From time to time, I write my sons letters or send texts with nuggets of advice in them. I want to make sure that before they leave me, they have a collection of wisdom to carry with them into life. Ideally, I want this all perfect before they move away, but that’s crazy-mom thinking.
1.Pursue God above everything else. Pursuing God provides a framework for every other piece of advice anyone could give you. Please stay in a continually growing relationship with Christ. No career, no family, no sport, no amusement could ever replace the peace and fulfillment that comes through a mature relationship with Jesus Christ. This doesn’t happen by accident, and it’s not easy. Your relationship with God should be priority #1 because it influences all your other priorities. If you screw this up, you screw up everything else. (And sometimes you will.) Thankfully, there is always a way back here–you only have to humble yourself and begin pursuing Christ again. Only in Christ, will you enjoy true freedom and joy.
2. Have impeccable integrity. Your greatest asset and liability in living life will be your integrity because your character is integral to your leadership, your marriage, your reputation, and your influence. Be an honest, kind, and good man in every scenario–as much as is in your power, eliminate the possibility of people have conflicting opinions about you. If you fail at something, let it be because someone else’s integrity has prompted them to make poor choices, not you. If you fall (and sometimes you will) with your integrity in tact, you will rise back up to the top. If your lack of integrity produces your failure, refer to Life Lesson #1.
3. Work hard. Few characteristics will affect every area of your life like hard work. But please work hard because it’s the right thing to do. Don’t work for money, or money will own you. Don’t work for approval, or approval will own you. Work for satisfaction, for influence, for provision, for the sheer joy of doing something that will outlast you. And work at everything in your life that’s valuable first–your marriage, your parenting, your spiritual growth, your relationships. Don’t just be good at your career. When you begin dying, that will not be the pursuit you pine for.
4. Dream big, but leave the results to God. A goal or dream is something you work towards, and that is a worthy calling. An expectation, however, feels entitled; it always produces disappointment and bitterness because our expectations are invariably linked to our high opinions of ourselves. Instead of living a life with expectations of grandeur, live in contentment and humble anticipation of your next blessing. You will reap joy and gratefulness, and you will manage to do so above the rat race of our materialistic society. Influential dreams are realized through hard work, integrity, and blessing. The idea that you control your own destiny, health, happiness, and so on, is a myth. You only control your attitude and your work ethic.
5. Have courage. Nelson Mandela said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” You will be afraid of many things in life, but you must push through the fear. The action of conquering fear, simply by moving forward, will propel you to do great things. But if you do nothing, fear will conquer you. And as history shows you, conquering produces tyrants. Don’t let fear be the tyrant of your life. Just keep moving forward in Jesus’ strength.
6. Make the world a better place. You can influence others and lead people toward health and happiness just by being who you were created to be. You will make the world better. Use your talents, give your time, sacrifice something for the greater good. People will follow, and lives will change. I believe in you!
7. Make your brothers your best friends for life (even though sometimes, you want to slug them). You will have camaraderie with many friends, and that’s good. But your brothers will push you, challenge you, and call you out when you’re believing your own press. Brothers will agonize with you when you hurt and feel pride when you succeed. They will be incredibly picky about your future wife because you carry a part of them inside you, and they want to make sure she fits all of you. Brothers love to a level that friends cannot. I am so blessed that you have each other for brothers!
8. Show respect to everyone. Value the wealthy and the downtrodden, your neighbor and the emigrant. The elderly and the child. The handicapped and the ill. You should never outgrow manners; saying “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” never goes out of fashion. Even show respect to rude people; you have no idea what is happening in their lives at the very moment your path intersects with theirs. Respecting people–even idiots–places you in a small category where few people shine. Be one of those people!
9. Choose some heroes and follow them. Your dad is one of them. In fact, he is the truest hero, because he has lived out his flaws and failures in plain view, guiding you through life with his arm around your shoulders. Choose heroes like your dad who show you both the brilliance and the danger of their humanity. Whenever you meet someone with integrity, purpose, and Christlikeness, introduce yourself to him. Watch him, copy him, question him. Few people become great without great men leading them along the way.
10. Regard girls tenderly and respectfully. Women are strong yet fragile creatures. They understand and feel deeply, which affords them wisdom and perception that men generally don’t have; these strengths give them a tenderness and sensitivity that you can value as a asset or devalue as an annoyance. Don’t mistake the two. Listen, learn, and cherish. Women are not objects to be ogled or degraded, nor are they tyrants to be feared and obeyed. The right woman for you carries the power to encourage and strengthen you or discourage and deplete you. Choose wisely, and reserve yourself for that one woman who will help you become a great man. She deserves everything you can give her.
Bonus #–Make time for your mother. No one will encourage you and cheer for you like dear ol’ mum. Your mother has known you and loved you longer than anyone else. She understands you and feels intricately attached to everything you do (I know, it can be irritating), so don’t disregard her feelings. Word to the wise: no one can make trouble like a mother scorned. This is not a threat, and I don’t want to be that mom. (But this is still a good warning.) Be sweet and patient, and give her little bits of attention and caring. She spent many years wiping your butt, cooling your fevers, and doing your homework with you. It won’t kill you to call her every week.
I love you, my sons! You have blessed my life by just being you.