If you could tell your twenty-year-old self anything, what would you say? Life has different seasons, and in each one, you have a perspective about yourself and the world around you.
When I was twenty, I was confident in my perspective on life. But there is a saying that goes like this: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I am now in my mid-forties and have learned so much more about being a man. The following are my thoughts to my twenty-year-old self with the hopes it will help any man in his twenties.
Your Past Has Shaped You More Than You Realize
By the time we are twenty, every one of us has had some life experiences shape who we are. Some of these experiences have been amazing. In my case, I had so many opportunities to develop my leadership, teaching, and other skills in my teen years. Those skills have led me to the career path I have been on for most of my life.
There were also some very painful experiences. Sometimes it is a sin that has been committed against you, and sometimes it is a sin you have committed yourself. But either way, those things have shaped who you are right now.
I remember my first introduction to pornography and the view of sexual intimacy it created in my mind. The way I viewed women, and eventually my own wife, would be shaped by what I saw in pornography. I wish I would have known this.
If you want to be a godly man who wants to walk in the fullness of life Jesus has for you, then I strongly encourage you to find a pastor or Christian counselor who can help you process how your past has shaped who you are today. This will help you move to freedom for the man God wants you to be tomorrow.
The Weight Of Pretending Isn’t Worth It
One trait for every generation is the weight of putting on an image we want others to experience in us, when we know we are a very different person on the inside. Guys do this all the time. Whether you’re addicted to your social media profile or the career path you are on or the type of car you are driving – we all are guilty of creating some type of image.
Here’s the problem. When you create an image that is different than who you are on the inside, it becomes an incredible weight in your life. It is impossible to sustain this type of life and you will face greater levels of stress. Eventually, the image will come crashing down because the real you will come out.
For me, it came out one day with my oldest son when he was a young child. Due to a variety of personal and career realities in my life, I had to create an image of being the Christian guy who had everything all together. I had to make sure everything around me was in order and under control to help perpetuate that image.
The weight of needing to control the public narrative got to me one day. My son did something that got under my skin (I don’t remember what it was, other than it was pretty minor). I became very angry and yelled at him in an uncontrollable way. That day, he saw what was really inside me – an insecure, fearful person who had created a public image that he had everything under control.
Jesus doesn’t expect you to be God – he expects you to be real about being human and trust in Him to be God in your life
The beauty of the Christian message is that it calls us to be honest about our shame and our guilt. Jesus doesn’t expect you to be God – he expects you to be real about being human and trust in Him to be God in your life. In this space, we are set free to deal with what is in the inside, and our public self can match up with our inner self.
Success Is Not What You Think It Is
I always had a dream of what my life would be like. In many ways, that dream has come true many times over. But here’s the thing – what you think success is today is rarely what a successful life actually is.
I had dreams for my career, my family, and everything I would own. I still have dreams for each of these, but they have changed since then.
The problem with defining success based on your career and what you own is that it is never enough. When you reach your view of success, there is always someone else who has more. This view of success is elusive – you never truly achieve it.
In Jesus’ worldview, success quite often looks like failure. Let’s be honest, if you saw Jesus hanging on a cross the day he died, would you walk by and think to yourself, “now there’s a successful guy”? For Jesus, success was always about being faithful to what he knew God wanted for him.
The same is true for you and me. There is a difference between success that lasts for a couple of years and success that matters for all of eternity.
Today, I would give anything to go back and change some of my views of success. Maybe I would not have some of the debts I’ve had to pay back – debts that got in the way of other things I would enjoy now. Maybe I would have spent more time enjoying my family or hanging out with friends. Maybe I would have invested more time with non-Christians to point them to the amazing person I know can change every life – Jesus Christ.
Ask yourself what your view of success is and what the end of it all looks like twenty, forty years down the road. Are you on the path for eternal success or something that will never satisfy?
I wish I could give my twenty-year-old self some advice. The weird thing is, I am not sure I would have listened to what I had to say. If you are in your twenties and reading this, then I want to encourage you to be humble enough to find some men who are older than you – maybe it’s your own dad or other men who you respect. Ask them this same question: “What advice would you give to your twenty-year-old self?” Listen to them, learn from them, and make wiser decisions than we did.
What you do with your life will determine the kind of impact you will have.
Your life as a man is a gift to the world and everyone who will meet you. But what you do with your life will determine the kind of impact you will have. Be a man who has a godly impact because that’s the only kind of impact that lasts forever.