During this vacation, I am spending a good amount of time relaxing, getting refreshed for the challenges ahead, and reflecting on many things. One of those things I’m reflecting is what I’ve learned in my 20s. The State Adolescent Health Resource Center describes the 20s as the last part of adolescence into young adulthood that includes but is not limited to discovering personal identity, getting a handle on adult responsibilities, and figuring out one’s personal value system. In this period, I have learned many lessons that I would like to share. Most of the lessons I’m sharing are typical and not out of the ordinary.
- Growing up is mandatory. As I’ve said constantly over the years, I believe that college is the final opportunity for “acceptable” mischievous behavior. Once someone has graduated from college, or decided to go straight to work from high school, the expectations of what it means to be a productive citizen in this country increases. The higher expectations call for us to mature. This is especially true if we decide to date or marry. Speaking of marriage, I believe that while it is not for everyone, marriage can be one of the fastest doors to maturity. In marriage, we learn that we cannot live life just thinking about ourselves. We will not make it in life looking at things only from our point of view. This stage of life has taught me that if I do not grow up, there will be consequences that not only affect me, but can affect those around me.
- Asking for help is a sign of strength NOT weakness. For those who do not know me, I struggle with pride. I do not like asking for help. I like to figure things out on my own. I like to be able to give people answers instead of saying “I don’t know.” However, I’ve also learned that one of the ways we can demonstrate confidence is by asking for help. By asking for help, we acknowledge the reality that no one is perfect. I look back at some of the dumb decisions I’ve made and realize that I could have avoided some of those mistakes had I asked for help at the right time. Too many of us (myself included) like to put on the persona that we have it all together when that is far away from the truth. It is still a challenge, but I’ve reached a point where I am more comfortable asking for help and admitting at times that I do not know and need help to get the answer.
- Honesty is the best policy no matter what happens. As a leader, I have learned that people value honesty. For example, after working in music ministry for 12 years, I’ve discovered that people (at least most of them) would rather me be honest and tell them when their voice is off than to let them sound terrible. As someone who cares about people’s feelings, I’ve learned that a lack of honesty creates a lack of trust. The truth may sting temporarily, but eventually, it is better to receive the truth than to lie and the person we lied to finds out later. Speaking of feelings…..
- We must balance the need of caring for feelings while still doing what is right. Again, people like me give a lot of attention to feelings. We must allow people to express whatever feelings they have, but if the feelings of others dictate us, or even ourselves, we will not accomplish everything we need to. In leadership, you must, at times, make decisions that will hurt people’s feelings. At the same time, it is good to explain the reasoning to inform them that the decision wasn’t a personal one, but for the best of the organization. This is a principle that I continue to struggle with, but as I understand more the next point I will share, I am more balanced in making the best decisions while still caring about feelings.
- Do not let ANYONE intimidate you. I am a firm believer that we should respect everyone, especially those who are in positions of authority and leadership. However, I do not believe we should fear anyone. As it has been said over the years, most people act out of their own reality. So many of us walk around fearing certain people because of their status or position. However, if we believe we are children of the most high God, we have no business allowing anyone to intimidate us. There are people who are tough to work with, and thus, we may feel a little trepidation around them. However, every single person was born, must survive, and will one day breathe their final breath. God did not create any of us to feel less than who we are. While we should respect all, God is the only one we should fear in some way, shape or form. Allowing people to intimidate you can rob you of the blessings that are out there for you. Speaking of this…..
- Confidence is the difference between success and failure for many. Contrary to popular belief, I do not believe our credentials are the absolute key to our success. I believe walking in confidence gives us a boost that credentials only give in the short-term. There are many people who are qualified for a promotion and bigger responsibilities, but they lose out because they do not have confidence. Confidence is not saying that I am better than you. Confidence affirms itself in the person God has created us to be. Confidence also says that I will do the best I can even if I fail. Too many of us have allowed too many things to steal our confidence. Whether it was someone telling us what we couldn’t do it or just not receiving enough positive comments, far too many of us allow those memories to stay in our psyche. It does not matter what job you have, the biggest thing standing in the way of your next position is confidence. You’re not perfect, but you’re doing the best you can. Stay focused and as we said earlier, do not allow anyone to belittle you or make you feel less important. Walk in confidence!
- Both reputation and character matter. I know that there are people, even the ones that I tremendously respect, who argue that character is more important than reputation. However, I believe your reputation is a manifestation of your character. Character is who you are. Most of time, who we are will manifest in our actions. For better or worse, my 20’s have convinced me that while my first goal should be caring about my character, I must consider the importance of reputation. There is no better place that I see this than in ministry. To be a preacher or servant of the Lord in any way, our reputation must be to where we are not bringing shame to the name of the Lord. We can say that it doesn’t matter what people say all day, but the reality is that in a culture that takes less and less serious the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ, the reputation of those who are supposed to be representatives of Christ is critically important. And yes, no one is perfect, and maybe our expectations of Christians are too high, but for many, all it takes is one story or one event to turn them away not just from the church but from God altogether. Credibility is huge in this culture. All it takes is one bad Facebook, Twitter, or internet post to ruin your reputation and your ability to be effective in this society. Character is of the utmost importance, but reputation matters as well.
- Life is but a vapor. There are many more lessons that I want to share, but I cannot leave this post without sharing this one. In my 20’s, I have witnessed the passing of many people I know with the hardest two being my mother in 2012 and one of my best friends in 2016. It has reached a point where, unless it’s somebody young or something shocking, hearing that someone has passed away is not a huge shock anyone. Seeing so many people that I’ve had personal encounters with be stretched out is a reminder that life is short. As my best friend who passed away in 2016 said all the time, “I don’t have time for foolishness.” Maybe my friend lived with an awareness that he would not be on this earth long. I am not sure, but his quote will continue to stick with me forever. Losing my mother in 2012 was a painful experience and one of the first reminders to me that life is short and nothing lasts forever. However, losing my friend in 2016 really blew me away. Please understand that my friend died at the same age that I am right now, 29 years old. The image of seeing him lay across the church along with being one of the pallbearers will never leave my memory. As I think back to middle and high school, my thought was that we would get old and meet up every now and then to reflect. However, it will not happen. We have lost many people in our community these past 10 years. Life is short and we might as well live it to the fullest while we are here.
There are many more lessons I could share, but I believe these eight are the most important ones. The 20’s are challenging, but with the help of the Lord and other adults (my father included), I’ve made it through and stand just a few days from entering my 30’s. I encourage all of us to do what we can to reassure our young adults in their 20’s that they can make it. All of us struggle with major decisions and making foolish mistakes. However, having people who care enough to be honest and still support us is a major blessing. Goodbye 20’s and hello 30’s!
 State Adolescent Health Resource Center, “Developmental Tasks and Attributes of Late Adolescence/Young Adulthood (Ages 18-24 years),” http://www.amchp.org/programsandtopics/AdolescentHealth/projects/Documents/SAHRC%20AYADevelopment%20LateAdolescentYoungAdulthood.pdf
 Please do not get me wrong. Credentials are important and can help increase the amount of opportunities possible. However, the last thing we want to be is someone with a bunch of credentials yet our confidence is low to the point where we cannot be trusted with more responsibility.