Amish Youth Talk: Temptation and Character

Today we have another excerpt from an Amish father’s talk to a youth group and parents in Lancaster County.  We last looked at this talk about a month ago, with a segment on cell phones and the internet (the first segment addressed popular music).

In this excerpt the Amishman suggests how one might fight temptation and bad habits by developing character.

As a whole, this talk gives a good picture of the concerns of Amish parents. Some Amish communities are trying to take steps like this, to get to their youth before they get too sucked up into things they’d rather not.

Some Amish don’t face as much of an issue concerning the smartphone and internet.  This is Lancaster County, however, where Amish tend to have a closer relationship with a higher level of technology than many.

Reading this talk, I find I quite admire the speaker’s willingness to touch on hard topics, and even get a little personal to make his points.  He told me it was not an easy talk to give in front of 150 parents and youth, among them his own children.

An Amish Youth Talk, Part 3: On Temptation & Character

Us as plain people over the years put a lot of effort into staying away from or controlling the telephone, television, radio, videos, CDs and other entertainment of popular culture, and I guess the question I ask is this: How much sense does it make to put all this in your pocket?  Especially in an uncontrolled way.  At least have some sort of accountability structure.  Is it worth the temptation? Think about this and all the dangers.

One thing is certain.  It will take strong and good character to guard your heart and minds and keep them undamaged.

But the good news is this.  Overcoming temptation and bad habits is what builds character.  I would like to touch a little on what character is.

Our character is the sum of our habits.  So as our habits are, so is our character. Thinking further our soul is our character along with our minds and emotions and thoughts.

And the remarkable thing is our souls last forever.  They go with us into eternity.

It would be easy now to just say to you “Keep the Lord in your heart and make good choices and all will be well.”

But this issue goes deeper.

I believe that the issue is with us and our nature as much as with the things we use and have.  Still it is true that if we fill our minds with garbage then garbage is what will come out of us.  For from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. In German it says “Denn wes das herz voll ist des gehet der Mund über.”

We often think temptation is all around us but still the Bible says vile things come from the heart.  Temptation starts in your mind maybe more than in your circumstances.  I think this is why certain things tempt some people more than it does others.  Some have one weakness, some another.

The Bible says for from within out of a person’s heart come evil thoughts, immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, eagerness for lustful pleasure, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  All these vile things come from within you.

I struggle with these as much as anyone else and the reason I am going here is to say to the young people: Your struggle is also our struggle.

This isn’t just about the internet and porn but about all our compulsive behaviors and bad habits.  Compulsive behavior and bad habits are of the devil’s best snares.

This includes all our bad habits and addictions to guilty pleasures, smoking, drinking, drugs, unhealthy eating habits, foul language, gossip, lustful thoughts, envy and even self-pity.  I am caught in a number of these.

Sometimes we do things anyway even if we know better.  Sometimes we are too weak to resist and more often we can’t be told because there is a part of us that wants to anyway.  I think of Paul’s words in Romans 7:19 where he says “When I want to do good I don’t, and when I try not to do wrong I do it anyway.”  That is a pretty good description of how it goes way too often.  In German it says “Denn das gute das ich will, das tue ich nicht Sondern das Böse das ich nicht will, das tue ich.”

Why is this so often true?

There is a continual struggle between the sinful part of our nature which wants to follow our own desires and the good part of our nature which has a longing for God and his peace.  We are born this way and made this way.

This is what it means to be created in God’s image.  This is also how the Fall of Adam affects us.

The struggle for your soul is fought in your mind between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.  And the side we give attention to and feed is the side that wins.

What gets your attention gets you.

There was a theologian in the early church named Augustine who said: The human heart knows no peace until it rests in the Creator.

The question is this: Will the popular culture aspects of the internet help or hinder? The choice is yours.

We can see how important it is to not only resist the sinful but also to fill our minds with good.  I don’t want to only thunder and hurl warnings at you.  I would also like to suggest encouragement and one thing I would like to suggest is to read the Rules of a Godly Life.  You can find it in the Lust-Gartlein and in Meiner Jugend in English. We have no excuse to not involve ourselves in reading this.

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    1. Tom

      I have been wanting to read Rules of a Godly Life for awhile. This speach should be given to all people. Im reading As a Man Thinkith right now it is only 72 pages long. but it is a great thought provoking book. Some of his speach sounds like some of the readings in that book.

    2. SharonR

      Amish Youth Talk

      This speech is a good one, and hope all who were there, listen and be careful, and try to impress upon their youth, (and adults) that there is lots of temptations in this world, and not just online. Hopefully their strong beliefs will keep them from wandering into places they shouldn’t, and avoid the massive amounts of temptations on the Internet, smartphones, etc. plus the outside influences, as well.
      What I always taught my children, in falling to temptations, it never brings anything “good”, only trouble and heartbreak, and situations that are hard to get out of, which can effect the rest of your life.

    3. Alice Mary

      I also appreciate this man’s candor. To admit one’s own faults in front of your own community is sobering but I’m sure very appreciated by the parents, especially, in the crowd.

      How “open” are Amish parents to actually talking, discussing these things with their own children? I’d like to hear how Amish parents actually approach talks about sex, drugs, bad influences in the “world”. I hope they DO talk!

      Alice Mary

      1. OldKat

        Just a guess here;

        I’d say that they are probably about as “open” to that sort of thing as English parents are. Which is to say that probably some do that sort of thing readily, some reluctantly and some wouldn’t do that under any circumstance. Again, just a guess.

      2. Do Amish parents talk with their children about drugs and sex?

        I have to surmise a bit here too but I think Oldkat’s description is good in terms of there being differences between families, though on the whole I would guess it is probably less comfortable or likely among Amish than English to talk about things like drugs, alcohol, sex, etc (I wouldn’t be surprised if it were even a lot less likely). I think things of a sexual nature can be particularly difficult to bring up…even seen in something like not discussing pregnancy openly (though fwiw I think English can be too open talking about that topic, but that’s another matter…).

        Or when it comes to drugs, again a lot of Amish parents, like with Facebook, the internet, etc, are going to be in the dark, so one reason they might not be talking about some of these things is because they simply have little knowledge or frame of reference to go by.

        In this talk the Amishman actually goes into the threat of pornography in greater depth as well as talking about compulsive behavior.

        1. Lattice

          I am quite certain that the Amish I know would never talk about sex with their children. Perhaps the youth share a little about what they THINK, and the rest they just figure out later. Maybe the ministers do a little counseling before marriage. We should ask the Amish Guy.

          And even between adults, any slightest suggestion about anything that could be even remotely related to relations between men and women is so obscure that I can’t hardly even understand what’s being said to me.

          P.S. I concur. Mainstream pregnancy discussion and display are completely out of hand.

    4. OldKat

      BTW ...

      that IS a very good talk. One that was no doubt worth hearing.

    5. Lisa King

      Good for everyone

      Everything in this speech would benefit all youth, and actually all people. I’m not Amish, but I see the harm that some of the modern technology has wrought on our society. The lack of person to person communication, the supposed anonymity to say unacceptable things about others, phone cameras to record embarrassing events and post them to the internet and the ready availability of unacceptable images are all made possible by this technology. The standards of behavior have been lowered. All people need to see this, unfortunately the Enemy is winning and I don’t see a favorable end to it all.

    6. Margaret

      What is a smartphone?

      I’m Englisch and I couldn’t use a smartphone to save my life! I can use a plain basic cellphone and I can use my iPad but a smartphone? Those kids have me beat!

      This man hit on some many things. All of them true. Bishops may not be traditionally educated and sometimes “punishments” may seem harsh and extreme. I found watching the last two episodes of Breaking Amish–that Mary has this time to reflect. It’s a brutal time. But reflection leads to change–either they’ll leave their community forever or they’ll come home.

      This man has given me a boatload of things to think about. All good. We can all use a good dose of reality–to kick us in the hand end to get us thinking.

      Somebody please pass my thanks to him…

    7. Lattice

      I really think it’s important to stress that good behavior,(following the rules), is really not the goal. Sin begins and grows in the heart – no matter how well we follow the rules. The speaker did a great job emphasizing that.

      1. Lisa King

        I agree although I didn’t address that correctly. The heart is the important thing and the rest will follow. I think though that sometimes you need a band-aid along with the cure for the disease. We need to address the basic spiritual problem along with making the technology harder to get, and/or trying to avoid it. I’m not sure if that’s clear or not.

        1. Lattice

          Oh, of course, Lisa. You are right on and I agree wholeheartedly with what you had written earlier regarding the dangers of technology and such (you would believe me if you saw how I live!!). In fact, when I just now reread what I wrote, it didn’t say at all what I was thinking…

          I just believe that some people feel “good enough” because they go to church, don’t drink, don’t steal or lie, and otherwise do what they ought, but they NEVER examine what is dwelling in their hearts (unforgiveness, pride, etc.). I know, because that was me through my early adult years.

          Self examination every hour of every day. It’s the only way to know if you’re truly walking in the Light.

    8. Sandra Kathleen

      What a beautiful talk! Just wonderful…I am impressed with the depth of resources the gentleman evidently studies…to quote St. Augustine!

    9. Sandra Kathleen

      It's not about the internet and porn

      While I think self-examination is very important, we have to make sure we aren’t doing one of two things: continually berating our weaknesses (self-pity) and self-justifying our thoughts and actions, which are not always made from a “pure” heart.

      As the Amish father says, “It would be easy now to just say to you “Keep the Lord in your heart and make good choices and all will be well.” But this issue goes deeper.” I think if we take this talk to be only — or even mainly — about technology, we are missing the main points the speaker made.

      In his talk, the gentleman broadened the field of concern to how we deal with temptation and not only the good (light) side of man, but his/her weak (dark) side — the side that tends to rationalize actions: “This isn’t just about the internet and porn but about all our compulsive behaviors and bad habits… snares of the devil.” … which bad habits include “… gossip, lustful thoughts, envy, and self-pity.” I can totally relate to this: he is speaking to me.

      He goes further into the nature of temptation: “Sometimes we do things anyway even if we know better. Sometimes we are too weak to resist and more often we can’t be told because there is a part of us that wants to anyway.”

      And, this, in a very broad nutshell, is what I’ve come to see as the witness of the Amish community — putting breaks on the ill-considered use of technology and “progress,” because they recognize that it is human to want to do things more easily without taking time to consider whether the changes wrought by “progress” would strengthen or weaken one’s faith walk with God and the larger community.

      Now there’s a ton more the speaker goes on with, but from my point of view, this talk wasn’t just about technology and its evil influence.

    10. Dali Castillo

      Temptation and Character

      I feel the speaker was spot on. His approach of not being preachy and condemning is more effective than pushing guilt, guilt, and more guilt. Also effective is the approach of “all deal with this” and not singling out a group or person. This speech would benefit all, not just the group it was given to.

    11. Kurt

      I doubt that the Amish can remain traditional Amish if they’re going to be accessing everything available on the Internet (much worse than what’s on radio or TV) Surprised that the Bishops don’t take a hardline on that. Maybe they should do some surfing, then decide.

    12. Chrystal

      Looking for a friend.....

      Is there anyway for the Amish to have mail pen pals? I have always been very interested in the way the live and the hard work and honesty. Please help me.

    13. martin mijal

      too fast is our technology

      I grew up in a suburb of Chicago called Des Plaines, IL. When we had our 125th year celebration of the founding of the then rural farming town, there were quotes from newspapers of that pioneer time. One was something like “if men go faster than 12 miles an hour with these new steam locomotives, we’ll all go crazy.” I’m reading this in about 1965 and realize that this quote is meant to be a mockery of that old time observation. But maybe it really IS true. Are we all crazy going so fast and so “efficiently?” Have the simple people chosen the better way of human & animal paced life? TIME FOR EACH OTHER. SUPPORT & INSURANCE FROM THE COMMUNITY.

      1. SharonR

        Amish Youth - Temptation and Character

        I think Martin Majal has something there!! Worth a thought!!

    14. Sandra Kathleen

      Catch up time

      These posts have reminded me of a story I heard at a women’s retreat: A missionary in South America hired porters to move supplies, etc. to a new mission in the bush. The party made really good time the first 2 days, so when he saw all the porters resting late into the morning of the third day he asked the chief porter why the group was not ready to continue the journey. The porter replied, “We’ve been going so fast, we need to wait for our souls to catch up.”

    15. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      That’s cute. I feel like that some days, where I’ve done so much at work that I have to wait for my soul or whatever to catch up with me. Mind you, co-workers doing different jobs say I am so much more of a conscientious worker than other people hired to do the job in the past, I didn’t say, but it is my deliberate decision to be a little like my full bore into work Father during his life and a little like the Amish Often, I ask the Lord to let me put my hands to work and commend my heart to him while I am at work (and in the rest of my daily life).

      That being said, there is nothing wrong with a good work ethic, that is what my Dad always tried to instill in me, and that is what I take away as I learn more about the Amish. It is different from hurrying and going so fast, but still…

    16. Sandra Kathleen

      Often I wonder what the purpose of making machines is. They do save time at a particular task, they enable safety in many instances, and they do eliminate some repetitive jobs that can be tedious.

      Nonetheless, they also have eliminated conversations during shared tasks like dish washing; they pressure US into even more multi-taskative (new word!) work, so that we actually have less inclination to be available to others, thoughts of our Lord, and attention to our innermost selves. I think we’re also at danger of gearing ourselves to put more and more machines/technology under the “Have-to have” column instead of the “Want” column.

    17. Alice Mary

      “Our character is the sum of our habits. So as our habits are, so is our character.”

      I’d like to see the above embroidered on a sampler. It’s a “keeper”!

      I am really very taken with this speaker’s “gumption”, speaking on these subjects before 150 fellow Amish. It must have taken some intestinal fortitude to put his thoughts into words, and especially to admit to being tempted, himself. What a brave man.

      I hope these kinds of talks are met favorably with the communities, and especially the Bishops. It would be a shame to put a stop to them, especially in those areas that are so close to (rubbing elbows with) the English in proximity.

      Good word, Sandra Kathleen! I like it! 🙂