What You should Know by 16
Big milestone birthday! You’ve come a long way, but you still have your whole life ahead of you!
In fact, I’ve lived three of your lives so far. (In other words, I’m 48 now. As in 16 x 3 = 48.)
But here’s what I wish I could teach you, while you’re still young enough to avoid a lot of the pitfalls I’ve/we’ve fallen into (including my/your – first totaled car). And so in honor of turning 16, I share with you 16 words of advice. (Using more than 16 words, of course.)
#1: Every future accomplishment will be a lot like getting your driver’s license.
Before getting your driver’s license you imagine heading off on your first road trip by yourself on the way to the Grand Canyon or the California Coast with the top down and the wind in your hair. Maybe meeting the woman of your dreams working in some diner you stop by along the way. Just like Michael Knight.
Instead, your first “road trip” will be around the corner to pick up some milk. And since you’ll be getting your license in the middle of the winter, you wouldn’t have the top down even if you had a convertible. Which you don’t. They never make a convertible Chevette.
All of that to say, a lot of the things you look forward to in the future will be like that: not quite what you imagined, so…
Try putting less stock in the glory of your next accomplishment and start living to grow in your important relationships.
Relationships are a lot of work, but they’re what you were truly made for. And that’s a far better way of preparing to meet the woman of your dreams too. (Which, trust me, you will eventually. Just not at 16. And not in some diner between the Grand Canyon and San Jose.)
#2: Pay attention to where you’re going, instead of paying attention to who’s paying attention to you.
Speaking of that hot rod “Vette,” your first car wreck is not far in your future. Unless you can manage to keep your eyes on the road instead of on the two pretty girls you’ll be chauffeuring at the time of your accident.
#3: Most people are paying too much attention to themselves to pay attention to you.
#4: Everyone need not like you.
And more to the point: they won’t. No matter how badly you might want them to, so stop obsessing over the opinions of others who are too busy obsessing over the opinions of others. Instead…
Bask in the attention and acceptance of the God who made you and is actually thinking about you all the time.
Because, well, being infinite and all, He has enough headspace to do that. And He likes you, like His own son. That’s pretty cool.
#5: Your desire to be all things to all people is more selfishly motivated than you realize.
OK, so let’s talk about this sophomore year social experiment where you attempt to follow Paul’s example in 1 Cor 9: 22b: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might win some.”
I know you think you’re doing God a favor by:
- Getting into four honors classes this year so you can win the “brainiacs” and you’re…
- Growing out that mullet so you can win the “potheads” and you’re…
- Turning up the wit and charm so you can win the “cool kids.”
You’re indeed out to become all things to all people, that by all means you might win some, but who are you really trying to win all these people for?
It feels a lot like maybe yourself. So try reading 22b in context, beginning with verse 19: “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.”
Did you catch the key words there: servant to all. Not beloved by all. This passage is about accepting and serving others. Not being accepted and honored by others.
#6: People feel comfortable around people who make them feel comfortable.
OK, now to explain why your social experiment won’t work out like you hope. (Besides the selfish motives I already identified.) Here it is in three points:
- The braniacs are going to wonder why your hair is so long.
- The potheads are going to wonder why you’re trying to hang out with the popular crowd. And…
- The cool kids will wonder what in the world you’re doing in all honors classes. “Like, do you, like totally, like, like learning? Like gag me with a spoon!”
In other words, by shaking up the status quo you’re making people feel uncomfortable. And people are uncomfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
#7: People make decisions emotionally and then defend them rationally.
You’ll actually read this later in a marketing book after college, but the application I make to you at age 16 isn’t about succeeding in business. It’s about succeeding in your witness.
Simple fact is, no one’s argued into the kingdom of God with undeniable logic. They’re wooed into the kingdom of God with unfailing love.
You’ve learned apologetics. That’s truly wonderful, but you have to get in touch with why you really believe what you believe so you can help other people believe. And you have to learn to truly love people.
#8: Most people do most of what they do, because it makes them feel good.
Again, like #3, the same is true of you.
One girl smokes pot, because it makes her feel good. One guy has sex with his girlfriend, because it makes him feel good. Then there’s you judging all those people doing the pot and the sex, because it makes you feel good.
This advice flows out of the previous truth I shared. In addition to loving them, if you truly want to influence people, instead of debating or judging them, you have to understand them. And, believe it or not, in making the effort to understand someone – a genuine act of love, by the way – you’ll influence them far more than you could imagine, because…
People love to be understood almost as much as they love to be loved.
I hope you sense I love you. And understand you quite well. Heck, I AM you!
But believe me when I say, our creator loves and understands us far better than you or I ever will. So press in to know Him more and you will not be able to help loving Him more.
[Of course, I pray these words of wisdom empower MANY 16-year-olds to understand and walk in healthy relationships, but truth be told, the timing of this post was inspired by the upcoming birthday of Gideon. Happy birthday, dude! This post is for YOU!!]
DNA: It’s What’s For Dating
It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. And would like to learn how to better build healthy relationships in the meantime.
Check out all three study guides in our store. You can walk through them on your own, but it’s more fun with friends (that and it kinda makes sense to grow in relational success in actual relationships with others), so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study.
Even better? And ask a rock star married couple you respect to lead it!