings together two families. This means that getting married requires a lot more than just love for your betrothed; it requires a respect and fondness of her entire extended family.

There’s a commandment about loving your parents; years ago when I asked my pastor if that applies to in-laws he said “yes” without hesitation. And that is as it should be. Love celebrates life. It brings people together. It makes things bigger than they were. People who think love is about running away with that special someone in order to escape the world are fooling themselves. Love is really about transforming the world and that means you have to be in the midst of it.

What does this mean for a young man in his teens?  Your head and heart may be pulling you in opposite directions. At times your mind or body may be in conflict with your conscience. While you may feel alone, you are not. You have parents and family, church and school communities, neighbors and friends who all want you to succeed. It is good for teens to develop interests or hobbies. Think about your purpose in life and then establish goals to help you fulfill that purpose.  Usually that means things like studying harder, reading more, training, practicing, and working. These are all good things. When you have a reason to stay on the right track, it is easier to stay off the wrong track.

We are all in this together. Your true success and happiness means a little more success and happiness for all those around you. Be humble, be strong; be patient, be honest; be selfless and be courageous – on the outside and on the inside. Be a man of integrity.

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