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Live like you want others to live

When I was a teenager, my mother told me to choose my friends wisely. She gave me bits of advice that I didn’t realize how wise they were until I was much older.

Like don’t hang out regularly with people who are a bad influence. You might think you can pull them up to a better standard of behavior, but that rarely works. It’s like standing on a ladder trying to pull someone up to the step you’re on. Gravity is usually stronger than your ability to lift them, especially if they don’t want to be lifted. You’ll just wind up being pulled down to their level.

Take, for instance, these two guys I used to hang out with back then. I still keep in touch with them. One in particular is still like a brother to me.

I’ll call them Tony and Bo, because those are their names, and it’s easier that way.

Tony and I got into trouble a lot when we were together. I’m pretty sure we both have scars from the times we played with dangerous weapons and the several fist fights we got into with each other.

What were we thinking playing with weapons? We weren’t thinking. We could have been seriously injured — instead of minorly (is that a word?) — or worse. I’m surprised we survived, honestly. But grateful.

We punched each other more in the church building and gym than we did anywhere else. We had busted lips and black eyes but we never stayed mad at each other more than a couple of days. We considered our friendship more important than whatever stupid thing we were fighting about.

Bo and I never punched each other more than just messing around, but we sure got in a lot of trouble together. The difference here was that I was usually culpable with Tony, but not usually with Bo. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time often when he decided to do something stupid.

Several times as we stood being reprimanded for something he had done and I was somehow tied to (by physical presence or he put the “evidence” in our shared school locker) I looked over at him with a look of “Really? You seriously did that? And involved me?” He’d just smile and shrug.

After high school I went on to college and they each joined different branches of the military. Tony and I still check in with each other a few times a year. Bo and I remain close.

We’ve grown up a bit. God got a hold of all of us. But we didn’t help each other much.

Mom also gave the advice to not “missionary date.” Don’t ever think that by dating someone you can change who they are. People make this mistake all the time. “I’ll make him/her into a better person.” “They’ll become a Christian if I date them. Didn’t Jesus say to love everyone?” Yes, but not that kind of love.

Mom said be a good example, even if you think nobody is watching. Someone always is.

When an older friend of mine graduated high school, she thanked me for always encouraging her. I couldn’t remember a single time I had done that. She said it was because I was always smiling and seemed to have a good outlook on life, even when she knew things weren’t going well for me. My smile encouraged her to look for the positive every day. Wow.

A little boy came up to me at church when I was in my early 20s and told me he wanted to be just like me because of something he had seen me do. I don’t even remember what it was. But I remember how shaken I felt, because I was sure no one was paying any attention to anything I did. It was humbling, and also made me pay more attention to try to do the right thing always.

Bo introduced me to his wife years ago with the comment to her, “This is the guy I told you about who would never drink no matter how hard I tried to get him to.” He turned to me and said, “I always respected you for that.”

Man. I didn’t tell him the reason I didn’t drink was more fear of my parents finding out than a desire to avoid underage drinking. But it goes back to that admonition from my mom — someone is always watching. Fear of my parents kept me out of a lot more trouble than I got into. Fear of the Lord is a strong motivator now.

Try to be a good example. Live like you want others to live. Treat others like you want to be treated. It’s good advice, grounded in the Bible.