For many, high school is an experience they wish to keep far from their memory. For me, high school was where I learned the true meaning of manhood. Tucked in a small Pennsylvania town called Exton, PA, Church Farm School, an all-boys-boarding school was where I got my start in the world, eventually to become what I am today.
Recently a few classmates and I went back there to participate in a panel discussion with the current students. As I shared my own life experiences with them, I remembered the countless teachers who poured into me and steered me in the right direction. These teachers were regular people with big hearts and a dedication to see the boys of CFS go on to become men of tomorrow. I still think back with fondness to some of those lessons. Below are three of those life lessons that I want to share with you.
Lesson # 1: don’t be passive aggressive; learn to share what’s on your mind
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)
Passive aggressiveness is a destructive habit of not telling other people what you are really feeling or thinking. It is a way to avoid conflict by shutting down altogether. It forces you to bottle everything in, while the other person has no idea something is wrong.
My piano teacher warned me of the dangers of this habit, as I was notorious for doing this in high school. In one specific instance, I never told him that I hated a piece of music that he wanted me to practice for my upcoming recital. I just never rehearsed it and ignored the piece altogether, not realizing that I was being passive aggressive.
His warning was clear and simple: “John, if you don’t start learning to share what’s on your mind, you will damage a lot of relationships with people that you love.”
His words hit me like a ton of bricks, and I knew exactly what he meant. More importantly, I knew that he was right. Passive aggressiveness is a trap that causes only damage.
I have met many people who struggle with passive aggressiveness, especially married men. They keep offenses bottled up, never sharing with their spouse the things hidden inside. Eventually, bitterness gives way to indifference toward the spouse, which can easily deteriorate a marriage or lead to infidelity.
My encouragement to you: if you find yourself harboring bitterness toward someone, go and make things right. Do not allow passive aggressiveness to rule you. You will only push good people away as a result.
Lesson # 2: keep your commitments
But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37)
Commitment is a hard thing. If it were easy, marriages would not be falling apart at the rate that they are in this country. Once you commit to something, follow it through. It is better not to commit at all, than to commit and then break the commitment.
My track & field coach made sure I heeded this lesson. After two years of running track, I decided that I had had enough of the boot-camp style practices and wanted to quit the team; but this coach would not let me quit. He made sure I stayed on the team all four years of high school, whether I liked it or not.
Looking back, I am glad he had the fortitude to help me stay the course, because as a man that is what I needed. I also learned so much about discipline and hard work during those four years of running track.
Duty is not always fun. Going to work to provide for your family will not feel good at times. There will be times when your commitment to your spouse will require an extra dose of perseverance. It is all worth it, though. The struggles of life make the prize that much more worth the race in the end.
My encouragement to you: stick to your commitments. To your spouse, to your children, to your duty.
It is worth the effort.
Lesson # 3: whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Everywhere you look you find people that are looking for meaning and purpose. There is no shortage of books and seminars on this topic, and yet many people are still depressed and unhappy.
Recently I read an article in the Wall Street Journal talking about how the “always-on” work culture is creating “broken” people. I do not think that is the case. I think people are already broken and are looking to fill the void with work- looking for satisfaction in things that can never truly satisfy.
God created us to walk in fellowship him. Though sin created a vast divide between him and us, Jesus Christ has provided reconciliation with God through his death on the cross. This is where our identity lies – in Christ. Everything else is an extension of that primary identity. The things you are counting on today to bring you fulfillment and joy will only leave you disappointed.
My choir director taught me this during my senior year of high school. He was an amazing mentor and today remains a close friend.
My encouragement to you: if you have yet to find your identity in the one who created you, seek him through Jesus Christ. At his right hand are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16:11).
-Led by the Book