Dump it. Drop it. Let it go.
You’ve seen and maybe even felt the empty promises it brings, and it’s time to move it aside.
“Are you calling us out?” I was once asked while speaking at a school in L.A.
Indeed I am.
But only because I believe in your image of greatness. An image that surpasses the meaningless expectations placed on you by the culture today.
I know you have heard it all before: “Made in the image and likeness of God,” being just one of the token phrases from scripture repeating in your head from your parents, priests and teachers.
But when we as young people make a commitment to live that, “image,” our world completely changes. Everything from how we think, speak, act, dress, date…becomes transformed into something beautiful.
“Prove it!” you might say.
Most young people at the schools where I speak want proof that their, “yes,” to living a life of virtue (which does include chastity) while foregoing the other lives they may have experienced or witnessed, will be something that will bring them true happiness and inner freedom.
What I’ve found, however, is that proof they seem to be looking for lies in the most unexpected of places … within themselves.
Whenever I ask young people to reflect on, write or share the heroes in their lives who have had the greatest impact on them, I have never once heard, “the Situation,” as an answer (a character on the television show Jersey Shore). I rarely even hear the names of athletes or other celebrities in our society in response to that question.
The answers I hear are those people closest to them who display both admirable and virtuous attributes, such as strength, hope, honor, faithfulness, humility, accountability, honesty – and yes – purity.
And when I follow with the question of, “Are these people some of the happiest people you know?” A resounding, “yes” always seems to follow.
Because people who commit themselves to living virtuous and faith-filled lives don’t have the burdens of regret and anxiety that inevitably come when bad decisions have been made. The one who takes seriously his or her call to following Christ is free.
Will you make mistakes? Of course! That you can be sure of.
But a person after our Lord’s heart learns from those mistakes, becoming stronger and a more mature individual.
I heard it once said by a priest that, “For some reason, our society today is convinced that God is our rival, convinced that He holds us back from the things that will make us happy.”
Maybe you are one of those people who grasps onto that thought of a God holding you back from the, “freedom,” the culture has to offer.
Young people, doing, whatever you want, whenever you want, with whomever you want, is not freedom. Freedom is not being used by someone who has only himself or herself in mind.
Freedom IS giving yourself fully as a virtuous disciple of Jesus Christ.
I think we are all fooling ourselves in not facing just how this hook-up culture has formed a certain mentality in us. A mentality that prides itself on the shameless use, as I stated above, of those we cherish, for what we hope will be our gain. When in the end, what we generally experience is nothing more than an even emptier heart exhausted from the search for fulfillment.
I realize the pressures of this mindset seem almost constant.
I was once told by a girl after speaking at her school that her, “besties,” (best friends) would make fun of her for living in such a way.
Now the easy answer would have been to tell her, “Well then, they really aren’t your friends,” or, “Just drop them and find new ones.”
But I know it isn’t that simple.
Though it is important to try and find friends who will give you that support, I told her that she is now being called to stand out as a living witness among her friends, pointing them by the way she lives, to the freedom she will inevitably experience from choosing Christ.
And now I likewise call on you the reader this same way.
Look, I am not telling you to walk the halls of your schools with a Bible in one hand and a statue of Jesus in the other screaming for your classmates to repent.
Quite frankly, that’s not realistic.
But I am asking you to reflect on the necessary adjustments you and we all need to make in order to experience the joys of this life rooted in our God.
I will end with this: When John Paul the Great, who is soon to be a Blessed, was elected Pope in 1978, he issued a challenge to the world, a challenge that I believe is still in effect today.
He asked us to, “open wide the doors to Christ.”
Young people, let’s together open these doors to the freedom found in following Jesus Christ.
You won’t regret it.
Jon Leonetti is the author of two books entitled - Mission of the Family and Your God Is Too Boring. He currently travels the country giving keynote presentations and parish missions. Learn more by visiting jonleonetti.com
The Live Greater Foundation exists to encourage ordinary people to live in extraordinary ways. Learn more about their work at livegreaterfoundation.org.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.