Straight-Up: Things No One Else May Have Told You

Part One of a Straight-Up Conversation With Young People

By Jennifer Hartline Published on April 23, 2017

Young ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk. Let’s get a table in a virtual coffee shop (make mine a coconut milk mocha) and you can get comfortable. This is really important, so please give me a chance. Hear me out. It’s straight-up, truth-tellin’ time.

I confess I probably can’t relate to many (most?) of you. I grew up in an intact home with both my parents. They loved each other and they loved me and my siblings (all full-blood siblings). Ours was a healthy, happy and safe home. I know that makes me the most blessed person in the world. I’ve been thankful for that every day of my life.

I hope that’s your reality as well, and if so, thank God for it. But it’s pretty likely you come from a family that’s been fractured by divorce. Maybe you’ve got step-parents and step-siblings and half-siblings. Maybe you have to go back and forth between two homes. Maybe you hate it. I know I would. Maybe you think no one cares how you feel or what you need.

Maybe your parents were never married at all. Maybe you don’t even know your father. Or maybe he’s little more than a stranger, some guy you see once in a while but have no real bond with. Maybe you’ve never known your mother.

Nope, I can’t relate to any of that. I have not walked in those shoes. So what gives me the right to say anything to you? What do I know about anything?

Trouble Leads Only to Trouble

I don’t have to walk down every troubled road to know it only leads to trouble. What I want to do here is lend you a different pair of shoes. I’d like to point you down a different road; one that leads to life and wholeness.

It starts with the moral laws, and I have first-hand experience in what happens when you live by them. Just as there are laws of physics, there are moral laws, too. They’ve been established by God just like the laws of physics. What are these laws? Start with the Ten Commandments. (We’ll get into more specifics later on.)

I don’t want you to be the next round of carnage.

I know what it means to be blessed by the moral choices my parents made. I also see the many blessings and joys that have come into my life because of right choices I’ve made (by the grace of God). I know what a difference it makes to obey the commands of God, and I can see the endless varieties of misery that people suffer when they disobey God’s laws. I’ve suffered the consequences of some immoral choices I’ve made, too.

I’ve seen the devastating effects of divorce, adultery, alcoholism, drug use, pornography and promiscuous sex. I don’t have to personally engage in all those things to know how deadly they are. I have eyes to see the carnage all around me.

I don’t want you to be the next round of carnage. I want you to make choices that will let you live a life free of the misery around you; perhaps the misery you’ve grown up with.

But to do that, you have to understand that everything the culture is telling you is wrong. I’m sorry to say it, but there it is. It’s all a lie. “The truth is, freedom is not the right to do whatever we want, but the right to do what we ought.” (St. John Paul II)

People throughout history have tried a million times over to do it their way, and the result is always misery and pain.

Following the Moral Laws Leads to Life

Why do you tell a child not to touch the hot burner on the stove? Because you know, even if he doesn’t, that he’ll get burned and suffer great pain and bodily damage.

The moral laws are exactly the same, except that the consequences for ignoring them are far greater than a burned hand. Your whole life, and even your soul, is in serious danger if you disregard what is right. Yes, there is objective right and wrong. And God decides which is which — not you, not me.

The law of gravity doesn’t care if you don’t believe in it. It’ll work just the same. You’ll get hurt if you do something stupid because you think you can defy gravity. You’re not special that way. The natural laws won’t suspend their effects just to please you. It is true with the moral laws as well. You can deny them, pretend they don’t matter, and act as though you’re immune to the consequences, but you will still suffer.

Again, you’re not special. People before you have tried their best to violate the moral laws and evade the fallout and it never works. They suffered, and their children suffered, and their children’s children suffered. People throughout history have tried a million times over to do it their way, and the result is always misery and pain.

The moral laws are not about “Don’t do this!” or “You can’t do that!” Rather, it’s “Do this and LIVE!”

We will all suffer in our lives. We will all have crosses to carry. We cannot avoid it. That doesn’t mean we ought to add to our suffering, and to the suffering of others, through our stupidity and rebellion. This isn’t “in for a penny, in for a pound.” You can greatly minimize the pain and chaos in your life by choosing wisely. You can increase the joy and stability of your life by acting with prudence. You can maximize the blessing in your life by living with virtue.

That is what God wants for you. That’s what I want for you, too.

You Were Made for This Very Hour

You’re growing up in a corrupt culture, but generations before you have also lived in corrupt cultures. These are your times. You were born for this hour in history. No one has kicked God off His throne, and He hasn’t gone missing. He loves you and has plans for your future that are overflowing with hope.

Let me leave you with this thought: Those moral laws are doorways to happiness. It’s not about “Don’t do this!” or “You can’t do that!”

It’s, “Do this and LIVE!”

Stay with me. There’s a lot more we need to talk about.


This is part one of Jennifer’s Straight-Up series. Be sure to read part two as well.

Liked what you read? Share it on social media, along with the hashtag #StraightUpTalk.

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  • alive in the river

    Great article!

    The most important thing in a family is a strong unity within marriage. God is what holds mom and dad together through troubled times. His moral rules are what guides our marriage through the dark world to prevent a crash. Think of it as headlights on your car at night. God will show you what is dangerous to protect you. But if you want to drive off that cliff, know what is waiting for you at the bottom: a lot of broken bones, pain, and inevitable death.

    To be real, like the article suggests, media does a horrible job at depicting what real marriage is supposed to look like. It’s not a fairytale. It’s not some hot dude that is rustic and ripped with such a tender hearted side that your heart immediately turns to mush. And it definitely isn’t a project. Marriage is hard work, it is serventhood. It is a relationship where your deepest secrets and desires are revealed. It is a relationship that no matter how great your spouse is, they are still sinners. They still mess up. And instead of marriage being a scorecard at who messed up what, it’s supposed to be a place of peace, forgiveness, and healing.

    Please everyone, don’t go into a marriage wanting to change your spouse. Only God’s love, grace, and mercy can do that.

    Praise God that He has given us His word. Only in His book can we really see how in a marriage you should serve each other wholeheartedly and without keeping records of wrong… look at Jesus and us! Amen!

    • Paul

      “The most important thing in a family is a strong unity within marriage”

      I guess that means widowed single parent families are doomed.

      • alive in the river

        I wouldn’t say that a marriage where there is only one parent remaining is doomed, just not ideal. As a church, we are called to serve the orphaned and widowed. But there are aspects of family life and spiritual growth that will be lacking because the mother/father figure is missing.

        It’s not good for man to be alone. God has created marriage for a purpose. Sure, a single parent can raise good children, but think of how much harder it will be to show his/her children what a good marriage looks like if his/her children can’t experience what a good marriage is every day. That is what I am speaking of.

        • Paul

          Stop and think for a moment about that first sentence you wrote… “The most important thing in a family is a strong unity within marriage”, It says that a single parent lacks the most important thing in a family. No, the most important thing in a family is the same thing that is most important in anyones life, that is God, faith in Him, seeking His will and ways, most especially His love.

          I’m not advocating being a single parent, I’m pointing out that when we make anything other than God most important then we’ve got a problem. A mother and father together as husband and wife is clearly Gods desire, but even the Bible allows for divorce for a Christian if the unbelieving spouse seeks it. When forced to choose between God and marriage, God is most important. God is most important for me, my wife, our family. If I were to die today my greatest hope for my wife isn’t for her to remarry, it is for her to always keep God first, and in seeking Him first and His righteousness all the rest in life will be added to her.

          • alive in the river

            I agree with what you say. Sorry I didn’t make that point clear originally. God must be first priority in everything. I wasn’t trying to imply that God shouldn’t be most important. Sorry for not making that clear originally.

          • Paul

            I understand, been there, done that.

          • alive in the river

            I agree with what you say. Sorry I didn’t make that point clear originally. God must be first priority in everything. I wasn’t trying to imply that God shouldn’t be most important. Sorry for not making that clear originally.

      • Jennifer Hartline

        No, not doomed. But we can acknowledge that the loss in that situation was not wished or done by design, and that it’s a terrible loss. We need to get our culture to see that creating single parent homes by design is a very, very bad idea. The child still suffers the loss, except no one will acknowledge it. We have to defend the necessity of marriage.
        Peace be with you, and God bless you and your family.

  • #EpluribusAwesome

    I also think this is a great article and a great idea for a series of articles. Anybody can weigh in on the important issues of our times, and for some reason I think the voices most underrepresented on the family issues are those like the author’s, who benefited from an intact healthy family. We need to hear more from these folks as their perspective is at least as helpful as anyone else’s. If I want to succeed at something, I don’t consult those who have failed even if it was through no fault of their own. Thank you for writing this and may it help young people avoid the errors many of us older folks have seen play out over the years in our own families. Keeping God’s laws may be difficult and require work and it may take time to learn how to do this well, but the commandments are time-tested and logical and the best blueprint for success.

    • Jennifer Hartline

      Thank you. That’s exactly what I had in mind. Sharing the perspective of what works, so perhaps young people will choose to imitate THAT instead of what doesn’t work. We can’t assume they know. We have to start at square one and tell them what other generations considered obvious. Not because they’re stupid but because the culture has so degraded that none of these things can be taken for granted anymore.

  • Preach it, Jenn! Amen and Amen!

  • Paul

    Jennifer, I pray your message here reaches some folks and helps them avoid disaster.

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