One of my favorite things about being a man is that we know everything. Or . . . no . . . wait a minute. We think we know everything. There, that sounds more like it.
But seriously, in high school I thought I had it all figured out. Why? I don't know. Maybe it was because I got my driver's license and drove a really cool beige minivan, or maybe it had to do with my ability to make sweet graphs on my TI-83 calculator. Perhaps my ever-increasing bench press played a role. (Ok, that last one may be a bit of a stretch.)
But yet, for some reason, I thought I knew it all. If you had a question, I had an answer. If you couldn't figure something out, I could. And, armed with this array of knowledge, I was gonna teach the world a thing or two. That is until I started getting older and realized something: I didn't know as much as I thought.
So, here we go. After many mistakes and lessons learned in my own life, let me share a few things I think every Catholic guy should know:
- Start discerning your vocation now. Let's be honest. You know about the future, you've thought about the future, and you probably want something more for your future. For many guys, this is as far the discernment process goes. Yet, there is so much more. While you may not know your vocation in high school, now is a good time to start praying about it. Am I called to be married? Am I called to be a priest? What is God asking of me? You may not get the answer right now, but it's best to start asking the questions.
- Write (and stick to) a monthly budget. No matter what vocation you are called to, you are going to need to know how to budget. Priests need to know how to budget for their parishes, and husbands need to know how to budget for the sake of their families. Whether you like it or not, money is important. It may not be the most important thing, but last time I checked, it plays a pretty big role in our lives. Learn how to use it properly now. The best way to do that is to setup a monthly budget. If you don't know where to start, ask your parents, or check out a financial expert like Dave Ramsey.
- Go to confession regularly. If there's one thing I wish I had taken advantage of more often in high school, it's the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Think about it. The Savior of the world is waiting to forgive all our sins if we simply come before him in Confession. And yet, somehow, we make excuses. I'm too busy. I'm too afraid. What will the priest think? As I reflect back on my high school years, I could have gotten a lot of weight off my shoulders if I had just been humble enough to make frequent use of the Confessional.
- Eat healthy. One of the greatest things about high school was that I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted and work it off through exercise without gaining a pound. Pizza. Soda. Fast Food. You name it. It had little effect on me. Want to know how this habit works now that I'm in my 30s? Not so well. It turns out that eating poorly not only causes me to gain weight, but it decreases my energy level too. Now, you may think, 'That's alright. I'll be able to change and adapt.' Well, unfortunately, that's not as easy as you think. Start eating healthy now, and give yourself some bonus points if you can cook some basic meals. This way, the next time you're hungry and think, 'Why wait? I'll just grab a snickers,' you'll go for the healthier option.
- Be a prudent voter. When it came to politics, I always followed one rule: Vote for whomever my parents vote for. It was easy. It was lazy. It was foolish. That's not to say I didn't agree with my parents' choices, but I was taking the easy way out. Voting is an important freedom that we have in this country, and we should all take it very seriously. Just blindly showing up in the voting booth doesn't cut it. You need to do your research. Find out about the candidates (and not just the ones running for President). Learn about the propositions. Your vote matters, especially as a Catholic man of God, and even though you may not be able to vote yet, now is a good time to start learning how.
- Write down your goals. Most of us are told repeatedly to set goals. The problem is that setting goals isn't enough. You want to achieve them. And do you want to know the number 1 way to go about doing that? Write them down. It's one thing when you say you want to do something, but it goes to a whole other level when you've written it down and it's staring you in the face. You're less likely to 'forget' about it. You're less likely to 'put it off until tomorrow.' And, you're more likely to feel motivated to wake up everyday and do something about it.
- Live a chaste life. Did you know that there is one thing you can do right now that will instantly improve your future vocation? Live chastity. If you're called to be a priest, this will make you a better servant for your parish. If you're called to marriage, this will make you a better servant to your wife and family. I know it's not easy, but the discipline and sacrifice will pay off. There are many families that would've been a lot better off had the husbands and fathers started living chastity earlier. So whether you're in a relationship with a girl or by yourself, start living chastity today.
- Treat women with dignity and respect. Speaking of chastity, it's not enough just to abstain from sex. How we treat the opposite sex in public or private says a lot about who we are. The dignity of women is under attack, and it's on us, as men, to do everything we can to protect them. We need to honor them. We need to respect them. We need to pray for them. And it all starts with you. Being a real man is not about how many girls you can 'get', but how they get Christ from you.
I love being a man, but with this gift comes a great amount of responsibility. I may still have a lot to learn, but I do know that working on these things now can save you a lot of agony and pain in the future. But more importantly, they can put you down a greater path to holiness and allow you to lead others closer to Christ.