Boys, you are currently 12 and almost 10 years of age. This world in which you find yourselves growing up is much different than the one I maneuvered years ago. There are many things I want you to know. These are just a few . . .
Always be kind.
To each other, to yourselves, to your family and friends, even to your enemies. Do not let others abuse and disrespect you. But always start with kindness and hopefully there will be no reason to migrate toward another action. Kindness breeds kindness. Always be kind.
Life is full of victory . . . and defeat.
There are often more valuable lessons to be learned from bitter defeat than glorious victory. Hold tight to the lessons learned in a losing season. Be gracious and know you are being prepared for something more. Be a humble victor. Know that someone else is facing defeat while you are celebrating a win. Be kind. Be understanding. Be encouraging. Remember where you came from and always help others up when they have fallen.
Be kind to your brother.
Love him. Protect him. Look out for him. You will need him someday. Whether it be for a job connection, help with college homework that far surpasses the intellect of your parents, or to bail you out of jail. Your brother is a built-in best friend for life. Treasure him.
Never lose your sense of humor.
There are many things in life that will break you—for a season. Always find the humor in a situation. If you start when you are young, it becomes second nature when you are old. There is very little in this life that cannot be found somewhat humorous. Laughter is, indeed, the best medicine.
Take care of yourself.
Get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and eat as healthy as you can stand. If you do not love yourself, you cannot love others. If you cannot love others, you will live a miserable existence. So, take care of yourself so you can, in turn, care for others.
Know your boundaries.
People will test these boundaries every single day. Know your beliefs, opinions, and your own personal moral compass. Know that you may not be right about everything but don’t let others mock your deeply ingrained passionate beliefs. You can be kind and encouraging toward others and still disagree. That is OK. Your deeply held beliefs are the anchor that keeps you rooted in reality. Do not let others dictate your reality.
Listen to all kinds of music.
You don’t truly know what moves your soul until you can compare several genres. You will likely know when you have found your lyrical soul music. Then, stick with that. In happy times, in sad times, in good times and bad. Play the music that most genuinely speaks to your soul. Humor and music will often be comforting friends when you feel alone, angry, confused, happy, intense, or simply bored.
Don’t just go to church, be the church.
Practice what you preach. Live by example, not meaningless words. Show others what you believe by the way you live your life. These are the folks who leave lasting legacies. Your Grandpa is one. Be the kind of man others aspire to be.
Always speak your truth.
It may not be accepted by all. It likely will be rejected by many. But do not let the desire for empty popularity impede the deep compass of your soul. Be who you are, and the right friends will flock to you. Those that try to change you or transition your way of thinking are not your true soulmates. Respect them but walk away.
Find a mate who has more than looks.
Sure, physical attraction is important. But looks fade. It is what you find inside a person, deep down in the base of their soul, that tells you all you need to know. Find someone with a beautiful soul and you have found a treasure for life. And remember, a woman is most beautiful when she is loved well by a man. Be that man.
Know you are never alone.
You may feel like it at times. But even if all of your earthly family and friends disappear, your faith will sustain you. Your relationship with Jesus will never falter. He will always love you and offer His hand of protection, grace, and friendship. Do not wait until He is your last resort. But, if you do, He will understand and be grateful you finally turned toward Him.
Respect your parents.
I know we are flawed. Your dad and I have both made our share of mistakes, before and after you were born. But we tried our best to do right by you and your brother. We love you more than you will ever know, and we would give anything just to ensure your safety, happiness, and realized dreams in this world. We will always worry about you. We will always believe in you. We will always back you up and try to rescue you. Know that despite our many shortcomings, it was never a lack of love that led to our failures as parents. It was simply being human.
When you know better, do better.
There are so many lessons you will learn in this life. When you learn those valuable lessons, do not repeat the same mistakes. It is OK to fall. It is not OK to stay on the ground. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and do better next time.
The world will try to bring you down. Don’t let it.
Know who you are. Know what you believe. Hold tight to your passions and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something. Have patience and never give up.
Don’t get so caught up in success, money, promotions, and winning by worldly standards that you lose sight of what is really important in this world.
Value your spouse. Walk daily with your Lord. Enjoy every single moment of fatherhood. Work to live, don’t live to work. Live such a life that at the end of it, you can honestly feel it was a life well lived. Love, above all, will carry you through the hard times. Faith will give you the strength to face your fears. And hope will sustain you through the depths of difficulty.
I love you both with everything I am. You are the two best parts of me. Whether I am physically in this world or have passed on to the next, I hope you always know my love for you both is unrivaled and will live on infinitely. I am proud of the young men you are and excited to see what you choose to do with your lives. Use your unique talents and abilities, your special personalities, and your loving hearts to change this world. If anyone can, it is my two sons.