Increase the Joy of your Wedding Day

Friday, April 24, 2009

“MY WEDDING day was one of the most meaningful and joyful days of my life,” said Gordon, who has been married for almost 60 years. What makes the wedding day so meaningful for true Christians? It is a day when they make a sacred promise to ones they dearly love—their mate and Jehovah God. (Matthew 22:37; Ephesians 5:22-29) Yes, couples planning to marry want to enjoy their wedding day, but they also want to honor the Originator of marriage.—Genesis 2:18-24; Matthew 19:5, 6.

How can a groom enhance the dignity of this happy occasion? What can a bride do to show honor to her husband and to Jehovah? How can others who attend add to the joy of the wedding day? Considering some Bible principles will help to answer those questions, and applying those principles will minimize possible problems that could detract from this special occasion.
Who Is Responsible?

In many lands, a minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses may legally officiate at a marriage ceremony. Even in places where the legal step must be performed by a civil agent, a couple may want to have a Bible-based talk. In such a talk, the groom is usually asked to reflect on the God-given role of the family head. (1 Corinthians 11:3) Accordingly, the groom has the prime responsibility for what happens at the wedding. Of course, the arrangements for the wedding ceremony itself and for any gathering that may follow are usually made well in advance. Why may this present challenges?

One reason is that relatives on one side or the other may attempt to exert a dominant influence on wedding plans. Rodolfo, who has performed many weddings, notes: “At times, the groom comes under tremendous pressure from relatives, especially if they are helping to pay for the wedding reception. They may have strong opinions as to what should happen during the wedding ceremony and at the reception. This could undermine the groom’s Scriptural role as the one responsible for the occasion.”

Max, who has been performing wedding ceremonies for more than 35 years, observes: “I have noticed a trend toward the bride taking the lead in deciding what will take place at the wedding and at the reception, with the groom having less to say.” David, who has also officiated at many weddings, comments: “Grooms may not be used to taking the lead and are commonly not sufficiently involved in the wedding preparations.” How can the groom effectively shoulder his responsibility?
Communication Increases Joy

For the groom to carry out his responsibility for wedding preparations successfully, he must communicate effectively. The Bible pointedly says: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk.” (Proverbs 15:22) However, much frustration can be avoided if the groom first discusses wedding preparations with the bride, family members, and others who can give sound Bible-based advice.
A couple planning their wedding

A couple should communicate openly but respectfully while planning their wedding

Yes, it is vital that an engaged couple first discuss with each other the plans and possibilities. Why? Well, listen to some comments from Ivan and his wife, Delwyn, who have been happily married for many years but who came from different cultural backgrounds. Recalling their wedding plans, Ivan says: “I had definite ideas about what I wanted for my wedding, including a reception with all my friends present, a wedding cake, and my bride wearing a white wedding dress. Delwyn, on the other hand, wanted a small, simple wedding with no wedding cake. She even considered wearing something other than a wedding gown.”

How did this couple work out these differences? By kind, honest communication. (Proverbs 12:18) Ivan adds: “We studied Bible-based articles on the subject of weddings, such as those published in The Watchtower of April 15, 1984.* This material helped us to have a spiritual view of the occasion. In view of our different backgrounds, we had to compromise in several areas of personal choice. We met somewhere in the middle.”

Aret and Penny followed a similar course. Regarding their wedding day, Aret says: “Penny and I discussed our different desires for the wedding, and we were able to reach a harmonious agreement. We prayed for Jehovah’s blessing on the day. I also sought the advice of our parents and some other mature married couples in the congregation. Their suggestions were very helpful. As it turned out, our wedding was beautiful.”
Maintaining Dignity in Dress and Grooming

It is understandable that both bride and groom want to be well-dressed for their wedding. (Psalm 45:8-15) They may spend time, effort, and money on appropriate clothing. Which Bible principles can help them to choose what is both dignified and attractive?

Consider what the bride wears for the occasion. While tastes vary from person to person and from country to country, the Bible’s admonition is applicable everywhere. Women are “to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.” That applies to Christian women at all times, and it certainly includes the wedding day. The fact is that a joyful wedding does not require “very expensive garb.” (1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3, 4) How satisfying when this advice is applied!

David, mentioned earlier, comments: “Most couples endeavor to follow Bible principles, and they deserve commendation. There have been cases, though, when the gowns of brides and bridesmaids were immodest, being very low-cut or see-through.” In his meeting with the bride and groom beforehand, one mature Christian elder helps them to keep a spiritual perspective. How? By asking them whether the attire they have in mind would be modest enough to wear to a Christian meeting. Granted, the style of clothing might be different from regular meeting attire, and what is worn for the wedding may reflect local custom, but the level of modesty should accord with dignified Christian standards. Even if some in the world might view the Bible’s moral code as restrictive, true Christians are content to resist the world’s attempts to squeeze them into its mold.—Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 4:4.

“Rather than viewing the clothes or the reception as the most important thing,” says Penny, “Aret and I focused on the ceremony, the spiritual part of the occasion. It was the most important part of the day. The special things I remember are, not what I wore or ate, but whom I spent the day with and the happiness I felt at marrying the man I love.” A Christian couple do well to keep such thoughts in mind as they plan their wedding.
The Kingdom Hall—A Dignified Venue

Many Christian couples desire to have their wedding ceremony in a Kingdom Hall if such is available. Why do they prefer this? One couple explained their reasoning: “We realized that marriage is Jehovah’s sacred arrangement. Getting married in the Kingdom Hall, our place of worship, helped impress upon us right from the start that Jehovah needed to be part of our marriage. Another benefit of having the ceremony in the Kingdom Hall instead of at another location was that it showed our nonbelieving relatives who attended how important worship of Jehovah is for us.”

If the congregation elders responsible for the Kingdom Hall give permission for the wedding to be held there, the couple should advise them in advance of preparations that are being considered. One way the bride and groom can show due respect for those invited to the wedding is by being firmly resolved to arrive at the scheduled time for the wedding. And they will certainly want to be sure that everything is done in a dignified manner.# (1 Corinthians 14:40) They will thus avoid the outrageous displays that mark many worldly weddings.—1 John 2:15, 16.

Those who attend the wedding can also show that they have Jehovah’s view of marriage. For example, they would not expect the wedding to outdo other Christian weddings, as if there were some competition as to whose wedding was more elaborate. Mature Christians also realize that being at the Kingdom Hall for the Bible-based talk is more important and beneficial than being at a wedding feast or a gathering that might follow. If time or circumstances will permit a Christian to be present for only one of the two, being at the Kingdom Hall would certainly be preferable. An elder named William says: “If guests are needlessly absent from the Kingdom Hall but are present at the reception later, this shows a lack of appreciation for the sacredness of the occasion. Even if we are not invited to the reception, we can show our support for the bride and groom and give an excellent witness to nonbelieving relatives at the wedding by attending the ceremony at the Kingdom Hall.”
Joy That Lasts Beyond the Wedding Day

The commercial world has turned the wedding celebration into a huge industry. According to one recent report, the average wedding in the United States “costs $22,000, or half the average [annual] income of an American household.” Influenced by commercial propaganda, many newlyweds or their families incur for that one day a burdensome debt that they carry for years. Is such a course a prudent way to start one’s marriage? Those who do not know or do not care about Bible principles may opt for such extravagance, but how different it is among true Christians!

By limiting the size of their wedding to what is reasonable and affordable and by focusing on the spiritual aspect of the event, many Christian couples have been able to use their time and assets in line with their dedication to God. (Matthew 6:33) Consider the example of Lloyd and Alexandra, who have continued in the full-time ministry for 17 years since their marriage. Lloyd comments: “Some may have viewed our wedding as a rather simple event, but Alexandra and I were very pleased. We felt that our wedding day should be, not a financial burden to overcome, but a celebration of Jehovah’s arrangement to bring great happiness to two people.”

Alexandra adds: “I was in the pioneer ministry before we were married, and I did not want to give up this privilege just to have an extravagant wedding. Our wedding day was very special. However, it was only the first day of the rest of our lives together. We applied the advice to avoid concentrating too much on the act of getting married and have sought Jehovah’s guidance in our life of being married. This has definitely brought us Jehovah’s blessing.”%
A couple getting married

Keep the spiritual significance of your wedding day uppermost in mind

Yes, your wedding day is a special occasion. The attitudes and actions evident on that day can set a pattern for your married life for years to come. Therefore, rely on Jehovah for guidance. (Proverbs 3:5, 6) Keep the spiritual significance of the day uppermost in mind. Support each other in your God-assigned roles. You can thus lay a solid foundation for your marriage, and with Jehovah’s blessing, you will have joy that lasts well beyond your wedding day.—Proverbs 18:22.

Why Is Pornography So Widespread?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

LASCIVIOUS material designed to arouse sexual feelings dates back thousands of years. But during much of its history, pornography was difficult to produce and was therefore available primarily to the rich and the ruling classes. Mass printing and the invention of photography and moving pictures changed all that. Pornography became affordable and available to the less affluent.

The development of the videocassette recorder escalated this trend. Unlike cinema reels and old photographs, videocassettes were easy to store, copy, and distribute. They also allowed for private viewing at home. Recently, the proliferation of cable systems and the Internet has made pornography even more readily available. The consumer who is afraid that his neighbor will see him in the adult section of a video store can now "stay at home and order by pushing a button on his cable system, or his direct TV," says media analyst Dennis McAlpine. Easy access to this kind of programming has, according to McAlpine, contributed to "a lot more acceptability."
Pornography Becomes Mainstream

Many are ambivalent toward pornography because it has now entered the mainstream. "It is already a vastly bigger cultural presence than all our opera, ballet, theatre, music and fine art put together," says writer Germaine Greer. Modern attitudes toward pornography may be reflected by the 'prostitute-chic' fashions many celebrities sport, the music videos that increasingly flaunt sexual imagery, and the advertising media's adoption of a "porno aesthetic." McAlpine concludes: "Society is accepting what is being spoon-fed to it. . . . That's helping create the idea that all of this is good." As a result, "people don't seem to have a sense of outrage," laments author Andrea Dworkin. "They don't seem to care."
Computer, videocassette, DVD, television

Pornography has become more accessible
Pornography's Rationale

Echoing author Dworkin's comments, retired FBI agent Roger Young points out that many people "just don't see the big picture of obscenity and the problems that it causes." Some are swayed by those who defend pornography, claiming that there is no proof that pornographic images have a negative effect on people. "Pornography is fantasy after all," writes author F. M. Christensen, "a fact that its opponents seem to have difficulty keeping in focus." But if fantasy has no power, then upon what is the advertising industry based? Why would corporations spend millions of dollars producing commercials, videos, and printed ads if they have no lasting impact on people?

The fact is that like all successful advertising, pornography's main purpose is to create appetites where none existed before. "Pornography is about profits, pure and simple," write researchers Steven Hill and Nina Silver. "And in this marketplace gone amok, anything is considered an exploitable and expendable resource, particularly women's bodies and human sexual relations." Greer compares pornography to highly addictive fast food, devoid of nutrition and laced with taste-enhancing additives and chemicals. "Commercial fast sex," she says, "is fake sex . . . Food advertising sells fantasy food and sex advertising sells fantasy sex."

Some doctors claim that pornography can spark an addiction that is far more difficult to overcome than drug addiction. Treatment for drug addicts usually starts with detoxification to remove the substance from the body. But addiction to pornography, explains Dr. Mary Anne Layden of the University of Pennsylvania, "produces mental imagery which is permanently implanted in the mind of the user and is scaled in by brain chemistry." That is why individuals can vividly recall pornographic images from years past. She concludes: "This is the first addictive substance for which there is no hope for detoxification." But does that mean it is impossible to break free from pornography's influence? And what specific harm does pornography cause?

Internet Pornography Facts

* About 75 percent of Internet pornography originates in the United States. Close to 15 percent originates in Europe.
* It is estimated that some 70 million people a week visit pornographic Web sites. About 20 million of these users are in Canada and the United States.
* A study revealed that during a recent one-month period, Germany had the largest audience for on-line pornography in Europe, followed by Great Britain, France, Italy, and Spain.
* In Germany, Internet pornography users spend an average of 70 minutes each month viewing pornographic sites.
* Among European viewers of Internet pornography, those above 50 years of age spend the most time connected to adult Web sites.
* According to one source, 70 percent of Internet pornography traffic occurs during the day.
* It is estimated by some that 100,000 Internet sites include material on child pornography.
* About 80 percent of the Internet's commercial child pornography originates in Japan.

PORNOGRAPHY Harmless or Harmful?

It creates appetites that should not exist, it stimulates cravings that should never be satisfied."—Tony Parsons, columnist.

JOHN never intended to become addicted to 'Internet sex. Like many other people who are accidentally exposed to pornography and sex chat rooms, he was using the Internet one day when he stumbled upon a site offering such chat rooms. Soon, he was completely absorbed in cybersex. "I would wait for my wife to go to work," he remembers, "hop out of bed and spend hours in front of the computer." During marathon sessions, he would not even stop to eat or drink. "I had no awareness of [being] hungry," he says. He began to lie to his wife about his secret activities. It started to affect his concentration at work, and he became more and more paranoid. His marriage began to suffer, and when he finally arranged to meet one of his cybersex partners in real life, his wife became aware of it. Today John is being treated for his addiction.

Antipornography activists point to stories like this as proof of the degrading effects of pornography. It destroys relationships, they claim, demeans women, abuses children, and engenders a perverted and harmful view of sex. On the other hand, supporters defend pornography as free expression and view the detractors as prudish. "People should not be ashamed of their sexual orientation or desires," writes one proponent. "Pornography can be used to start and stimulate open discussions about sex." A few even suggest that the proliferation of pornography is the hallmark of an open, healthy society. "A society mature enough to cope with the explicit depiction of sex between consenting adults is likely to be one comfortable with sexual diversity and women's equality," says writer Brian McNair.

Does society's ambivalence make pornography acceptable? Why is it so widespread? Is pornography really a dangerous pursuit? The Next Article will consider these questions.

Keys to Family Happiness

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

He says: “After we were married, Sarah* and I lived with my family at my parents’ house. One day, my brother’s girlfriend asked me for a ride home in our car. I obliged and took my young son along. But when I returned home, Sarah was furious. We started arguing, and right in front of my family, she called me a womanizer. I lost my temper and started saying things that irritated her even more.”

She says: “Our son has a serious health problem, and at the time, we had financial trouble. So when Fernando left in the car with his brother’s girlfriend and our son, I was upset for several reasons. When he came home, I let him know how I felt. We had a huge argument and called each other names. I felt terrible afterward.”

IF A couple argue, does this mean that they no longer love each other? No! Fernando and Sarah, quoted above, love each other dearly. Yet, even in the best of marriages, there will occasionally be some conflict.

Why do conflicts arise, and what can you do to prevent them from ruining your marriage? Since marriage is an arrangement designed by God, it makes sense to examine what his Word, the Bible, has to say on this subject.—Genesis 2:21, 22; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
Understanding the Challenges

Most married couples want to treat each other in a loving and kind manner. However, the Bible realistically notes that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) So when disagreements arise, emotions may be difficult to control. And if an argument starts, some may find it a real struggle to resist bad habits, such as screaming and abusive speech. (Romans 7:21; Ephesians 4:31) What other factors might cause tension?

A husband and a wife often have different communication styles. “When we were first married,” says Michiko, “I discovered that we had very different attitudes about discussing matters. I like to talk about not only what happened but also why and how it happened. My husband seems to be interested in just the end result.”

Michiko’s dilemma is not unique. In many marriages, one partner may want to discuss a disagreement at length, while the other dislikes confrontation and wants to avoid the subject. Sometimes, the more one partner pursues the matter, the more the other tries to avoid it. Have you noticed this pattern emerging in your marriage? Does one of you always seem to play the part of the discusser, and the other, the part of the avoider?

Another factor to consider is that an individual’s family background may influence his or her perception of how married couples should communicate. Justin, who has been married for five years, says: “I come from a quiet family and find it difficult to talk openly about my feelings. This frustrates my wife. Her family is very expressive, and she has no problem letting me know how she feels.”
Why Work to Resolve Problems?

Researchers have found that the most reliable indicator of how happy a marriage will be is not how often the couple say that they love each other. Sexual compatibility and financial security are not the most important factors either. Instead, the most dependable indicator of marital success is how well husband and wife manage any conflicts that arise.

In addition, Jesus said that when a couple marry, it is not man but God who yokes them together. (Matthew 19:4-6) Therefore, a good marriage honors God. On the other hand, if a husband fails to show love and consideration for his wife, Jehovah God may ignore the man’s prayers. (1 Peter 3:7) If a wife does not respect her husband, she is really disrespecting Jehovah, who appointed the husband as head of the family.—1 Corinthians 11:3.
Keys to Success—Avoid Damaging Patterns of Speech

No matter what your communication style or family background, there are some damaging patterns of speech that must be avoided if you are to apply Bible principles and manage conflicts effectively. Ask yourself the following questions:

‘Do I resist the urge to retaliate?’ “The squeezing of the nose is what brings forth blood, and the squeezing out of anger is what brings forth quarreling,” states a wise proverb. (Proverbs 30:33) What does that mean? Consider this example. What starts out as a difference over how to balance the family budget (“we need to control credit-card spending”) may quickly mutate into an attack on each other’s character (“you are so irresponsible”). True, if your mate ‘squeezes your nose’ by launching into an attack on your character, you may feel the urge to ‘squeeze’ right back. However, retaliation only leads to anger and an escalation of the disagreement.

The Bible writer James warned: “Look! How little a fire it takes to set so great a woodland on fire! Well, the tongue is a fire.” (James 3:5, 6) When marriage mates fail to control their tongue, small disagreements can quickly flare into raging conflicts. And marriages that are repeatedly ravaged by such emotional firestorms do not provide an environment in which love can grow.

Instead of retaliating, can you imitate Jesus, who when being reviled “did not go reviling in return”? (1 Peter 2:23) The quickest way to take the heat out of a quarrel is to acknowledge your mate’s viewpoint and to apologize for your part in the conflict.

TRY THIS: The next time a dispute arises, ask yourself: ‘What would it cost me to acknowledge my mate’s concerns? What have I done that contributed to this problem? What prevents me from apologizing for my mistakes?’

‘Do I minimize or belittle my spouse’s feelings?’ “All of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling,” commands God’s Word. (1 Peter 3:8) Consider two of the reasons why you might fail to apply this advice. One is that you may lack insight into the mind, or the feelings, of your mate. For example, if your spouse is more distraught over some issue than you are, you might tend to say, “You’re just overreacting.” Your intention may be to help your mate see the problem in perspective. However, few people are comforted by such comments. Both wives and husbands need to know that the people whom they love understand and empathize with them.

Having undue pride might also prompt a person to belittle a mate’s feelings. A proud individual attempts to elevate himself by constantly putting others down. He might do so by means of name-calling or negative comparisons. Consider the example of the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ day. When anyone—even a fellow Pharisee—expressed an opinion that differed from that of these proud individuals, they resorted to name-calling and derogatory remarks. (John 7:45-52) Jesus was different. He empathized with others when they expressed themselves to him.—Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 5:25-34.

Think about how you react when your mate expresses his or her concerns. Do your words, tone of voice, and facial expressions convey empathy? Or do you tend quickly to dismiss your mate’s feelings?

TRY THIS: Over the coming weeks, notice how you speak to your spouse. If you are dismissive or say something demeaning, apologize immediately.

‘Do I often assume that my partner’s motives are selfish?’ “Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? Have not you yourself put up a hedge about him and about his house and about everything that he has all around?” (Job 1:9, 10) With those words, Satan called into question the motives of the faithful man Job.

If marriage mates are not careful, they may fall into a similar pattern. For example, if your mate does something nice for you, do you wonder what he or she wants or is covering up? If your mate makes a mistake, do you view this failing as confirmation that he or she is selfish and uncaring? Do you immediately recall similar mistakes from the past and add this one to the list?

TRY THIS: Make a list of the positive things that your mate has done for you and the good motives that could have prompted these actions.

The apostle Paul wrote: “Love . . . does not keep account of the injury.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5) Real love is not blind. But neither does it keep score. Paul also stated that love “believes all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) Not that this kind of love is gullible, but it is open to trust. It is not cynical, suspicious. The type of love that the Bible encourages is ready to forgive and is willing to give others the benefit of the doubt. (Psalm 86:5; Ephesians 4:32) When mates display this kind of love for each other, they will enjoy a happy marriage.

How Can I Cope When Tragedy Strikes?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why did the terrorists have to kill my mom?"—Kevin.*

"[Before September 11], I used to love tunnels. Now I imagine dying in a tunnel because of its being blown up."—Peter.

Related topics:

* Does God Really Care About Us?
* Mankind's Problems Soon to End!

KEVIN'S mother was killed in the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. Peter did not suffer a similar terrible loss, but he was still greatly affected by the events.

One news report says: "Thousands of children living in New York are struggling with mental problems related to [the attacks on] September 11 that in many cases will last into adulthood." Alarmingly, signs of emotional trauma were "just as prevalent in children who were nowhere near ground zero as in those who had witnessed the attacks first hand."#

The same might be said regarding other tragedies, such as suicide bombings in Israel and random shootings elsewhere. Regarding such shootings one expert on the effects of trauma said: "Even if [the children] live 2,000 miles away, these events can still increase [their] anxiety."

The reason? When disastrous events take place, young ones are exposed to a flood of graphic media coverage. Frightening images of terrorist bombings, school shootings, and natural disasters are repeated over and over again, making it difficult for many youths to erase the pictures from their minds. Little wonder that a survey conducted for the New York City Board of Education revealed: "Six months after the World Trade Center collapse, 76 percent of 8,266 public school students still thought frequently about the terrorist attacks."

We live in what the Bible calls "terrible times." (2 Timothy 3:1-5, New International Version) How can you cope when terrifying tragedies occur?%

Why Bad Things Happen

One way of dealing with emotions that seem to overwhelm you is to arouse your "clear thinking faculties." (2 Peter 3:1) Try to look at things from a rational, godly point of view. For example, you may need to remind yourself that many tragedies are simply the result of "time and unforeseen occurrence." (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Jesus Christ gave an example of this when he spoke of the collapse of a tower in Siloam. Eighteen people were killed in that local disaster. However, Jesus made it clear that the victims were not being punished by God. They died simply because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Luke 13:1-5) Meditating on this fact may help you to put disasters in perspective.

Clear thinking can also prevent you from becoming "enraged against Jehovah himself" and blaming him for the sad events. (Proverbs 19:3) Far from causing our misery, Jehovah is "the God of all comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:3) When tragedies occur, we need to draw close to him—not pull away in anger. Meditate on the Bible's words at James 1:13: "When under trial, let no one say: 'I am being tried by God.' For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone."^

A tragic event that occurred centuries ago in the Middle East may serve to illustrate this point. The Bible tells us that the sole survivor of that catastrophe reported: "The very fire of God fell from the heavens and went blazing among the sheep and the attendants and eating them up." (Job 1:16) What a horrible calamity! And this terrified man obviously thought that God was responsible for it. Yet, God was not. Job 1:7-12 reveals that the fire was sent, not by God, but by God's Adversary—Satan the Devil!

That was a unique situation: Jehovah had given Satan special permission to test Job's integrity. So don't conclude that Satan is directly responsible for natural disasters such as storms and floods.** Even so, the Bible does say that "the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one." (1 John 5:19) Hence, he can use human agents to wreak havoc and destruction.

Still, we do not need to feel helpless. Consider another incident, recorded in the Bible at 1 Samuel 22:12-23. There we learn of the vicious massacre of a group of faithful priests and their families. No doubt Satan had some role in spurring wicked King Saul on to commit this brutal act. However, faithful David, who later became king himself, wrote Psalm 52, in which he expressed confidence that God would annihilate the wicked men responsible for the calamity.—Psalm 52:5.

Similarly today, you can be sure that God will not forever tolerate Devil-inspired acts of murder and violence. Why, the Bible promises that God will soon use his Son, Jesus, to "break up the works of the Devil"! (1 John 3:8) Eventually, there will be no traces left of the damage Satan has done. By means of a resurrection, God can even restore to life individuals who have died in tragic acts of violence or terrorism.—Acts 24:15.

Practical Ways to Cope

This Bible-based hope can help you to avoid being overwhelmed by fear. But there are also some practical steps you can take. For example, note the Bible principle at Proverbs 12:25. Only by sharing your feelings with others can you receive the "good word" of encouragement. Doing so will also help you to realize that you are not going through your ordeal alone. So if you are feeling distressed, try opening up to your parents or to a mature member of the Christian congregation.##

Another suggestion: Don't overdose on graphic media coverage of tragic events. Doing so only makes it harder to erase troubling images from your mind.—Psalm 119:37.

Are you a Christian? Then stick with your routine of Christian activities. (Philippians 3:16) Such activities include attending meetings with fellow Christians and sharing your faith with others. (Hebrews 10:23-25) That will help to keep you from dwelling on negative thoughts. Isolating yourself would only damage you—emotionally and spiritually.—Proverbs 18:1.

Continuing to read the Bible daily can be particularly helpful in any stressful situation. The mother of a youth named Loraine was dying of cancer. Note how Loraine coped with this tragic situation: "I remember reading the book of Job several times during the ordeal. The book of Psalms also provided me with much comfort. As I read the comforting words from the Scriptures, I felt as if Jehovah were embracing me." Her sister Mishael likewise recalls: "If there was a day I skipped reading the Bible, I felt it. My mind would automatically go back to thinking negative thoughts. Reading the Bible gave me the spiritual nourishment I needed to get through each day."

If you have suffered loss—especially the death of a loved one—reading the brochure When Someone You Love Dies%% can be very comforting. Take the time to read and meditate on all the cited scriptures. Meditate, too, on the hope of the resurrection. "I would literally envision my mother coming back in the resurrection," says Loraine. "I would imagine hearing her say: 'I'm back. Now what did you cook for dinner?' That would make me smile."

Leaning on Jehovah in prayer can also give you the strength that you need to endure the worst of tragedies. Loraine recalls: "I was in the room when my mother took her last breath. I immediately asked Jehovah to give me the strength to endure and to get through this. I immediately felt the peace of God." Be specific in your prayers to Jehovah. Let him know exactly how you feel. "Before him pour out your heart," urges the psalmist.—Psalm 62:8.

As time passes, distress on earth will likely increase. (2 Timothy 3:13) Still, the Bible promises: "Evildoers themselves will be cut off . . . But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace." (Psalm 37:9-11, 29) Clinging to this hope will help you to cope successfully when tragedies occur.

How Can I Deal With Sexual Harassment?

"Boys make wolf whistles and catcalls."—Carla, Ireland.

"Girls call on the telephone again and again. They try to wear you down."—Jason, United States.

"He kept touching my arm and trying to hold my hand."—Yukiko, Japan.

"Girls make suggestive comments to me."—Alexande.

"One boy kept shouting things at me from the school bus. He didn't really want to go out with me. He was just harassing me."—Rosilyn, United States.

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 4:3-8) 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!
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

How Can I Conquer This Habit?

PERHAPS you, like Luiz, have been enslaved to the habit of masturbation. You know that Jehovah would be pleased with you if you resisted the urge and exercised self-control, a fruit of God’s holy spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23; 2 Peter 1:5, 6) But at times you give in. After each relapse, you conclude that you are a lost cause, that you are incapable of living up to God’s righteous standards.

That is precisely how young Pedro viewed himself. “When I relapsed, I felt terrible,” he says. “I thought that I could never atone for what I had done. I found it hard to pray. I would start by saying: ‘Jehovah, I don’t know whether you are going to hear this prayer, but . . .’” A young man named André had similar thoughts. “I felt like such a hypocrite,” he says. “It was a struggle to get out of bed in the morning and face the day. I found it difficult to sit through Christian meetings or to participate in the ministry.”

If your feelings are similar to those of Luiz, Pedro, or André, take courage. You’re not alone, and your case is not hopeless! Many young people—and older ones—have struggled with masturbation and have been able to overcome it. You can too.#
Dealing With Guilt

As already noted, those who have fallen into the habit of masturbation are often plagued with guilt. Without a doubt, being “saddened in a godly way” can give you the incentive to overcome the habit. (2 Corinthians 7:11) But excessive guilt can be counterproductive. It can make you feel so discouraged that you just want to give up the fight.—Proverbs 24:10.

Strive, then, to put the matter in perspective. Masturbation is a form of uncleanness. It can make you a ‘slave to various desires and pleasures,’ and it fosters attitudes that can be mentally corrupting. (Titus 3:3) At the same time, self-masturbation is not a form of gross sexual immorality, such as fornication. (Ephesians 4:19) Hence, if you have a problem with masturbation, you need not conclude that you have committed the unforgivable sin. The key is to resist the urge and never to give up your fight!

Sometimes it is easy to become downhearted after a relapse. When that occurs, take to heart the words of Proverbs 24:16: “The righteous one may fall even seven times, and he will certainly get up; but the wicked ones will be made to stumble by calamity.” A temporary setback does not make you a wicked person. So do not give up. Instead, analyze what led to the relapse, and try to avoid repeating the same pattern.

Instead of continually berating yourself for your problem, take time to meditate on God’s love and mercy. The psalmist David, who was no stranger to weakness, stated: “As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him. For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13, 14) Yes, Jehovah takes into consideration our imperfection and is “ready to forgive” when we err. (Psalm 86:5) On the other hand, he wants us to put forth effort to improve.

What practical steps can you take to conquer your habit and to avoid a relapse?
The Value of Confiding

Despite the publicity given to sex in a number of lands, many people still find it difficult to talk about sex in a serious, dignified way. In your case shame might make it difficult for you to bring up the subject even to a confidant. One Christian who struggled with masturbation for several years commented: “How I wish I could have summoned the courage to talk to someone about it when I was a youth! Feelings of guilt plagued me for many years, and it seriously affected my relationships with others and, above all, with Jehovah.”

Whom should you talk to? The best person would be someone who is spiritually mature, preferably a parent. You could start by saying: “May I talk to you about a problem that is bothering me a lot?”

Mário decided to talk to his father, who proved to be very sympathetic and understanding. He even admitted to Mário that he himself had battled with the habit when he was younger. “My father’s honesty and sincerity encouraged me greatly,” Mário says. “I reasoned that if he had been victorious, I could be too. I was so moved by my father’s attitude that I broke down and cried.”

André gathered the courage to talk to a Christian elder, and he is glad that he did.% “As the elder listened to me, his eyes filled with tears,” says André. “When I finished, he assured me of Jehovah’s love for me. He told me that my problem is a common one. He promised to check on my progress and to bring me more information from Bible-study aids. Talking with him, I resolved to keep up the fight—even if further relapses occurred.”

Like Mário and André, you can find help in your efforts to conquer the habit of masturbation. Follow the advice in the accompanying box, “Take the Offensive!” Yes, be assured that you can win the battle!

* Names in this article have been changed.

# Although the people quoted in this article are males, many females also struggle with masturbation. Hence, the advice given pertains to both genders. Note, too, that this article discusses masturbating oneself. Doing it outside of marriage to another person is included in what the Bible calls fornication, a very serious sin in God’s eyes.—See the article “Young People Ask . . . What’s Wrong With Premarital Sex?” in our issue of July 22, 2004, pages 12-14.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Most people expect marriage mates to be sexually faithful to each other. This view of marital fidelity agrees with the bible, which says: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement.
Is refraining from sex with other partners the full extent of what it means to be faithful in a marriage? What about sexual fantasies involving someone other than your marriage mate? Could a close friendship with some one of the opposite sex become a form of infidelity?
How ask an individual ask yourself : Are sexual fantasies Harmless? The bible present sex as a natural and whole some part of married life, a source of mutual joy and satisfaction. But many experts believe that it is normal even healthy for a married person to fantasize about other sexual partners. Are such fantasies harmless as long as they are not acted upon? Sexual fantasies typically focus on personal gratification. Such self-centered behavior is contrary to the bible’s advice for married people. Regarding sexual relations God’s word says: “The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body , but his wife does. Following the bible’s counsel prevents sex from becoming a fantasy-fueled act of lust and selfishness. As a result, both marriage mates enjoy greater happiness.
Fantasies of sex outside of marriage involve mentally rehearsing actions that if carried out would cause great emotional pain to one’s mate. Will engaging in sexual fantasies increase the likelihood of committing adultery? The simple answer is yes. The bible illustrate the link between thoughts and actions: “Each one is tired by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin”-James 1: 14, 15.
Jesus said: “Everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. This statement apply to both male and female, If a woman look at a man so has to have affection for him has already committed fornication in her heart. So by refusing to dwell on adulterous fantasies, you will safe guard your heart and protect your relationship.
Why do you have to be emotionally faithful? A successful marriage requires giving exclusive devotion to your mate. What does this mean? While it is normal to have friends of both sexes outside marriage, your marriage mate has first claim on your time, attention, and emotional energy. Any relationship that takes what is right belongs to your mate and gives it to someone else is forms of “infidelity” even if no sexual activity is involved, also I want you to note some thing, and that is sexual relationship outside the marriage constitute grounds for scriptural divorce.
How could such a relationship develop? Someone of the opposite sex may seems more attractive or empathetic than your spouse. Spending time with that one in the workplace or in a social setting can lead to discussing personal matters, including problems or disappointments in your marriage. An emotional dependency can grow. Communication in person, by telephone, or through online chat could become a betrayal of trust. Marriage mats properly expect that certain topics will be discussed only with each other and that their confidential talk will be kept private.
Beware of rationalizing that no romantic feeling exist when in fact they may!!! The heart is treacherous, says Jeremiah 17: 9. If you have a close friendship with some one of the opposite sex as yourself: ‘Am I defensive or secretive about the relationship? Would I be comfortable if my mate overheard our conversations? How would I feel if my mate cultivated a similar friendship? Always remember an improper relationship can lead to a marital disaster, since emotional closeness paves way for eventual sexual intimacy. As Jesus warns” out of the heart come adulteries. However, even if adultery does not result, the damage caused by loss of trust can be extremely difficult to repair. A wife named Joy said: When I discovered that Matthew( her husband) was secretly talking on the phone several times a day with another woman, my heart was broken. It is very hard to believe that they were not involve sexually. I am not sure that I will ever trust him.
Keep friendships with members of the opposite sex within appropriate boundaries. Do not ignore the presence of improper feelings or rationalize impure motives. If you sense that a relationship threatens your marriage, act quickly to limit or end it. The bible said: “Shrewd is the one that proceed to see calamity and conceal himself.”-proverbs 22: 3.
Our creator intended that marriage should be the closest relationship two humans. He said that husband and wife must become on flesh. THE FLESH BOND INVOVLES MORE THAN SEXUAL INTIMACY. It includes a close emotional bond, which is strengthened by unselfishness, trust, and mutual respect. Applying these principles will help to protect your marriage from damage caused by mental and emotional unfaithfulness.

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