If you could write a letter to a younger version of yourself,
What would you say?
Would you give yourself sage advice? Or maybe a warning?
Would you encourage yourself to make changes that you wish you had made earlier?
I was pondering this the other day. I was thinking about what my life would be like if I would have made the changes I made to transform my life in my early 20s instead of my early 30s.
I posted these thoughts on twitter and a lot of people connected with it.
It turns out many people felt the same way. If they’d have known then what they know now, how different would life be?
Other people were more cynical and thought my twenties sounded awesome and like a lot of fun.
Sure, they might have been fun in the moment, but I paid dearly for that short-term fun.
I wasted so many years, most of my 20s, on seeking instant gratification and searching for meaning and fulfillment in the physical pleasures of this world.
My sex addiction spiraled out of control as I tried to fill a void in my heart with porn and hookups. I drank my problems away with copious amount of alcohol. I tried to find happiness in buying all kinds of expensive stuff and having nice things.
It breaks my heart to think of all the time I should have spent with my children when they were little, or with my wife, time that I’ll never get back, that I instead spent on sex and chasing the next big thing I “needed”.
“Enough” was always one more girl away, or one more drink away, or one more expensive toy.
None of it gave me the joy and fulfillment I was looking for.
It took hitting rock bottom in my addiction, my marriage, and my spiritual life to finally look myself in the mirror, confess who I truly was, and make the changes I needed to make.
If that moment had come years earlier, I could have avoided a lot of heartache, stress, and pain.
What I would write to my younger self would be this:
“Deal with your porn and sex problem now. It won’t go away on its own and will only make your life miserable if you continue on this path.
Get physically fit. The damage you’re doing to your body will take you years to correct.
Stop searching for all the answers in the physical pleasures of this world. You will find your true purpose when you seek out the pleasures of the next world. When you stop seeking pleasure and instead start seeking to please God, your life will change forever. When you turn away from the vices you use to mask your pain and seek God, you will find the peace you’re looking for. When you seek healing from God, not from the band aid of instant gratification, you will find true redemption and joy.
Stop trying to do things your own way. It will only lead to years of stress, anxiety, heartache, and pain. God’s path will show you your true purpose. You will never find it on your own.
Make the changes you know you need to make now. But remember, what you’re going through now, will mold you into the man you will become.“
A few years ago, the band MercyMe, wrote a song based around this idea of writing a letter to yourself. The lyrics of Dear Younger Me read:
If I knew then what I know now / Would’ve not been hard to figure out / What I would’ve changed if I had heard / Dear younger me / It’s not your fault / You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross
Every mountain every valley / Thru each heartache, you will see / Every moment brings you closer / To who you were meant to be
We can’t go back and make changes to our younger selves. We can’t send a letter and warn ourselves about the challenges that lay ahead. But we can learn from what we have gone through. We can realize that even though we could have avoided some pain, each moment brings us closer to who we are meant to be.
If I had never gone through the darkness I went through, I would not have realized how badly I needed a Savior. As bad as things were, and as much pain as there was, I believe my marriage is stronger now having been through the hard times. If I didn’t have the trials and tribulations of my younger years, I would never have the ministry that I do now working with men who are going through similar circumstances.
God has a plan for your life. It may take a bumpy and hard road to get there, but those hard moments give us a much greater joy when we get through them.
Paul writes in Romans 5:
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
The suffering we go through isn’t intended to cause us pain. It’s in order to build us up. We will gain endurance, character, and hope from our trials.
Take a few minutes to write a quick note to your younger self. Sure, you can give some advice to avoid some of the pitfalls. But don’t forget that what your younger self went thought built you into the man you are today.
Then, write a letter from your future self. What can you start now that your future self will thank you for? What changes can you make now that will have a lasting impact on your life and happiness?
We don’t have the advantage of going back and making changes. Nor can we look ahead and see what’s coming. We can only learn from what we’ve been through and prepare for what’s ahead.
Learn from your younger self. Plan for your future self.
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