Archive for August, 2010


Three young people

A FLIRTATIOUS stare, a “compliment” with sexual overtones, an obscene joke, an overtly sexual touch—such treatment, when unwelcome and repeated, often amounts to what can be called sexual harassment. Although global statistics are hard to come by, surveys indicate that most school-age youths in the United States have experienced it.

Just what is sexual harassment? The book Coping With Sexual Harassment and Gender Bias, by Dr. Victoria Shaw, defines it as “bothering someone in a sexual way . . . It can be physical (such as touching someone in a sexual way), verbal (such as making unwelcome comments about someone’s appearance), or nonverbal.” Sometimes the harassment involves crude propositions.

Much of the harassment in school probably comes from your peers. However, in some cases the offending behavior has come from adults, such as teachers. An article in Redbook magazine speculates that the relatively small number of teachers who are actually convicted for sexual offenses “probably represents only the tip of the iceberg.”

Women—and sometimes men—were subject to such mistreatment even back in Bible times. (Genesis 39:7; Ruth 2:8, 9, 15) And the Bible made this grim prediction: “There will be difficult times in the last days. People will be selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited; they will be insulting . . . ; they will be unkind, merciless, slanderers, violent, and fierce.” (2 Timothy 3:1-3, Today’s English Version) So it is possible, even likely, that you will encounter sexual harassment yourself.

God’s View

Admittedly, not all youths are distressed by sexually aggressive behavior. Some may find it amusing—or even flattering. One disturbing U.S. survey showed that among victims of sexual harassment, 75 percent admitted that they themselves had harassed others. Some adults may aggravate the problem by downplaying the seriousness of sexually aggressive behavior, brushing it off as just childish experimentation. But how does God view it?

God’s Word, the Bible, clearly condemns all forms of sexual harassment. We are told not to “encroach upon the rights” of others by violating sexual boundaries. (1 Thessalonians) In fact, young men are specifically commanded to treat “younger women as sisters with all chasteness.” (1 Timothy 5:1, 2) Furthermore, the Bible condemns “obscene jesting.” (Ephesians 5:3, 4) Therefore, you have a right to feel angry, upset, confused, and even demeaned when you are harassed! 4:3-8

What Do I Say?

  Sharing religious beliefs Letting your Christian beliefs become common knowledge can be a protection

How, then, should you react if someone bothers you in this way? Sometimes a weak or vague response only makes a harasser try harder. The Bible tells us that when Joseph was propositioned by his employer’s wife, he did not simply ignore her. Instead, he firmly rejected her immoral advances. (Genesis 39:8, 9, 12) Today, being firm and direct is still the best way to fend off harassment.

True, the one bothering you might not mean to offend you. What looks like harassment may actually be an unpolished attempt to attract your attention. So do not feel that you have to resort to uncouth behavior yourself to halt an unwanted advance. Simply saying something like, ‘I don’t like that kind of talk’ or, ‘Keep your hands to yourself, please’ may get your point across. However you word it, do not water down your message. Let your no mean no! Young Andrea puts it this way: “If they don’t catch on to your kind hints, you have to tell them straight out. It often comes to that.” A firm ‘Cut it out!’ may do the job.

If the situation escalates, do not try to handle things alone. Try talking it over with your parents or other mature adults. They may have some practical suggestions for dealing with the situation. As a last resort, they may even feel it necessary to alert school officials. As uncomfortable as doing so might make you, it could protect you from further victimization.

Preventing Harassment

Of course, it’s best to avoid being victimized in the first place. What might help in this regard? Andrea advises: “Never give the impression that maybe you are kind of interested. Others will hear about it, and the pressure will continue.” The way you dress can play a major role. Young Mara says: “I don’t dress like a grandmother, but I do avoid clothes that attract attention to my body.” Rejecting sexual advances while at the same time wearing provocative clothes may be sending a mixed message. The Bible recommends dressing “with modesty and soundness of mind.”—1 Timothy 2:9.

Two groups of young people By not associating with the wrong crowd, you may prevent harassment  

Your choice of friends also affects how you are treated. (Proverbs 13:20) Rosilyn observes: “When some of the girls in a group like the attention from guys, the guys may assume that all the girls in the group feel the same way.” Carla made the same point: “If you hang around with ones who give in to the remarks or who enjoy the attention, then you will get harassed too.”

The Bible tells of a young girl named Dinah who associated with girls from Canaan—where women were known for their loose behavior. This led to her being sexually assaulted. (Genesis 34:1, 2) With good reason the Bible states: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons.” (Ephesians 5:15) Yes, being “strict” about how you dress, how you speak, and with whom you associate can do much to protect you from harassment.

For Christian youths, however, one of the most effective ways of fending off harassment is simply to let others know of your religious stand. Young Timon, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, recalls: “The kids knew that I was a Witness, so that stopped almost all the harassment.” Andrea observes: “Telling them you are a Witness makes a big difference. They will realize that in many ways you are different from them and that you have strict moral standards.”—Matthew 5:15, 16.

If You Are Harassed

Try as you may, you cannot entirely escape rude, abusive people. But if you are the victim of a harasser, there is no reason for you to pummel yourself with guilt—as long as you have behaved like a Christian. (1 Peter 3:16, 17) If the situation distresses you emotionally, find support by talking to your parents or to mature ones in the Christian congregation. Rosilyn admits that it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you are being harassed. “Just having companionship,” she says, “someone you can talk to, is very good.” Remember, too, that “Jehovah is near to all those calling upon him.”—Psalm 145:18, 19.

Taking a stand against mistreatment is not easy, but it is worth it. Consider, for example, the Bible account of a young woman from Shunem. Although she was not really harassed as the term is commonly understood today, she did receive unwanted advances from Solomon, the rich and powerful king of Judah. Because she was in love with another man, she resisted those advances. She could therefore say of herself with pride, “I am a wall.”—Song of Solomon 8:4, 10.

Show the same moral fiber and determination yourself. Be a “wall” when it comes to unwanted advances. Make your Christian stand clear to everyone around you. By doing so, you can remain “blameless and innocent” and have the confidence that you have pleased God.—Philippians 2:15

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  • “On the Internet, you may not actually know who the other person is.”—Dan, 17.*
  • “People can lie on the Internet. It’s easy to put on a front.”—George, 26.

INTERNET dating continues to grow in popularity worldwide. As the preceding article in this series discussed, Internet romances may blossom quickly, but they often wither when reality sets in.# Still, there is a greater cause for concern than mere disappointment. Dating in this fashion may put you in serious danger—whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.

How can something that looks so innocent and safe—a computer terminal right in your own home—actually present a danger to you? Some of the dangers are related to an important Bible principle. The apostle Paul wrote: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18) Now, this is not to suggest that it is dishonest to use the Internet or even that using the Internet will make you dishonest. However, we must recognize that other people often are not honest and that as the quotations at the outset of this article illustrate, the Internet seems to make certain kinds of dishonesty easier to practice and harder to detect. And when it comes to romantic attachments, dishonesty presents terrible dangers.

For example, note the kind of dishonesty described in this Bible verse: “I have not sat with men of untruth; and with those who hide what they are I do not come in.” (Psalm 26:4) What is meant by “those who hide what they are”? Some Bible translations here read “hypocrites.” As one reference work notes, this expression can be applied to “those who hide their purposes or designs from others, or who conceal their real character and intentions.” How is such dishonesty practiced on the Internet? And what dangers does this present to those who are looking for romance?

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

A father named Michael was alarmed to learn at a seminar that a large proportion of children disobey parental rules against visiting dangerous Web sites. “What troubled me even more,” he says, “was the shocking realization that pedophiles can use the Internet to lure minors into debased sexual activities.” When youths use the Internet to meet new people, they can be in far more danger than they realize.

Indeed, there have been news reports of adult sexual predators who pretend to be youths as they prowl the Internet seeking to prey on young ones. According to one study, “one-in-five kids who uses the Internet has been solicited for sex.” One newspaper also stated that 1 child in 33 between ages 10 and 17 were “aggressively stalked” through computer conversations.

Some young people have found, to their surprise, that the “youth” with whom they shared a budding romance over the Internet was actually an adult prison inmate. Other young ones have unwittingly become involved with sexual predators. These vile people first “groom” a prospective victim, building trust through friendly on-line chat. In time, though, they seek to meet in person in order to carry out their perverted desires. Tragically, young people have been beaten, raped, and even murdered as a result.

Wicked people do, indeed, “hide what they are” in order to find victims on the Internet. Such predators might remind you of Jesus’ illustration about false prophets who “come to you in sheep’s covering” but in truth are like “ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) Anonymous communication through the Internet can make it almost impossible to see through such deception. “When you talk with someone in person,” says George, quoted earlier, “you may learn something from his facial expressions and the tone of his voice. But on the Internet you don’t get any of that. It’s easy to be fooled.”

Wise, indeed, is the Bible’s advice: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.” (Proverbs 22:3) Granted, not everyone you meet over the Internet is a dangerous predator. However, there are additional ways in which people “hide what they are.”

The Dangers of Deception and Secrecy

Not surprisingly, a common practice among those seeking romance on the Internet is to exaggerate or invent good traits and to minimize or conceal serious faults. Further, The Washington Post quoted an author as saying: “Internet dating can be bad because people get deceived.” It adds: “People often switch sexes. . . . Income levels, . . . race, criminal records, mental health histories and marital status often remain secret long into relationships.” To warn others, many people have reported painful experiences of being misled by Internet dates.

Will people lie about something as important as their own spiritual side? Sadly, yes—some claim to be true Christians when they are not. Why all the deception? Again, one factor is that the Internet makes it easy. A young man from Ireland named Sean admits: “It’s very easy to pretend to be something you’re not when you’re typing onto a computer screen.”

Many people take all this deception lightly, rationalizing that it is only natural to lie a little bit when embarking on a romance. Remember, though, that God hates lying. (Proverbs 6:16-19) And for good reason. Much of the pain and misery in this world stems from lying. (John 8:44) Dishonesty is the worst possible basis for any relationship, especially one that is intended to lead to a lifelong union. Worse, dishonesty is a spiritual danger; it damages the liar’s relationship with Jehovah God.

Sadly, some young people have fallen into another sort of dishonesty. They have pursued relationships using the Internet and have hidden the fact from their parents. For example, the parents of a teenage son were startled one day when a young woman who did not share the family’s Christian beliefs arrived unexpectedly at their home after traveling over 1,000 miles [1,500 km]. Their son had been dating her on-line for six months, but they knew nothing about her existence until that moment!

“How could this happen?” the parents asked. They thought, ‘Our son could not possibly have fallen for someone whom he had never met in person.’ In fact, their son had been deceiving them—in effect, hiding what he really was. Would you not agree that such deceptions are a poor foundation for a courtship?

Choosing the Real Over the Virtual

Internet dating may present other dangers. In some cases, an on-line friend can become more real than the people whom you see each day. Family, friends, and responsibilities become secondary. A young woman named Monika, in Austria, says: “I started to neglect important relationships because I spent much time on the computer with people I met on-line.” Troubled by this insight, she decided to quit using the Internet that way.

A young couple meeting face-to-faceWhen it comes to courtship, there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face

Of course, many are able to make balanced use of the Internet. Communication by E-mail can be a very helpful way to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. Surely you would agree, though, that nothing is quite the same as face-to-face contact. If you are “past the bloom of youth”—the time when sexual desires are at their peak—and are interested in marriage, you are facing one of the most important choices you will make in your life. (1 Corinthians 7:36) By all means, make a responsible decision.

The Bible advises: “Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.” (Proverbs 14:15) Rather than believing all that is written to you by someone you have never met, consider your steps carefully. It is far wiser to initiate meeting and making friends in person. Find out if you are truly compatible, especially when it comes to your spiritual goals and values. Such a courtship can lead to a truly happy marriage.


 

Characters from electronic games

“Last year’s best-selling videogame,” according to Newsweek magazine, “was Grand Theft Auto 3.” The object of the game is to advance in a criminal organization by taking part in various crimes, such as prostitution and murder. “Each of your actions has consequences,” notes Newsweek. If you kill pedestrians in your stolen car, police officers chase you. If you shoot one of them, the FBI gets involved. Kill an FBI agent, and the military seek to destroy you. Although the game is intended for those 17 and older, stores have been known to sell the game to younger children. Reportedly, even 12-year-olds are expressing interest in playing.

THE first modern computer game, Spacewar, was created in 1962. The game’s objective: fight off asteroids and enemy spaceships. Countless similar games eventually followed. When more powerful personal computers became widespread in the 1970’s and 1980’s, computer games became increasingly common. There were adventure games, quiz games, strategy games, and action games. One type of strategy game, for example, requires the player to plan and manage the growth of cities or civilizations. Many games simulate sports, such as ice hockey and golf.

There are games that are praised for being educational and entertaining. In some, you can try to land a jumbo jet, drive a race car or a steam engine, ride a snowboard, or travel around the world. However, some action games, such as those called shoot-em-up games, are often criticized because of their violent content. A common objective for the player is to choose a weapon and then shoot and kill different human or nonhuman enemies.

On-Line Games—A New Trend

The land of Britannia has about 230,000 citizens. They are people of all sorts—soldiers, tailors, blacksmiths, and musicians. They wage war, build cities, open shops, get married, and die. Yet, this particular Britannia does not exist in reality. It is a virtual medieval world, a place where network players compete and interact with one another simultaneously—a form of computer game, called an on-line game, that has become increasingly popular and is expected to be the “next big thing” in computer gaming. Launched in 1997, Ultima Online—which includes the fantasyland Britannia—was the first Internet-based game. Since then, many other Internet games have arisen, and more are in the works.

What is different about this type of game? The various characters you meet in the game are controlled, not by a computer, but by other players acting simultaneously over the Internet. Thousands of people can participate in the same game. For example, Ultima Online is said to have had players from 114 countries participating at the same time. The popularity of these games may depend a lot on the social contact involved. Players can chat with each other and thus feel that they are part of a global community.

Big Business

Character from electronic game

The electronic-game industry is very optimistic about its future. By 1997 the annual income from the American computer- and video-game industry reached $5.3 billion, and the worldwide sales were at least $10 billion. This trend shows no signs of losing momentum. The market is expected to increase by 50 to 75 percent during the coming five years.

Every day, according to Forrester Research, over a million people log on to different Internet-based games, and it is said that interest in on-line games will increase with the spread of broadband, a type of high-speed Internet connection. Children who have grown up playing computer games show no sign of stopping when they get older. One long-time player says: “Playing computer games has become a way of associating with friends from all over the world.”

 A young man lifting weights

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARE you unhappy with your appearance? Would you like to have the muscular body of a star athlete or the lean figure of a top model? Do you take sports seriously and want to improve your strength and speed?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then you may be tempted to take some of the pills or potions that your peers promise will help you to achieve your goals more quickly. The journal American Academy of Family Physicians states: “Approximately 1 million adolescents [in the United States] between the ages of 12 and 17 years have taken potentially dangerous performance-enhancing supplements and drugs.”

The most popular performance-boosting drugs are known as anabolic steroids. What are they? Why do people take them? And how can you resist their appeal?

Giving Nature a Boost

“Anabolic steroids,” explains a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “is the familiar name for synthetic substances related to the male sex hormones (androgens). They promote the growth of skeletal muscle (anabolic effects) and the development of male sexual characteristics.” During puberty in males, a finely tuned, preprogrammed increase in these sex hormones prompts the physical changes that transform a boy into a man.—Psalm 139:15, 16.

Synthetic steroids were first developed in the 1930’s to treat males who failed to produce enough of these hormones naturally. Today, steroids are used to counteract the wasting away of the body caused by HIV and other diseases. However, steroids have found a market among those who do not have legitimate medical needs. In the 1950’s, steroids became available on the black market, and ambitious athletes began tapping the performance-boosting potential of these drugs.

It is not just athletes, though, who are tempted to take steroids. A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics estimates that almost 3 percent of boys and girls in the United States aged 9 to 13 have used these drugs. Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told a recent U.S. congressional hearing that in 2004 there were “an estimated 79,000 high school seniors who [reported] having abused anabolic steroids in the past year.” In the United Kingdom, steroid abuse is also rampant. “In Merseyside and Cheshire in 2003,” says the New Statesman, “the largest single group of new clients for needle exchanges were steroid users, outnumbering heroin users for the first time.”*

What Is the Appeal of Steroids?

Why the rise in steroid abuse? One reason is that successful athletes can win instant fame and a huge fortune. Steroids seem to offer a shortcut to this gold mine. A prominent sports coach summed up a dominant attitude of many when he said: “Winning isn’t everything—it’s the only thing.” Volkow, mentioned above, observed: “We are now facing a very damaging message that is becoming pervasive in our society—that bigger is better, and being the best is more important than how you get there.”

A survey conducted by Bob Goldman, a physician specializing in sports medicine, appears to confirm this grim conclusion. He asked young athletes if they would take a banned performance-enhancing drug under the following conditions: They would not be caught, they would win every competition for the next five years and, afterward, they would die from the side effects of the drug. More than half the youths responded with a yes.

Even if you do not have a win-at-all-costs mentality, steroids may still have a seductive appeal. Why? “People choose to take steroids,” says Volkow, “because [steroids] do, in fact, enhance certain types of physical performance and appearance.” In many cultures today, physical appearance is paramount. Dr. Harrison Pope, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, claims: “Millions of men are suffering shame, self-doubt and embarrassment because of emphasis on body image.” Steroids offer young men the chance to hide their self-doubt under a fashionably muscular body.

Some young women take steroids to alter their figure

A young woman considering the use of steroids

 

 

 

 

 

 

For similar reasons girls also are vulnerable to the lure of steroids. Charles Yesalis, professor of health and human development at Pennsylvania State University, said regarding steroid abuse: “There’s been a substantial increase for girls during the 1990s, and it’s at an all-time high right now.” Some girls take steroids to be stronger and faster on the sports field. Most, though, seem to take them in the hope that the drugs will transform their bodies into the lean, taut figures flaunted by today’s models and movie stars. “With young women,” says Jeff Hoerger of Rutgers University in New Jersey, “you see them using it more as a weight control and body fat reduction [method].”

Consider the Risks

If you are ever tempted to take nonprescribed steroids, it is worth considering the following facts. A person who takes them for even a short while increases the risk of heart attack, liver failure, kidney failure, and serious psychiatric problems. Females who take steroids risk menstrual abnormalities, increased growth of body hair, male-pattern baldness, and a permanently deepened voice. On the other hand, males who take steroids may develop breasts and will likely discover that their testicles start to atrophy. Both males and females may experience sudden bouts of aggressiveness. And, ironically, steroids can stunt growth if taken during adolescence.

If you are a youth who wishes to please Jehovah God, what Bible principles bear on the illicit use of steroids? The Bible plainly states that your life is a gift from Jehovah. (Acts 17:25) As the above facts show, a youth who abuses steroids will likely damage his health. Therefore, ask yourself, ‘Would I be showing appreciation to Jehovah for my body—which is “wonderfully made”—if I took substances that ultimately damaged it?’—Psalm 139:14.

Another fact to consider is that steroids make a person prone to outbursts of rage. Wise King Solomon observed: “Anyone disposed to rage has many a transgression.” (Proverbs 29:22) The apostle Paul warns that those who allow anger to dominate their personality will not inherit God’s Kingdom. (Galatians 5:19-21) Are the short-term payoffs of taking steroids worth these risks?

What if you are tempted to take steroids to boost your athletic performance? The Bible requires that we conduct ourselves “honestly in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18) If you attain any athletic success because of steroid abuse, are you being honest with your fellow competitors or with yourself?

Remember that although some of your peers may judge you by your physical appearance or performance, Jehovah assesses people differently. To him it is not the shape of your body that determines your true worth. When selecting David to be king of Israel, Jehovah told Samuel the following regarding David’s more impressive-looking brother: “Do not look at his appearance and at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For not the way man sees is the way God sees, because mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.”—1 Samuel 16:7.

A young man refusing steroids Whether you are a servant of Jehovah or not, it makes sense to resist the lure of steroids. An American college football player offers this practical advice: “If you want to avoid pressure to take steroids, be careful who you associate with. Any ‘benefits’ you gain from the drugs are just not worth it.”


*  Steroids are often injected into the body, putting those who share needles at higher risk for contracting HIV or other blood-borne diseases.