Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Dear Father Paul: I am a college student just starting my life as an adult. I read your column and respect your wisdom. So what is the one, single, best piece of advice you’d give a young person like me? — Matt
Dear Matt: Thank you for the nice compliment. The fact that you are willing to seek advice demonstrates that you already have a high degree of the wisdom needed to lead a successful life.
There are many dozens of pieces of wisdom that I (and others) could offer to answer your question. But having said that, I have given your question a lot of thought and find that, for me, there is not “one single piece of advice,” but at least two. Here they are.
First. Don’t let anyone else do your thinking for you.
You have probably discovered that throughout your life so far almost everyone has an ax to grind, has an agenda, has an opinion. And, most want you to espouse their philosophy, join their group or movement, help advance their cause, vote for their candidate(s), buy their products … and on and on and on.
Basically, in today’s culture, practically everyone is competing for you to think like they want you to think. Sadly, this probably includes your professors and even some of your best friends. Here’s an experiment that proves my point. Turn on your TV and watch the Fox News Channel for a couple of weeks, then switch over to MSNBC or CNN for a couple of weeks. The social scientists call some (not all) of what you will hear “propaganda.” Others call it “fake news.”
What I am advising is simply this … be a “critical,” yes, even a skeptical thinker. Don’t jump on anybody’s bandwagon without weighing things out for yourself!
It boils down to this. Throughout your entire life, you will be bombarded with tons of propaganda, but not much “truth.” It is up to you, and no one else, to do your homework and learn to discount propaganda and instead embrace, think and live the “truth.” It won’t be easy because emotion and peer pressure often cloud our thinking. Again, don’t let anyone else do your thinking for you. Instead, be your own man!
Warning! If you follow this advice you will find yourself “swimming against the tide” from time-to-time.
Second. Seriously study the lives of truly great men and woman and learn both from their successes and their failures.
I could give you hundreds of names here, but my space is limited.
However, King Solomon of ancient Israel would be a good place to start. He’s one of my heroes.
Solomon was the son of King David. He ruled Israel for almost forty years during the period about 1,000 years before Jesus. He was the author of the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Bible.
When Solomon was a young King, it is recorded in the Bible in I Kings chapter 3, that the Lord God visited Solomon in a dream. He told Solomon, “I will give you anything you ask, just name it.” Instead of riches, power and a long life Solomon asked for wisdom to govern Israel. God was so pleased that Solomon asked for wisdom to help others instead of things for himself that he gave him both wisdom and riches, power and a long life.
Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s autobiography written near the end of his long life. It is only twelve short chapters and can be easily read in 30-40 minutes. The amazing thing about Solomon’s recounting of his life is that although he was indeed the richest and most powerful man in the world during his life, in his story Solomon dismisses one-by-one all of his riches, his efforts and his successes as “meaningless.”
Instead, in the last two verses of Solomon’s own, self written life story, Ecclesiastes 12:13 and 14, (New Living Translation) Solomon gives his view of the grand purpose of life and his advice about life for every person from then until today.
“Here is my final conclusion,” Solomon says, “Fear (reverence) God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do; including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”
So there they are Matt. The two best pieces of advice I can give.
Think for yourself … and look to the examples of wise men and women.
Do you have a question? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer your question in the paper.
Father Paul Massey is pastor emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com for more information, service times and directions.