Too Young. Not Ready. Foolish.

“You’re too young.” “You’re not ready.” “Don’t be foolish.” These are statements we overuse. We, the grownups of the world, have a bad habit of telling the kids of the world that they’re too young. Not ready. Foolish. Too young to fall in love. Too young to have their hearts broken. Too young to feel. Too young to form opinions or make a difference. Too young to be human. Who are we to tell anyone they’re too young, not ready, or foolish? Don’t we remember being young and “foolish?”

I was 5 when I experienced my first love triangle. His name was Jonathan. Her name was Rachel and we were best friends. My vague memory says we agreed to share him until I moved away. For all I know, they’re happily married now and taking care of Jonathan Jr.

I was 8 when I fell in puppy love with Austin Phillips. He liked Yu Gi Oh. I did not. But I knew if I asked him to teach me to play, then he would, and I’d be able to spend time with him. Of course, I asked him to teach me.

A few months later, it was Valentine’s Day and I was 9. Our class was creating “mailboxes” for others to leave Valentines in. My best friend convinced me to write a “Check yes or no” card and put it in Austin’s box as anonymous. (We were 3rd graders. It didn’t occur to us anonymity defeated the purpose of asking, “Do you like me?”)

My puppy love burned strong until 7th grade when both of our families left the school. His to go to public school; mine to homeschool.

I was 12 when I got my first love letter. It didn’t go anywhere, because he was only visiting for a few weeks before going home, but I still remember some of what it said! Something along the lines of, “I really like you. So I asked my cousin to give this to you…” and more I really like you’s. Maybe a, “Do you like me too?”

In high school, I and nearly every other girl, fell for the star athlete. My best friend also liked him. It was weird at first, but we made the genuine promise that whoever he chose—we had a feeling one or both of us were options—we would be happy for the other without any hard feelings. When he did eventually choose her, I was mostly over him already, but it still kind of sucked, especially because their relationship kind of caused some drama in our friendship. All is well now though, so that’s all that matters!

When I was 17, I was depressed, anxious, and full of self-hatred and insecurities. I was angry, hurting, and self-harming.

As a senior in high school, I experienced my first (and so far only) infatuation. At the time, I really thought he could be the one. In the back of my mind, there was always something holding me back though. This something had been there since I met him at 13 or 14 and developed a small crush on him. After 4 to 6 years of him being one of my best friends, this small crush turned into a full fledged infatuation! I was falling and falling hard! As every month passed, one thing lead to another until I fell so hard there were only two options. I’d either fall in love or fall to pieces. Due to circumstances out of my control & that I don’t blame him for, I fell to pieces. I was 19 and felt my break for a boy for the first, and so far only time.

When I was graduating high school, I decided not to go to college. When I was 23, I quit a high paying job and went to work at a fast food restaurant. Then, I quit that and was unemployed for four months before starting to work full time for Uber Eats.

I share all this to say, “you’re too young,” “you’re not ready,” and “don’t be foolish” are misguided statements most often used by those too opinionated to mind their own business. Yes, most people use the term with the best of intentions. We most often say these things because we care, but even the best intentions can be misguided. I’m learning and trying to remember this as I navigate life as the oldest sister to teenage and adult siblings and as the youth leader to middle school & high school students. At this time in their lives, they’re feeling all they know to feel and trying to make the best decisions they can with the knowledge and wisdom they have—just like the rest of us are.

At 24, I know now that I was too young for “check yes or no,” too young for a relationship, and too young for the kind of heartbreak to write two of the most heartbreaking songs I’ve ever written. Of course, I didn’t know then that I was too young, because these are the things I was feeling at the time and it was all I knew to feel at the time. I only know now that I was too young, because I’m old enough to look back with 20/20 hindsight and see, “Yeah, I was way too young for those feelings!” And I can see the things I let break me were insignificant, out of my control, and or grossly out of focus. But I also see that skipping college, quitting my high paying job, not working for four months, and now working for Uber Eats have been the best things I could have done for my own mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed I have really bad social anxiety. In the past few months, I’ve realized that has a lot to do with listening to and caring way too much about others’ unsolicited and uninformed opinions.

I’m an over thinker. One thing I normally do well is plan and pray before making a decision. Most of the time, this means I make fairly wise decisions. Perhaps not wise in the eyes of others, but wise based on God’s plan or allowance for my life. Obviously, I’m not perfect, so I do make foolish decisions—like building up credit card debt. Most people don’t know if my decisions are wise or not though. Most people seem to think I’m crazy or foolish. What they don’t see is that I pray about and plan for (most of) these decisions. What they don’t see is that these decisions are based on and are producing spiritual, emotional, and physical health.

When I was 17, I was too broken and unstable to handle being in a romantic relationship. I have a 17 year old brother who, from the outside looking in, seems like he could thrive in a romantic relationship. Even at 24, I should probably hold off on finding a boyfriend. My 22 year old brother is currently happily married with the most adorable son I’ve ever seen! There are several other kids and adults alike who could be ready and others who should maybe wait too. Not going to college and now working a nontraditional job have been the best decisions for my life. Others need/do best with structured jobs that require college. Some people just want to learn and go to college. That’s what is best for them.

College, high paying jobs, and waiting until a certain age to fall in love, get married, and have kids aren’t requirements in life. The only thing that should be a requirement in life is that we follow God’s will for our lives. But even that isn’t a requirement. God gives us a choice. It’s the wisest thing to do in life, and common sense requires it, but God doesn’t.

“Age” is just a number. “Ready” is a made up time frame. “Foolish” can only truly be determined by God. “Too young,” “not ready,” and “foolish,” are not decisions we get to make for others. It’s not our place to tell others if they’re ready or not. When asked, instead of giving opinionated advice we should try giving advice through questions. “Do you think you’re ready? What if this happens, do you think you can handle it? What does the Bible say?” If we’re not asked, then we need to bite our tongue and pray, or ask, “Can I give you some advice,” and only give it with permission. Emotions are confusing enough for adults; they’re even more confusing for teenagers whose hormones working overtime.

So, let’s stop giving unsolicited advice. Let’s get rid of the terms “too young,” “not ready,” and “foolish,” when used to describe others. Let’s love and encourage those struggling with emotions and tough decisions in life. Whether they are kids, teenagers, or adults, love, encourage, and pray for them. If you don’t agree with their decision or feelings, then love them harder and pray for them in overtime. Pray that the Lord will guide them in the way that they ought to go. Pray that God will help us to accept His and their choices for their lives.

Proverbs 22:6 is a verse to parents for children, but I think it applies to any relationship where one person is guiding another. When advising or teaching someone else, we ought to guide them in the way they should go according to God’s plan for their lives. We ought to remember that God’s plan for their lives may be different than our vision for their lives or His plan for our lives. I don’t believe this means telling them they’re too young, even if they are. I don’t think it means telling them they’re not ready, even if they aren’t. I don’t think it even means telling them they are foolish, even if their decisions are black and white foolish in relation to Biblical teaching. I believe it means praying for and with them. I believe it means encouraging them to pray through their feelings and decisions. The heart is deceptive, but that doesn’t mean feelings are always wrong. God gave us feelings for a reason. It’s our job to learn how to use and respond to them. I can’t teach someone else what feelings are right or wrong, but I can teach them how to know which feelings are right and wrong. I can point them to scripture related to their feelings and decisions. And, when I know that their choices are unbiblical, depending on our relationship and the Spirit’s leading, I can, in love, show them the wrongness of their choices. These aren’t the types of decisions and feelings I’m talking about in this post though.

What I’m talking about are the grey areas. “Should I or shouldn’t I take this job? Should I or shouldn’t I go to college? Are these feelings for this person real or not? Is my heart really broken?” What this post is about is the types of feelings and decisions I give examples for. The Bible (2 Corinthians 6:14) says to be equally yoked in relationships; it does not say what age is old enough to be in a relationship. The Bible (Colossians 3:23; Proverbs 6:6 respectively) says to do all work as unto the Lord and not unto men and to work with the determination of the ant. It also says not to love money (Hebrews 13:5) or live in debt (Romans 13:8). It does not say whether I should work a corporate job or be self-employed as a delivery driver.

My challenge to myself and others is three-fold. First, if it’s not a matter of Biblical correctness, then keep your opinions to yourself unless asked. Love and pray. Ask and suggest. Don’t tell and challenge. Don’t question and change course. Second, if it is a matter of Biblical correctness, then follow similar steps. Ask about their story and make suggestions based on scriptural guidance. In kindness, tell them the right steps to take to correct their mistakes and gently challenge them to repent—confess and turn away from their sin(s). Most importantly, love them through their struggles and pray for them to overcome their sins. Third, if, like me, you find yourself listening too much to what people think even when you know what God has called you to, then challenge yourself to care less. In love, let them know why you’ve decided what you’ve decided and ask them to pray for you and accept your and God’s decision(s) for your life.

Ultimately, whether you give the advice or take it, remember that wise counsel is important. Wise counsel can and sometimes should be what makes or breaks a decision. That said, there are a wise and foolish ways to give and take advice. Wise counsel should tell others, “God says,” not “I think.”

*Bonus Challenge* I wrote this post for a very specific reason. I am my own worst critic. More than anyone else who questions whether I am “too young,” “not ready,” or acting “foolishly” in making my decisions, I question and judge myself in the harshest manner.

The five year anniversary of my romantic heartbreak mentioned above is quickly approaching. It will be five years in August since I fell to pieces instead of falling in love and I still shake my head and call myself foolish for breaking my own heart when I knew where my infatuation would lead. What I should do, and what I should have done a long time ago, is move on and accept that I wasn’t ready for a relationship and was too foolish to see that. I moved on from him a long time ago, but I still get stuck on the foolishness of my infatuation and heartbreak.

My challenge to me is to let go and move on from the overthinking of past decisions. Big or small, I let my social anxiety keep my past decisions around way to long.

My bonus challenge to me and anyone else who overthinks is to let go and move on. Once we’ve made a decision, done a thing, or said the words, we can’t change it. All we can do is let go, move on, and choose to do better next time.

Today, at this very moment, I choose not to listen to the critics when I know God has lead me to or allowed me to choose a position or direction. I choose not to critique those who make decisions I don’t agree with if they aren’t biblically unsound. I choose to let go of and move on from decisions, actions, and words I can’t change.

If you’d like to take one or all of these challenges with me, then let me know and we can pray with and for each other.