Be discerning and you'll have stronger self-esteem

You can be discerning and get a true picture of yourself, not the one the world would like you to believe.

That's an important skill for singles.  Too often we let others label us, and that makes us vulnerable to many false messages.

If you haven't noticed, much of what you hear on television, see in advertisements, and read on the Internet is simply untrue.  It's subtle manipulation to influence your opinion or make you believe you have a problem.

When we think we have a problem, we search for a solution.  Ideally, we'd all like a problem-free life, whether our problems are real or not.  Much of the money spent by young people goes toward solving imaginary problems.

Be discerning about who you are

You are an individual, unique in this world.  No one is exactly like you, even if you have a twin.  You don't fit into anyone's neat little box.

Advertisers would have you believe that you should think like everyone in your age group.  We all have an inborn need to fit in, to belong to the tribe.  Most of us are embarrassed to be different.

But the truth is that you are different.  God didn't create all people to look alike, think alike, or feel alike.  You have your own interests.  You also have your own dreams.  They don't have to be like anybody else's dreams.  Except for obeying the law, you don't have to conform to what society expects of you.

To be discerning about who you are, you have to question the motives of the messages you take in.  What do they want?  Which of your "buttons" are they trying to push?  Can I ignore this message without any bad consequences?

If you're a Christian, your true worth comes from your relationship with Jesus Christ.  Period.  It doesn't come from what you own, what kind of job you do, what clothes you wear, or what kind of car you drive.  When you have that truth firmly in mind, it unmasks all the nonsense that others would have you believe about yourself.

Be discerning about what you do

Life is composed of wise and unwise choices.  There are two ways to make wise choices. 

First, consider all the consequences of your decision.  If you spend all your money on clothes then find you can't pay your rent, you didn't think about the consequences of that spending.  If you date a jerk (there are both male and female jerks) because you have low self-esteem and think you can't do any better, you have to endure the consequences of being mistreated.

We can't always predict all the consequences of every decision, but we can usually see the bad ones, if we're honest with ourselves.  Denying that the consequences of your actions will happen is lying to yourself.  If you go ahead and do something stupid and say, "I don't care about the consequences," you're not being smart.  You're not facing reality.

The second way to make wise choices is to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We shouldn't expect him to audibly speak to us, like a booming voice from heaven.  Instead, he guides us through promptings and our conscience.

You become attuned to the Spirit's voice by knowing the Bible.  Within its pages are God-inspired principles for living a worthwhile life

When a decision comes up and you know what God wants of you (the Holy Spirit will nudge you through your conscience), you will make the God-honoring choice.  Sometimes that's hard, especially when sinful pleasure is the immediate reward.  But God's way will keep you out of trouble.

You will learn, over time, that when you honor God, you honor yourself.  You'll have more respect for yourself and you'll feel good about the choices you've made.

How to be discerning

1. Be skeptical but not cynical.

We should weigh the information we take in, yet not assume that everything we hear is designed to trick us.  It makes sense, as a mature adult, to stop being gullible.  If you ask "What's in it for them?" about TV commercials, political talk, and sales people, you'll drill down to the truth quickly.

2.  Be kind but not a pushover.

We have a responsibility to be polite without letting ourselves become doormats.  Stand up for yourself.  Don't let yourself be bullied.  When people understand that they can't bulldoze over you, they'll respect you more.  Some of them will keep trying, but don't back down.  Don't go out of your way to be confrontational but make it clear you do have ethical and personal limits.

3.  Be in touch with the Holy Spirit.

We're not omniscient.  We can't know everything, but God does.  By obeying God's commandments, you'll receive his protection now and in the future.  Things may not work out the way you hoped, but God will stand with you to help you through.  The better you know the simple commands of Christ, the more closely in touch you'll be with his Spirit.  Ask him for guidance and expect him to respond. 

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Don't let them run you around

We singles can fall for phony pitches if we're not careful. Advertisers use a variety of tricks to make you feel that you "belong," from membership cards to "special offers." If you have a solid sense of who you are, you'll do better cutting through the flattery and getting to the truth.

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