If you can give your son or daughter only one gift,
let it be ENTHUSIASM.
~ Bruce Barton
Here is my commencement address to all the recent high school graduates. Bless you all and remember to let your heart make up your mind as you go through life.
Studies reveal that when a child grows up feeling loved by their parents we do not have to worry about their future emotionally, physically or spiritually. The opposite of love is indifference and rejection and if one seeks attention through self-destructive behavior or revenge the end result is obvious.
What wounded teenagers can do is to abandon their past and all the negativity associated with it and use their anger and energy to change their lives and re-parent themselves. “When you let love into your prison it changes all the negative items in it, meaning the experiences in your life, and turns them into something meaningful.” Those are the words of a woman who was abused as a child. They can also look for chosen parents who will accept and love them even when their behavior is not liked. These are people who love you and don’t blame you for having something wrong with you when they are critical of your behavior as do most parents, as well as many teachers and religions. They are like coaches who discipline and criticize you for your benefit because they care about you. So find someone to coach you through life who has had a major loss or illness because they will know what lessons are important for survival. You are like a work of art, a work in never ending progress.
The most important thing for teenagers to realize is that suicide is not ever the treatment of choice. A young man I know, Tony Johnson, who wrote A Rock and A Hard Place, was planning to commit suicide. Tony was HIV+ due to sexual abuse by his parents and others. I told him we could get a gun and kill his parents instead. He said, “No I never want to be like them.”
You were never meant to eliminate yourself. You were meant to love yourself and your neighbors and enemies. What you need to eliminate is events and behavior that is killing you physically, emotionally and spiritually. You must not give up the life you want for yourself to please others. When you do, you lose your life. You must be willing to lose the untrue self and save your authentic life. You are a divine child, so get your baby pictures out and live for that awesome child. Be like children and animals when you need attention and love—make noise, move, and express your feelings.
Just so you know, Tony went down to the subway to jump in front of the A Train but my angel delayed the train so Tony ended up calling the suicide hot line number on the subway wall. He was rescued and learned about love.
Having seen many children of millionaires suffering because their parents gave them money, which they were to use to make more money, and be a success. I have a simple message for you and them. One young man said to me, “My father ruined my life when I was 21. He gave me a million dollars and told me I had to be a success.” What would his father have said if he started a charity with the money? Most parents give their children mottoes to die by and not to live by. We need to grow up being told to do what makes us happy, difficulties are God’s redirections and material things are to make the world a better place.
First of all what is your definition of success? If it is a big estate and lots of money you will never be happy or successful. When speaking to a group of young business owners, all of whom were millionaires I asked, “Is life fair?” They yelled “NO!” louder than any group I have ever spoken to.
A young man in therapy for the grief he was experiencing trying to be a success said, “When you are a success you are not happy, but when you are happy you are a success.” Remember these messages from various religions and myths: The son of man comes not to be served but to serve and to ransom his life for the good of the many. Let me be born again and again on the wheel of rebirth so that again and again I may offer this body for the benefit of others.
Decide how you want to serve the people of the world and then go do it. You will be living your life and accomplishing what we are all here to accomplish in our lifetime. And when you enjoy serving in your way, Monday morning will not be a threat to your health and you will never feel like you are working. It is only work if there is someplace else you’d rather be. I loved working at Subway and interacting with the people because they wanted a sandwich and interacting with me and my questions about life were necessary if I was going to make it for them.
The final lessons for you all are:
First, accept the fact that you are mortal and don’t waste your life time doing what you do not want to do. Learn to say no to the world and yes to yourself.
Next, let me repeat what my parents told me. When a decision was to be made there was only one way to decide; “Do what will make you happy.” When troubles and difficulties occurred which are inevitable I heard “God is redirecting you–something good will come of this.” And when material things and finances were involved “Money is to make life easier for people.” Remember, I came from a minority group. I was loved by my parents, did well in school and got along with God. You can join my group too.
Understand that a perfect world is a magic trick and not creation. What makes our love and actions meaningful is the fact that we have a choice. Life is a school, and commencements never cease happening, so live and learn and remember there are no mistakes, just lessons to be learned.
To survive, find meaning in your life; express appropriate anger when you are not treated with respect; ask for help when you need it and do not deny your needs and feelings; say no when appropriate to your life and feelings; find time to play and live your chocolate ice cream; use your feelings to help protect you and redirect your life rather than be disturbed by them or turn to drugs to numb yourself; live an authentic life and not a role. Remember we were meant to be human beings and not human doings. We are all made of divine stuff and members of the same family.
Peace, Love & Healing
Bernie Siegel, MD