The Bible tells us that "Pride comes before destruction." What are the things a teenager should guard against in other to be respectful and humble?
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).
The problem of pride is not unique to teenagers. All people struggle with it, since it is a part of Satan's arsenal. "For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world" (I John 2:16).
Teenagers can be susceptible to pride because of their position in life. As a teen's body changes from a child's to an adult, there is pride in obtaining new status in the community. Yet if you think about it a moment, such change is the normal course of life. A person's body doesn't change because they earned adulthood, but because we have gained something new we automatically assume that it was because we deserved it. "I returned and saw under the sun that - the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all" (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Growth happens because of time, not skill.
For most people, their peak strength and health comes in their late teens and early twenties. The sudden blossom of strength and vigor makes a person believe they can do just about anything. It easy to lose sight of the fact that this world is temporary and we are mortal. We are here for a limited time and the bodies we are given are subject to decay. "Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity" (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10). It is so easy to think that things will remain the same. Teenagers generally have a hard time grasping that they have limited time. They do things that an older adult would not do, excusing themselves with the idea that it can be fixed later.
But some things cannot be fixed. Sins carry consequences; some are too severe to be altered. Youths have a hard time considering the results of their actions. In part it is due to their mental potential as their brains develop, but in greater part it is due to their lack of experience with life. Elders have a tough time convincing youth that they haven't seen much of life. After all, a youth only knows his own life. An eighteen year old looking back over his life feels he has lived a long time. But the fifty year old knows the eighteen year old has barely begun to live. Many of the mistakes that teenagers make are the same ones made by their parents and their grandparents and so forth. The mistakes are repeated because young people have pride in their age, not realizing how little they know because they have yet to be forced to face their ignorance. Hence, the wisdom of previous generations is lost on the next generation. "My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; for they will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck" (Proverbs 1:8-9). It is pride that makes a young man ignore the wisdom of his elders. "My son, keep your father's command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck. When you roam, they will lead you; when you sleep, they will keep you; and when you awake, they will speak with you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life" (Proverbs 6:20-23).
Youth should be a time of innocence and fun, but the world is full of evil. I can't begin to tell you of tears I've shed over young people who have made bad starts in life, even though older people have warned them of the dangers. I deal with young men who experiment with drugs, despite the warnings, and now realize that even though they are off of the drug, they will be haunted for the rest of their lives by a desire for the drug -- drugs that have sapped their strength, destroyed their sexual desire, and haunts their dreams.
Not long ago I consoled a young man who told me in tears that he ruined his life as a Christian because he committed fornication. He was mentally beating himself up for two months before he finally talked to me and we were able to talk about temptation and the God's willingness to forgive. But the sad thing is that as he was blossoming into manhood, we had talked about this very problem. As he met young women and told me about them, I warned him that some were a danger to him. When he met this particular girl, he told me at the beginning that she wasn't a keeper, that she had a bad reputation, but he thought he could make a difference in her life. He wanted so much to be needed and here was a girl that wanted to leave her past behind, or so he thought.
About a month later he told me that he "went too far" -- touching inappropriate areas. He apologized to the girl, but I warned him that he need to make sure he was never alone with her. It is so easy to say that "nothing happened" last time, so nothing will happen next time either. He agreed, but he didn't really believe me. It was only a week or so later that while they were alone in her house that she told him to "do what he wanted" and he had his pants off and was in her. As he described it later, he didn't know why he did it. In part, he didn't think things would go so far so soon. He thought he would have time to steel himself against the temptation, but it hit him like a truck.
Right in the middle of intercourse, it suddenly struck him: "What am I doing!" He pulled out before ejaculating, but just barely. But it wasn't how close he came to completing sex that haunted him. He thought he would be a good influence and here he was doing the very thing he was condemning other boys for doing. He was devastated. Their relationship quickly cooled because in her eyes, he wasn't "man enough." She dumped him and he learned that within days she was back to having sex with her old boyfriend. He thought he could make a difference in her, but the change came to him and it wasn't for the better.
Despite my discussions with him, he thinks he is "no good." He has asked God for forgiveness, but it will be a long while before he forgives himself. "How," he moans, "could I have been so stupid!" But it isn't intelligence that is the problem, it was pride which made him think that he could resist temptation because he knew about it in advance. It was pride that led him to be alone with a girl even though he was warned not to do it.
No matter who you are, Satan wants you for his own. Teenagers need to constantly remind themselves that they are untried warriors in the battle of life. Like a new solider freshly out of training, they cannot let themselves be fooled that the strength of youth is going to make up for a lack of experience.