Youths​—Let Your Parents Help You Guard Your Heart!

WHAT do you think is the most difficult challenge facing a ship’s captain? Is it crossing a vast ocean safely? Not usually. Most shipwrecks occur near the shore, not in the open sea. In fact, docking a ship can even be more hazardous than landing an airplane. Why?

Before a captain can safely berth his ship, he has to avoid all the dangers that a particular port may pose. He needs to take into account underwater currents while steering clear of other ships. He must also skirt any sandbanks, rocks, or wrecks hidden underneath the water. And to make matters worse, this may be his first visit to the harbor.

To help overcome these problems, a wise captain may engage the services of a pilot who knows the local waters intimately. The pilot stands at the captain’s side on the bridge and gives expert direction. Together they consider the hazards and steer the ship through any narrow channels to the port.

The invaluable expertise of the pilot illustrates the priceless help available to Christian youths who have to chart a course through the difficult waters of life. What is this help? Why do teenagers need it?

Let us continue the illustration of the ship. If you are an adolescent, you are somewhat like the captain of a ship in that you must eventually take responsibility for your life. And your parents have a role similar to that of a ship’s pilot as they try to guide you through some of the most difficult situations you will ever have to face in life. During the teenage years, however, you may find it hard to accept the advice your parents give you. Why is that?

The problem often lies with the heart. Your figurative heart may impel you to desire what is forbidden or to protest at any apparent denial of freedom. “The inclination of the heart of man,” the Bible says, “is bad from his youth up.” (Genesis 8:21) Jehovah makes clear that you have a real challenge ahead of you. “Deceitful is the heart above all things, and dangerously wayward,” he warns. (Jeremiah 17:9, Rotherham) In addition to harboring wrong desires, the heart can deceive a youth into thinking that he knows better than his parents, even though they have much more experience. There are  good reasons, however, for you to seek your parents’ help when navigating the difficult teenage years.

Why Obey Your Parents?

Above all, Jehovah, the Originator of the family, tells you that you should listen to your parents’ direction. (Ephesians 3:15) Since God has appointed your parents to take care of you, he gives you this counsel: “Children, the right thing for you to do is to obey your parents as those whom the Lord has set over you.” (Ephesians 6:1-3, Phillips; Psalm 78:5) While you may now be in your teenage years, your parents still have the responsibility to guide you, and you have the obligation to take notice. When the apostle Paul wrote that children should obey their parents, he used a Greek word that can apply to children of any age. As recorded at Matthew 23:37, for example, Jesus referred to the inhabitants of Jerusalem as her “children,” even though the majority were adults.

Many faithful men of old continued to obey their parents long after they had become adults. Jacob, although a grown man, understood that he should obey his father’s command to avoid marrying a woman who was not a worshiper of Jehovah. (Genesis 28:1, 2) Doubtless, Jacob had also noticed that his brother’s decision to marry pagan Canaanite women had caused his parents considerable heartache.​—Genesis 27:46.

Apart from their God-given duty to guide you, your Christian parents are likely the most qualified to act as your advisers. That is primarily because they know you so well and have no doubt shown their selfless love for you over many years. Like the ship’s pilot, they speak from experience. They themselves have experienced “the desires incidental to youth.” And as true Christians, they have personally seen the value of following Bible principles.​—2 Timothy 2:22.

With such experienced help at your side, you are aided in handling even the most difficult of situations successfully. Take, for example, your relationship with the opposite sex. How can Christian parents guide you in this sensitive matter?

Attraction to the Opposite Sex

Pilots advise ship captains to give sandbanks that stretch beneath the waters a wide berth. Sandbanks are soft but also treacherous, since they constantly shift position. Your parents will likewise want you to keep your distance from situations that might ensnare you emotionally. Parents know, for example, that feelings toward the opposite sex go deep and can be difficult to define. But once aroused, these feelings can cause you to run aground.

The example of Dinah illustrates a risk of steering too close to danger. Perhaps curiosity and a desire to have a good time moved Dinah to seek companionship with Canaanite girls, whose morals were undoubtedly lax. What at first seemed to be innocent fun soon led to a tragic experience​—she was raped by “the most honorable” young man in town.​—Genesis 34:1, 2, 19.

Such dangers are compounded by the sexually oriented times in which we live. (Hosea 5:4) Most youths may give the impression that having fun with the opposite sex is the most exciting thing possible. Your heart may race at the thought of being alone with  someone whom you find physically attractive. But loving parents will try to protect you from association with youths who do not respect God’s standards.

Laura admits that curiosity can blind teenagers to danger. “When the girls in my class tell me that they have danced into the night with some great boys, they make it sound like a never-to-be-forgotten experience. I realize that they often exaggerate, but I still feel curious and think that perhaps I’m missing out on a lot of fun. Although I know that my parents are right not to let me go to such places, I still feel the temptation.”

A ship has no brakes, so it takes a long time to stop. Parents know that passion behaves similarly. The book of Proverbs likens a man moved by unrestrained passion to a bull being led to the slaughter. (Proverbs 7:21-23) You do not want to allow such a thing to happen to you, leading you to emotional and spiritual shipwreck. Your parents may recognize when your heart has begun to mislead you in this area, and they may give you counsel accordingly. Will you have the wisdom to listen to them and thus avert calamity?​—Proverbs 1:8; 27:12.

You also need your parents’ support when you have to cope with peer pressure. How can they help you?

The Persuasive Power of Your Peers

A strong tide or current can drive a ship off course. To counteract this force, the ship has to be steered in another direction. In a similar way, the persuasive influence of other youths can push you off course spiritually unless you take countermeasures.

As the experience of Dinah illustrates, “if you make friends with stupid people, you will be ruined.” (Proverbs 13:20, Today’s English Version) Remember that in Biblical usage, the “stupid” one is somebody who does not know Jehovah or who chooses not to walk in his ways.

It may not be easy, however, to reject the viewpoints or practices of your classmates.  María José explains: “I wanted other youths to accept me. Since I didn’t want them to think that I was different, I copied them as closely as possible.” Without realizing it, you may be affected by your peers​—in your choice of music, in what you want to wear, or even in how you speak. Perhaps you feel comfortable with youths of your own age. That is natural, but it leaves you susceptible to their considerable influence, which may be destructive.​—Proverbs 1:10-16.

Caroline recalls the difficulty she faced a few years ago: “From the age of 13, most of the girls around me had boyfriends, and for several years I was under constant pressure to follow their example. My mother, however, steered me through this difficult time. She spent hours listening to me, reasoning with me, and helping me to see the need to postpone such relationships until I was more mature.”

Like Caroline’s mother, your parents may feel obligated to warn you about peer pressure or even to restrict certain activities or friendships. Nathan remembers several clashes with his parents on such issues. “My friends often invited me to go out with them,” he explains, “but my parents didn’t want me to hang around in large groups or go to large unsupervised parties. At the time, I couldn’t understand why other parents were more permissive than mine.”

Later, however, Nathan did understand. “I know that in my case ‘foolishness was tied up with the heart of a boy,’” he admits. “This foolishness seems to surface easily when boys hang around in groups. One starts something bad, another goes a step further, and a third takes it beyond that. Soon all the others are urged to join in. Even young ones who profess to serve Jehovah can fall into this trap.”​—Proverbs 22:15.

Nathan and María José both had a battle with their hearts when their parents did not allow them to do things their peers suggested. They listened, though, and afterward they were glad that they did. The proverb says: “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise ones, that you may apply your very heart to my knowledge.”​—Proverbs 22:17.

Worthy of Honor

A ship that lists is hard to maneuver, and if it lists too much, it can easily capsize. Because of our imperfect nature, all of us lean toward the selfish and the forbidden. Despite these tendencies, young ones can still reach port, as it were, if they carefully follow their parents’ guidance.

For example, your parents can help you reject the idea that there is a middle road  between the narrow one to life and the broad one to destruction. (Matthew 7:13, 14) It is unrealistic to think that you can enjoy a little of what is wrong but not go all the way, that you can “taste” without swallowing. Those who try to follow such a course are “limping upon two different opinions”​—serving Jehovah to a certain extent but also loving the world and the things in the world—​and can easily capsize spiritually. (1 Kings 18:21; 1 John 2:15) Why does that happen? Because of our sinful tendencies.

Our imperfect desires get stronger if we give in to them. Our ‘treacherous heart’ will not be satisfied with just a morsel. It will demand more. (Jeremiah 17:9) Once we start drifting spiritually, the world will exercise greater and greater influence on us. (Hebrews 2:1) You may not notice that you are listing spiritually, but likely your Christian parents will. True, they may not be as quick as you are at learning a computer program, but they know much more than you do about the wayward heart. And they want to help you to “lead your heart on in the way” that can result in life.​—Proverbs 23:19.

Of course, do not expect your parents to judge matters perfectly when they have to give you guidelines in difficult areas, such as music, entertainment, and grooming. Your parents may not have the wisdom of Solomon or the patience of Job. Like a ship’s pilot, they might sometimes err on the side of caution. Still, their guidance will prove invaluable if you pay attention to “the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.”​—Proverbs 1:8, 9.

Other youths may talk disparagingly of their parents. Yet, if your parents are striving to follow the Scriptures, they stand at your side, in all kinds of weather, at all times, in the face of all adversities. Like the ship’s captain who is advised by an experienced pilot, you need your parents to guide you, to lead you in the way of wisdom. The rewards can be incalculable.

“When wisdom enters into your heart and knowledge itself becomes pleasant to your very soul, thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, to deliver you from the bad way, from the man speaking perverse things, from those leaving the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness . . . For the upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it.”​—Proverbs 2:10-13, 21.

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The influence of other youths can push you off course spiritually

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Remember the experience of Dinah

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As a ship’s captain seeks the advice of an experienced pilot, young people should seek their parents’ guidance

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