Dear teenagers everywhere,
I was online the other night, and noticed that many people have opinions about who you are, what you wear and how you behave. Many other people have opinions about the opinions of the first group of people. Some want to blame you for the evils of the world you live in. Some want to absolve you of any responsibility for the repercussions of the choices that you make. Most just want to bicker and argue, and if it wasn't about you, it would be about something else, and if they get their say, then I get mine.
I have two teenagers of my own. One boy. One girl.
Like nearly all of you, my children enjoy spending time online -- less than many, more than others. They post pictures. They message friends. Sometimes they say stupid things. Did you know that once you send anything out into cyberspace, it is virtually impossible to make it go away? Did you also know that the world is bigger than your 500 Facebook friends?
People can see what you're doing.
People you have never considered.
People you don't want seeing your pictures.
People you don't want learning intimate details about your life.
If you are online, you are exposed. Know that, and be smart.
Now let's talk about your responsibilities...
To the boys: You have a long road ahead of you. The world has decided to make you into guys, instead of men. There is a storm of immorality coming, and it's going to hit you full force, and if you are not prepared, it will sweep you away. You will be flooded with images. You will be pummeled with suggestions. You will be beaten down with temptations. And you will be responsible for how you respond to this storm.
You will be told that women are objects. You will be persuaded to see them as base and lustful creatures, existing to satisfy your own selfish desires. You will be told that this is just natural. You will be told that a real man gets what he wants. He takes what he wants. And you will find that the thing about want is, it's never satisfied.
And when you give in to these dark desires and temptations (and make no mistake, they are dark) you will sell your manhood for a pittance, and your soul for a base and insatiable hunger.
It doesn't have to be this way. You are a noble being. Your potential is endless. Be the man that your mother believes you to be. See the women in your life as they really are -- daughters of God. Never take advantage of them. It doesn't matter if you want to -- you don't have the right.
It doesn't matter if you think you've been invited -- for your sake, and hers, walk away from that situation. Stand up and be a man. A real man. Become the man who prizes virtue. Become the man who stands for something. Be your best self and expect better of those you surround yourself with, and watch as they rise to the challenge.
Change the world, one good man at a time.
To the girls: I write to you as a man, and a former boy, and the father of daughters. That's the only perspective I'm capable of. Listen carefully, because the path will be no easier for you than it will be for the boys.
The world is going to tell you that you are only worthy of love and affection if you fit a certain mold, if you look a certain way...if you behave a certain way. You are not an object. You are more than your body. You do not exist to fulfill someone's lustful desires. It may be that some day your greatest achievement and happiness will involve a man, but it will be as a partner and a companion, not as a plaything to be tossed aside, when something better comes along.
Know that you have a choice in the way the world sees you. Please be aware that it matters what you present to the world. Don't be duped into believing that perception is beyond your control. You can't advertise one thing and sell another. The world does't work that way. Don't listen to the voices that absolve you of any responsibility for the way others see you. That can be a fatal mistake. You will be perceived as you are presented. It's harsh and it's true. For your sake, if for no one else's, learn this lesson, and be wise.
And when it comes to the boys, you have a big choice to make. You can help them become the men they should be, or you can leave them to fend for themselves, and to fight a battle that, sadly and honestly, they don't have a good chance of winning -- not without some help. Please choose to help them. We are losing men of character at an alarming rate.
It's not your responsibility to make them better, but it is your opportunity. I don't believe that they can make it without you. Demand better, because you deserve better. Demand a man who can hold to righteous principles. Demand a man who can look you in the eye, and know that he is worthy of you in every way. And watch as the boys in your life become men worthy of your notice.
You are the source of life and so much that is beautiful in this world. Be noble and radiant. Find the best within you, and give that to the world.
And finally, to my own teenagers: I remember what it was like to be where you are, but not with total recall. Life and time have changed my understanding and my priorities. If I ever seem not to understand you, I promise it's not for a lack of trying. Come to me, and we'll talk. No one loves their children more than I love you. Be the people we are raising you to be.
In fact, be better than that.
You won't regret it.