By Ken Canedo
The advertising industry spends millions of dollars annually to shape the tastes and preferences of young people everywhere. Popular movies and television shows only reinforce Madison Avenue's hard sell.
Got milk? Just do it! Smells like teen spirit! DC Shoes! This Bud's for you! BTW, did you know that beer commercials rank high on the teen popularity list? Recent studies reveal the beer industry's success in advertising with youth.
Bombarded daily by this commercial onslaught, is it any wonder that youth self-esteem is at an all-time low? Studies by the National Association for Self-Esteem relate youth self-esteem (or lack of it) to scholastic achievement, crime and violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide.
Forget the media! Who cares what Seth and Summer are wearing on The OC? Just because you're a fan of Fall Out Boy doesn't mean you need colorful tattoos all over your arms.
So, if we disregard what pop culture is selling us, what image should we adopt? What do I need to do to look cool? Two words: BE YOURSELF!
Not sure what it means to be yourself? Jesus offers some guidelines when he talks about the two greatest commandments:
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."
— Mark 12:28-31
Notice the circle of love in this passage? Jesus calls us to love God first of all, with all our hearts. He also links love of neighbor with love of self.
You cannot love other people unless you first love yourself. If you think yourself unlovable or even unworthy of love, think again. God has first loved you! From the moment you were created, God loved you and cherished you and nurtured you. The author of the Psalms expressed this eloquently:
You formed my inmost being;
you knit me from my mother's womb.
I praise you, so wonderfully you made me;
wonderful are your works!
— Psalm 139:13-14
Do you see how great this circle of love is? Your love of God should flow naturally from God's love for you. It is in the loving of yourself that you are able to love others. And it is in our neighbor that we discover the God who dwells within each person, moving us to love God in return as a community. God's love is what binds us together. God's love is what make me realize that I am a good person and that God needs me — Yes! God actually needs me! — to bring his love to those around me. Awesome! Truly awesome! And way cooler than any image that the advertising industry tries to shape me with.
Do yourself a favor. Spend some time in prayer with Matt Maher's song Wonderful to Me. I think it perfectly captures what I've been trying to say here.
I've been poor before;
maybe not in money
but in circumstance.
And I have lavished in your abundance
as you rain down your blessings on me.
No matter where I'm going,
let me feel your blessing.
My God is powerful, is so faithful,
is wonderful to me.
My God is approachable,
is wonderful to me.
BE YOURSELF! 'Cause that's the way God made you and loves you!
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