My daughter and I recently purchased a picture for her dorm room. She will be going to college in a few days, so a little decorating seemed in order. The picture has a few words, but the core word is, “Be True”. This slogan can be taken several ways, but the meaning is simple enough. Strive to be true to your values and beliefs. Character matters. People are always looking for symbols, signs, logos that will help them remember their core values. Some people wear crosses. When we get married, we wear rings. Others even choose tattoos. All these things highlight the need we have to live by a code. My code involves living by the teachings of Christ and the Bible. You may not believe that you live by a code, but when confronted by a set of circumstances that require moral clarity, your core values will shine through. Life seems to be full of these moments too.
I’m constantly talking to people who face compromising situations and must draw on their core values. Although some make the wrong decisions, it’s always exciting to hear about a person who acts morally and lives by the code they were taught. Whether this requires not cheating on a test, abstaining from sex, or standing up for another person, we tend to cheer when a person is true to their values. I recently talked with a college student who told me how during his first days at the dorm, his roommates told him that they would find him another girl since his girlfriend was so far away. “Cheating on her is okay”, his new friends said. I told him to stay true to himself and to his girlfriend. Later, I found out that he made the decision to stay faithful to his girlfriend.
A parent friend of mine told me how he found a condom in his son’s backpack. Once he got over the shock, he confronted his son with love and respect and told him that wasn’t who he was. His son told him that he had been tempted and was considering having sex with his girlfriend. The son also said that he knew he shouldn’t have sex before marriage as that was a value that he'd been raised with. The young man was thankful that his dad noticed and cared enough to confront him. His dad told him to stay true to himself and stay pure until his wedding day.
What about binge drinking and drug use in college? What if if your friends pressure you to over drink? I’ve heard stories about college freshman who visit emergency rooms, or do drugs in order to be accepted by their friends?
These are just a few of the many struggles and temptations that our young people face. When we face tests or temptations like these, it’s good for us to know how to stand up and be counted. It’s hard to not be swayed by others and keep the right company, but knowing who you are helps you identify your core values and hold strong. How do we discover our identity and hone in on our core values? In the book I am writing about preparing for marriage, I hit on the topic of identity, which is one way to identify your core values. I believe that knowing who you are at the core level involves your relationship with God. When you discover that you are God’s own child and that He loves you with an everlasting love, you discover much about your mission in life and calling. This is the beginning of staying true to yourself. Here are a few principles I’ve gleaned from experience.
Believe what God says about you in scripture. Ephesians 2:10 states, “You are God’s masterpiece.” Understand that he is pleased with how he created you. You are valuable to God and to others. God’s opinion of you is the most important one. He sees you as a product of your best qualities. Lay aside your worst habits and the mistakes you've made in the past. Embrace your best qualities. Say to yourself, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous-and how well I know it.” Psalm 139:14.
Don’t let what people say about you define how you see yourself. Abandon any image of yourself that is not from God. Stop accepting the false characterizations that others make of you. Let God’s opinion of you be the one that defines you. Pray to your heavenly Father and ask him about the plans he has for you. “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.
You determine your identity with the help of the Holy Spirit and the input of your trusted friends. Accept that you are now identified with Christ and have the power of the Holy Spirit within you. You are God’s precious child, and he created you in a way that pleases him. “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, sets his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” II Corinthians 1:21-22.
Grow in your identity. God has equipped you with unique skills and talents. He will use those things for his kingdom and eternity. You may be a teacher, an entrepreneur, CPA, gardener, engineer, doctor, a missionary, or social worker. Whatever your calling in life, begin to see that God can use your unique talents for his purposes. When you are alone and see yourself in the mirror, who do you see? Do you see youself as a talented and wonderful person or is your mind filled with negative thoughts? God wants to fill you with the desire to do great things. Expect great things from God and out of life. The Lord said to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”