As my boys morph into teens and then into young men, some rather obvious – but still hard-learned – life truths keep coming to the surface.
Love is given – from the moment of that first positive sign on the pregnancy test, to the seemingly endless night feedings, to the crashes and pimples and (much bigger) crashes of growing up, you’re loved because you’re…you. Period.
Approval is conditional – what is wrong and stupid and dangerous does not become acceptable because you’re loved. And love doesn’t free you from the responsibility to grow up and measure up. Disapproval is a fact of life. Walk in wisdom, go all-in, and you’ll learn whose approval matters – and whose does not.
Respect is earned – accomplishment, achievement, character development – that is how you earn the respect of others. No shortcuts. Respect is not the puff-up of flattery; it’s admiration that comes with a price tag.
Ideals co-exist with reals – every person you meet, including the one in the mirror, has flaws. Life isn’t always fair. Give up on utopian expectations, but never give up on ideals. Leaders pursue what is higher; nobility is in the striving, not the attaining.
You’re a part, not a whole – we all have a few things that we can do really well. Many of the people around you have stronger limbs, sharper eyes, more nimble brains, and bigger hearts. Learn to give and receive as a part of a community; don’t build up walls on your own island.
Since all of that is true, pursue your highest goals, fail enthusiastically, and inspire others. That’s my New Year message to young men, or to anyone else who needs it!