You Are What You Eat

You Are What You Eat

It’s that time of year. For a majority of my adult life, late December brings on loads of ambition. This will be the year. I’m gonna lose weight, get in better shape, read some more books, and in general – dominate life. We all feel it, right?

Gym membership deals are flooding our mailbox while visions of what could be possible flood our imaginations. Maybe this is the year we will get out of debt. What if I actually got my act together on all of the things I have neglected to this point?

We all love the opportunity to start over. This is the great part of living in a free society – we get to choose our direction. If we want to be successful, generally with the right tools and support, we can do so. If we want to be a drain on society, there is an option to do that as well!

This is the time of year where making good choices seems not only possible, but likely. We are filled with a sense of hope and optimism that next year could be better than the last.

But it all starts somewhere, and it does begin with a choice. The older I get, I’m realizing it is all about consumption. We are consumers, and live as such. As consumers, we consume. There is no way around consumption – it is part of being human.

Let me give you an example. Back in my younger days, I would listen to political talk radio when I would drive. I would drive a lot as a part of my job, so I would spend hours listening to radio hosts talk passionately (and angrily) about their political viewpoint. For me, the angrier the better. At that time in my life, I thought if the person was more passionate and loud about a topic, they could be trusted.

But I started to notice a few things. First of all, these hosts would talk about people with opposing viewpoints with flippancy and disrespect. They would use insults and call people names. I remember thinking one day that I would never let my children talk about someone that way. So, why was I justified to listen?

More importantly, I realized how I felt after listening to these radio shows. I felt angry and distrustful of everyone. My worldview felt narrow and uninformed. In short, I didn’t like how I felt about myself or the world after consuming these programs.

The same could be said of watching cable news or surfing political websites. I just didn’t like how I felt after I would do those things.

So, I stopped. I can’t recall if it was cold turkey, but I don’t do that anymore. And guess what? Things changed. I started being more selective about what I listened to and watched as it pertained to political and social commentary. I started seeing a more hopeful and meaningful world ahead of me. I found out that people do not exist in worlds of black and white but of layered nuance.

Simply put, I changed what I consumed and things were better. We are what we eat, folks – whether it is food, social media, television, movies, all of it. And, I am coming to believe it starts there.

I could start running 5 times a week and not loose a pound if I don’t change what I eat. It all starts with what we consume.

So, as this time of hopefulness and motivation is upon us, let us focus on our choices and what we consume. Here are a few things to think about:

  1. How do you feel after you consume things like social media, entertainment, digital devices, food, etc?
  2. How defensive are you about these things when confronted?
  3. How hard do you think it would be to quit one of these things cold turkey?

Any strong feelings or emotions around any of these three questions lets you know there might be something to explore. Trust me, there is something to it.

Find a friend, make a plan, pray, and get to consuming something else. Our life could change for the better if we had the courage to consume better.

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
How to Help Teenagers Make Good Choices

How to Help Teenagers Make Good Choices

How do you help teenagers make good choices? It starts small. 

When it comes to making a decision, many people would rather not. There is always inherent risk when it comes to choosing a path, no matter how grandiose or miniscule. You could easily choose the wrong path, then potentially face ridicule from the 20/20 vision of future observers.

I am a reluctant decision maker. Usually, I am the one called upon to choose where the group eats or to choose the focus or direction of a conversation within a new group. I likely appear comfortable with the task, but inside I can be riddled with doubt and anxiety. Usually I’ll make the choice because no one else will. But it would be untrue to say that I am the one who wants to decide because I always think I’ll make the right choice.

Yet, to grow and lead in this world, we have to find a way to make choices and to hopefully make good choices. 

We are often hesitant to make any choice – why is that? 

I come from a faith background that talks a lot about finding God’s will for our lives. You hear about “waiting for God to speak” and trying to discern what God is desiring for one’s life choices. Often you will find this language peppered throughout sermons and private prayer lives – hoping God will rescue us from having to make the tough choices.

You see it in the second guessing of people who do have to make hard choices. I think this is why politicians are so maligned. While I’m not saying they are always virtuous or faultless in how they make choices, they have to make hard decisions on law, budgets, and policy. It is their job to choose a direction and stick with it, no matter the criticism or shift in public opinion.

Most of the criticism for those who make hard decisions comes from those who do not have to make those choices. There is an entire cottage industry of political pundits and newspaper columnists who exist solely to critique or criticize decisions other people make, without really having to make any of their own (at least of equal consequence).

Stack that on top of the advent of social media where everyone can say anything about anyone, anytime and you find a recipe for a populous who has very little vested stake in any kind of meaningful decision making.

I think we learn how to make decisions and hard choices earlier in life than we realize. 

Despite growing awareness around mental health, there remains a stigma associated with therapy. Many teens and parents hesitate to seek therapeutic help due to fears of judgment or labeling. Support groups, on the other hand, are perceived differently. They are seen as peer-driven and less formal, making it easier for teens to participate without feeling stigmatized.

If you were raised in a house where there were very few consequences, or overly harsh consequences for your choices and actions, likely you could struggle making hard choices. Or if the opportunity to fail was taken from you and all you have ever known is success, then you could struggle to make decisions as well.

Deciders will inevitably make the wrong choice. But someone who is adept at making these choices is willing to live with the consequences of making the wrong choice. They take ownership in the process and know they made the best possible decision with the information available.

 

Friends, we have to help teenagers make choices and informed decisions.

And, I think this is where we start. So often we want teenagers to make “good” or “better” choices, but often they aren’t making many choices to begin with. I understand the logic behind the idea of “not making a choice – that is a choice,” but I’m speaking of proactive, informed, and future-thinking choices.

Consider these things to help students feel confident enough to make good choices:

  • Start with the small stuff. We don’t get the big, important choices right until we can practice with the small stuff. Encourage students to engage in decision-making throughout their day in a way that they can point back to.
  • Encourage them to choose one “hard” decision a day. Something like eating a salad instead of a burger, or choosing to exercise instead of watching TV. Learning to make the harder, but better choice builds up the confidence to make the right choices in the long run.
  • Help them take ownership of their choices. So if things unravel and blow up after a decision, they can look you in the eye and tell you why they did it, why it failed, and what they plan to do in the future that might be different. Failure is not a bad thing. Failure is something to learn from, but you have to take ownership to begin with.

Imagine a world where teenagers start to make good choices based on good information, support from their parents and peers, and ownership of their failures and successes. I believe we would see a drop in crime and drug use, and an increase in community, church engagement, and school involvement. And, I think we can agree we would all like to see these things!

What do you think about this? Do you have other ideas for how to help teenagers make good choices?

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

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