Authored by Tina Kapp
In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the first two habits commonly shared by “effective teens.”
1. Be proactive.
2. Begin with the end in mind.
The next habit is something that good old Samson had a hard time doing, and his lack of it caused him a lot of problems:
3. Put first things first.
Although the Lord called Samson to be a judge of Israel, he spent much of his time chasing Philistine girls, partying, and making bets with the enemy (and then having to deal with the resultant problems). It got so bad that at one point 3,000 men of Judah wanted to hand him over to the enemy. The Lord still helped him out and he won a lot of fights, but I always wondered how much more productive a life he might have led and whether he might have avoided his untimely end if he had focused on the job he was called to do.1
Putting first things first is living life according to what matters most. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way, but you don’t let those other things outweigh what’s truly important. You set goals and you make sure to give your priorities the time and energy they require, while keeping distractions and other things in their proper place.
That might be easier said than done, but there are tried-and-proven ways to help you have a check and balance in place to make sure you’ve got things in the right order.
If you want to reach a certain goal or accomplish something specific, what is it that you need to do every day or week to get there? Have you set aside a specific time to do those things? Do you have both short-term and long-term goals to show you’re making progress? Those things can definitely help.
You could make decisions such as not watching TV until you’ve finished your homework, or reading a chapter a day of a book you’re working through, or following an exercise program and keeping track of your progress.
4. Think win-win.
To me that sounds a bit “cheerleader-ish,” but thankfully it’s not about hype and a lot of yelling. “Win-win” simply means that it is possible to have a mutually beneficial solution in any discussion or situation. Looking for ways to benefit both parties in a conflict is a more successful way to solve problems than if you were only trying to benefit yourself. When you can approach situations with that frame of mind, things become much more pleasant.
Another important aspect of this is that we can and should celebrate other people’s successes rather than feel threatened by them. George Elliot said in her book Middlemarch, “What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?” Jesus basically said the same thing when He said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”2 It can sometimes go against our human nature to put others first when we naturally want to put ourselves and our wants and needs first.
The disciples James and John wanted to be a step above the others, so they asked Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” I feel this is a bit of a sneaky way to start a conversation. Perhaps they had a nagging feeling that He might not like what they were going to ask. But Jesus, being Jesus, kindly replied, “What do you want me to do for you?”
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” Jesus told them they didn’t know what they were asking, and asked if they were ready to do the same things that He did. He then told them that it wasn’t His place to grant who sat at His right and left hand. When the other ten disciples heard about this, they became indignant with James and John (probably because some of them had wanted to ask Jesus the same thing first).
So Jesus called all of them together for a little chat. He said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”3
In a world where people fight and struggle and there is backstabbing, gossip, and cheating to get ahead, it can be really tough to stay kind, generous, and fair. It can seem almost impossible to take a step back and let others go first. But as Saint Francis’ prayer so beautifully reflects, when you’re surrounded by the negative, the positive is that much more needed and shines that much brighter:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
So now we’ve covered the first four habits of the highly effective teen. The last three habits will be covered in the third and final podcast in this series.
1 Read Samson’s full story in Judges 13–16.
2 John 15:12 NIV
3 Mark 10:35-45 (quoted excerpts are taken from NIV)
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International