Chocolate From Bean to You

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The unique taste of chocolate delights the palate of people the world over. Where does chocolate come from, and how is it produced? Come with us as we travel through the history of chocolate.

BOTANISTS say that wild cacao trees likely grew in the Amazon and Orinoco valleys of South America thousands of years ago. The Maya may have been the first to cultivate cacao (also called cocoa), which they took with them when they migrated to the Yucatán. The Aztec royalty thrived on the bitter chocolate drink concocted by mixing ground cacao beans with fermented corn or wine, which was then served in golden cups. It is said that the Aztec Emperor Montezuma drank more than 50 cups of chocolate a day.

Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés (1485-1547) was much more interested in the golden cups than the liquid inside, although he did note that the Aztecs used cacao beans as money. He wasted no time in establishing cacao plantations. These plantations of “brown gold” paid off, and Spain essentially controlled the cacao bean market into the 18th century.

The Spaniards took the beans to Haiti, Trinidad, and the West African island of Bioko. One pod of beans was taken from that island to mainland Africa, and now a cacao trade flourishes in four West African nations.
Chocolate in Europe

In the 16th century, Cortés introduced the chocolate drink of the Aztecs to the Spanish court. The ladies of the Spanish royalty secretly sipped their spiced and sometimes peppered beverage, keeping it to themselves. In time, the drink was introduced to the upper echelons of European society.

Europeans were enamored with the novel taste and also the supposed healing properties of chocolate. In 1763 the brewers of British beer and ale felt so threatened by the soaring popularity of chocolate that they called for legislation to restrict its manufacture. Fierce competition in the chocolate trade led some to add starches to make the chocolate go further. To intensify the color of the chocolate, the English even added a bit of brick dust! The demand for better and tastier chocolate kept growing.

The industrial revolution introduced mechanization into the manufacturing process of chocolate. When the steam engine began to be used to power chocolate mills, chocolate went from being hand-ground to machine-ground. Chocolate experienced an even greater change in 1828 when the Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten learned how to separate the cocoa powder and butter from the paste of the ground cacao beans. As a result, innovators later created the precise combination of chocolate liquor (a thick dark paste), cocoa butter, and sugar to produce solid “eating chocolate.”

In the latter half of the 1800’s, the Swiss developed a process that further refined chocolate. In this process, known as conching, the paste of ground beans is passed between porcelain disks for many hours, creating a silky chocolate that melts on the tongue. Connoisseurs claim that the best chocolate is conched for no less than 72 hours.

Many clever entrepreneurs, such as Hershey, Kohler, Lindt, Nestlé, Peter, Suchard, and Tobler—names you may recognize from chocolate boxes today—made significant contributions to the chocolate industry, either by inventing more efficient machinery or by refining chocolate recipes.

A cacao tree
The Source of Chocolate

The tropical cacao tree grows best within 20 degrees north or south of the equator. It thrives in a shady and humid climate. The trees produce flowers and fruit all year long. The fruit of the cacao tree, a melonlike pod, grows directly from the trunk and lower branches.
A machete and pods

What happens on cacao plantations at harvesttime? The ripe pods are cut from the tree using machetes or bamboo poles fitted with sharp knives. The pods are split open to reveal between 20 and 50 beans embedded in a white bittersweet pulp. The beans are then scooped out of the husk by hand. During harvesttime, harvesters often work from dawn till dusk splitting the pods and scooping out the beans. The beans are then covered and left for several days. It is during this stage that the pulp ferments and chemical reactions turn the cacao beans chocolate brown. Next, the beans are dried, either by spreading them out in the hot sun or using hot-air blowers. Drying preserves them for shipping and storage.

There are basically two types of cacao beans, the Forastero and the Criollo. The Forastero is the standard, or base, bean, which makes up the greater part of the world’s production. The main cultivation areas are in West Africa, Brazil, and Southeast Asia. The Criollo is the flavor bean. It is cultivated on a much smaller scale in Central America, Ecuador, and Venezuela. It adds the nutty or floral nuances to chocolate.
Dried cacao beans

After the drying process, the cacao beans are ready to be packed into sacks and shipped to chocolate manufacturers around the world, mainly in Europe and North America. About two handfuls of these dried cacao beans will make one pound of chocolate candy. It is difficult to imagine that the bitter seeds of the cacao fruit can be transformed into the delicate confections that we find in a box of chocolates, but the process has essentially not changed for centuries.
The Making of Chocolate

Upon arrival at the factory, the beans are cleaned and sorted. In much the same way as coffee beans are roasted to bring out their best flavor, the cacao beans are now roasted to bring out the full chocolate aroma. The beans are then cracked open. The dark brown particles inside, the nibs, are the basis for all cocoa and chocolate.

The nibs are ground to produce a thick dark paste, called chocolate liquor. When hardened, it is sold as baking chocolate. The liquor is then subjected to high pressure—the process that Van Houten invented—and cocoa butter is extracted, leaving a residue of cocoa powder. If extra cocoa butter is added to chocolate liquor, the tasty blend is on its way to becoming the eating chocolate that we are familiar with. Conching and other refining processes work together to produce the type of chocolate that consumers prefer today.
White, milk, and dark chocolate

So the next time you enjoy the rich, velvety flavor of chocolate, take a moment to think about the long journey it has made from the bitter bean growing in the Tropics to the appealing chocolate confection before you.

A Fascinating Visit to Olympic National Park

HAVING been raised close to the original Mount Olympus in southern Europe, I was naturally curious about the Olympian qualities of a thumb of land thousands of miles away that extends into the Pacific from the edge of North America. A friend's mention of rain forests in that remote area—5,000 miles [8,000 km] northwest of the Amazon—was enough to lure me to Olympic National Park.

A little homework before the visit revealed that the 900,000-acre [350,000 ha] park, located in the northwest corner of the United States in Washington State, is an intriguing array of natural wonders. Here, beneath the Pacific mist that enfolds shoreline and timberline, one can discover large trees, jagged coastline, and some of the wettest weather on earth. The park has tall mountains, snowcapped and overrun with slow-moving glaciers, and a rain forest as mysterious and dark as any in the Amazon region.

In 1788 an English captain named the highest peak—rising to just under 8,000 feet [at just under 2,500 meters]—Mount Olympus, after the legendary home of the mythical gods of Greece. To preserve this untamed wilderness, Olympic National Park was established in 1938.
Rain Forests in North America?
Hoh rain forest
Glacier-capped Mount Olympus descends to the Hoh rain forest

On a pleasant autumn morning, Mike, a native of the area and a guide, waited for my wife and me at the park headquarters, in Port Angeles. A tall, barrel-chested man, Mike takes pride in showing the treasures of the rain forest to visitors like us. "The rain forests are perhaps the most extraordinary phenomena at Olympic," he said with evident exuberance. "The term is usually applied to tropical forests. Ours here are among the less extensive rain forests in temperate latitudes." When I ask for an explanation, Mike is quick with the math: The forests are fed by the abnormally high rainfall on the western slopes of the Olympic Mountains, ranging from about 80 inches [200 cm] a year near the coast to 150 inches [400 cm] or more along the river valleys in the foothills. Three valleys contain most of the rain forests: those of the Hoh, Queets, and Quinault rivers.

Our footsteps on the nearly two feet [.5 m] of duff on the forest floor are muffled. The thickness of the trees keeps out wind; even the rain that so frequently falls here filters down as a sort of green mist. The sun reaches us at the forest floor only in tiny, blurred patches. The softest birdsong seems loud, and occasionally deer flit like brown ghosts among the moss-laden trunks.
Why So Much Rainfall?

Moisture-laden clouds blowing inland from a warm Pacific coastal current are forced to rise by the high barrier of the Olympic Mountains. As the clouds ascend, they cool, and their moisture condenses into heavy rain or snow. Thus, the western slope of the mountains receives upwards of 140 inches [350 cm] of precipitation per year. Mount Olympus receives some 200 inches [500 cm], falling mostly as snow. However, land on its eastern side lying in what is known as a rain shadow stays comparatively dry.
Where Trees Sprout on Other Trees

Since the ground cover is so dense, seeds rarely get a chance to grow—which is why most of the biggest trees in the forest sprouted from nurse logs. These are fallen, decomposing trees that act as a fertile host to seeds that drop onto them. It is not uncommon to see several great trees growing in a line along one fallen giant, and the prevalence of nurse logs accounts for the occasional occurrence of colonnades of trees—as if they had been carefully planted in rows.

As we leave behind the level trails and climb higher into the Olympics, the forest changes, with record-size Pacific silver fir and alpine fir being the predominant species. Mount Olympus has 7 glaciers on its flanks, with ice 900 feet [300 m] thick in places, and there are more than 50 glaciers in the high country.

Flowers and deer
In the alpine meadows, there are many deer and unique plants, such as the Flett violet

Jagged Peaks and Glacier-Mantled Ramparts

The calories burned on that strenuous hike had to be replaced. Thus, our next day started with a hearty breakfast at a diner in Port Angeles. Arlene, our friendly waitress, was thrilled not so much with the rainfall in the area as with the snow. She insisted that we would see nothing of the wonders of the Olympics if we didn't visit higher ground toward the eastern snowcapped slopes of the park.

As we followed the road east of Port Angeles to Deer Park, we soon found ourselves on mostly steep unpaved roadway with a succession of hairpin turns. We were rewarded with a magnificent view both to the north and to the south, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island and toward the lofty, icy heart of the Olympic Mountains. In the alpine meadows, we could see numerous deer and some delicate plants that grow nowhere else on earth, including the piper bellflower and the Flett violet.

Next we came to Hurricane Ridge. It is easy to see why the road leading to it is a popular mountain highway in the park. It is a good road, starting near park headquarters and finishing at an altitude of 5,757 feet [1,755 m] in flowering meadows right on the edge of the Olympics. From there, the mountains extend into the distance to the south, a succession of snowy peaks with glaciers filling the valleys between them. As we gazed at the view, piled masses of clouds scurried across from the west.

The first avalanche lilies bloom as the snow withdraws from the meadows, and for the next three months, there is a succession of colorful flowers. Browsing deer can be seen against the splendid mountain backdrop, and sometimes mountain goats can be spotted clinging to the steep cliffs above the highway.
The Pounding Surf of the Pacific
Rialto Beach
Driftwood along Rialto Beach

Access to the very best of the Olympic beaches is for the hiker rather than the driver. Hiking through the woods from the eastern town of Forks, we reached beaches with tide pools that were full of endlessly fascinating marine life. Beyond Teahwhit Head, we came upon the Giants Graveyard, a confused offshore jumble of contorted rock formations that break the huge Pacific surges into foam. Trees along these shores are bent almost flat by the constant push of the battering wind off the sea. As we walked down into the gale, we were surrounded by beautifully shaped driftwood and smoothly polished stones.

For us the Olympic National Park experience was essentially one of wildness and timelessness. It filled us with awe for the Creator, "he in whose hand are the inmost depths of the earth and to whom the peaks of the mountains belong; to whom the sea, which he himself made, belongs and whose own hands formed the dry land itself.

What Future Do You Want for Your Children?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

DO YOU consider your children to be an inheritance of great value? (Psalm 127:3) Or do you view the rearing of them as a financial burden with no guarantee of success? Rather than bringing monetary profit, raising children costs money until they can sustain themselves. Just as managing an inherited fortune requires good planning, so does successful parenting.

Caring parents want to give their children a good start in life. Although bad and very sad things may happen in this world, parents can do much to protect their offspring. Consider the case of Werner and Eva, mentioned in the preceding article.*

When Parents Really Care

Werner reports that instead of letting things take their course, his parents showed genuine interest in what was going on in school. "I appreciated very much the practical suggestions they gave me, and I felt that they cared for me and were supporting me. As parents, they were quite firm, but I knew that they were my real friends." And when Eva became so upset over her schoolwork that she was depressed and had problems sleeping, her parents, Francisco and Inez, also spent considerable time talking with her and helping her to recover mental and spiritual balance.

A family picking peaches together

How did Francisco and Inez seek to protect their children and prepare them for adult life? Well, from the time the children were infants, these loving parents always involved them in their daily activities. Instead of just socializing with their adult friends, Inez and Francisco had the children with them wherever they went. As loving parents, they also gave their son and daughter proper guidance. Says Inez: "We taught them to care for the home, to be economical, and to care for their own clothes. And we helped each one of them to choose a profession and to reconcile their responsibilities with spiritual interests."

How vital it is to get to know your children and provide parental guidance! Let us examine three areas in which you might do this: (1) Help your children to choose an appropriate type of secular work; (2) prepare them to cope with emotional stress in school and in the workplace; (3) show them how to satisfy their spiritual needs.

Help Them Choose Suitable Work

Since a person's secular work not only affects his financial situation but also takes much of his time, good parenting includes considering each child's interests and abilities. Since no conscientious individual wants to be a burden to others, parents should think seriously about how their child can be prepared to sustain himself and a family. Would your son or daughter need to learn a trade in order to make a decent living? As a truly caring parent, make consistent efforts to help your child develop such qualities as a desire to work industriously, willingness to learn, and the ability to get along well with others.

Consider Nicole. She says: "My parents had me work with them in their cleaning business. They suggested that I give a percentage of my earnings toward our household expenses and keep what was left for my own spending or savings. This gave me a heightened sense of responsibility that proved very useful later in life."

God's Word, the Bible, does not specify what type of secular work a person should choose. But it does provide sound guidelines. For instance, the apostle Paul said: "If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat." Writing to Christians in Thessalonica, he also said: "We hear certain ones are walking disorderly among you, not working at all but meddling with what does not concern them. To such persons we give the order and exhortation in the Lord Jesus Christ that by working with quietness they should eat food they themselves earn."—2 Thessalonians 3:10-12.

Yet, getting a job and making money is not all there is to life. Eventually, those who are too ambitious are likely to become discontented and may discover that they are "striving after wind." (Ecclesiastes 1:14) Rather than urging their children to pursue recognition and prosperity, parents do well to help them see the wisdom of the apostle John's divinely inspired words: "Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one's means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever."—1 John 2:15-17.

How Can You Satisfy Their Emotional Needs?

As a parent, why not be like a trainer of athletes? He does not focus only on developing in the athletes in his care the physical capacity to run faster or to jump farther. Likely, he also endeavors to help them to overcome any negative attitude, thus reinforcing their emotional strength. In your case, how can you encourage, build up, and motivate your children?

Consider Rogério, a 13-year-old youth. Besides internal turmoil as a result of bodily changes, he experienced emotional stress because of parental disunity and lack of attention. What can be done for young people like him? Though it is impossible to shelter your children from all anxieties and bad influences, never give up your role as a parent. Without being overprotective, discipline your offspring with understanding, always remembering that each child is unique. By showing kindness and love, you can do much to make a young person feel secure. This will also prevent him from growing up lacking confidence and self-respect.

Regardless of how successful your own parents were in satisfying your emotional needs, three things can assist you to succeed as a truly helpful parent: (1) Avoid being so absorbed in your own difficulties that you ignore the seemingly small problems of your children; (2) endeavor to have pleasant and meaningful daily communication with them; (3) promote a positive attitude regarding how to solve problems and deal with people.

Looking back on her years as a teenager, Birgit says: "I had to learn that you cannot change people to be what you want them to be. My mother reasoned with me that if I saw something in others that I did not like, what I could do was avoid being like them. She also said that the best time to change my own ways would be while I was still young."

Yet, your children need more than a job and emotional stability. Ask yourself, 'Do I view parenting as a God-given responsibility?' If you do, you will want to attend to the spiritual needs of your children.

Ways to Meet Their Spiritual Needs

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ said: "Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them." (Matthew 5:3) What is involved in satisfying spiritual needs? Children benefit greatly when parents set a fine example in showing faith in Jehovah God. The apostle Paul wrote: "Without faith it is impossible to please [God] well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him." (Hebrews 11:6) For faith to have real meaning, however, prayer is needed. (Romans 12:12) If you acknowledge your own spiritual need, you will seek divine guidance, as did the father of the child who became Israel's noted Judge Samson. (Judges 13:8) You will not only pray but also go to God's inspired Word, the Bible, for help.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.#

Despite all the hard work involved in providing sound guidance, emotional support, and spiritual help, parenting can be rewarding. A father of two in Brazil comments: "I cannot even imagine not having my children. There is so much good that we can share with them." In explaining why the children are doing well, the mother adds: "We are always together, and we try to make things festive and happy. And, most important, we always pray for the children."

Priscilla recalls the love and patience her parents displayed toward her whenever there was a problem. "They were my real friends and helped me in everything," she says. "As a child, I truly felt that I was being treated as 'an inheritance from Jehovah.'" (Psalm 127:3) Like many other parents, why not schedule time with your children so that you can read the Bible and Christian publications together? Considering Bible accounts and principles in a positive atmosphere can help your children to be confident and to have a real hope for the future.

When All Children Will Be Secure

Although the future looks gloomy for many children today, God's Word guarantees that the earth will soon be a secure home for mankind. Imagine the time in God's promised new world when parents will not have to worry about the safety of their children! (2 Peter 3:13) Try to envision the grand fulfillment of this prophecy: "The wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them." (Isaiah 11:6) Even today, the spiritual security described in these words has a figurative fulfillment among those who serve Jehovah. In their midst, you will feel God's loving care. If you manifest love for God, you can be assured that he understands your feelings as a parent and will help you to cope with the anxieties and trials that may come your way. Study his Word and place your hope in his Kingdom.

Help your children on the way to eternal life by setting a fine example. If you take refuge in Jehovah God, your future and that of your children can exceed all your expectations. You can have the same confidence as did the psalmist who sang: "Take exquisite delight in Jehovah, and he will give you the requests of your heart."—Psalm 37:4.

How Can You Protect Your Children?

AFTER attending a neighborhood school for years, Werner* began advanced studies along with about 3,000 other youths in São Paulo, Brazil. For the first time, he observed fellow students selling and using drugs. Being of small stature, he soon became a victim of degrading and risky initiation rites by older students.

Werner's sister Eva also had problems. Wanting to do her best, she studied so intensely that she experienced burnout and mental confusion. Like other adolescents, Werner and Eva needed both physical and emotional protection. What kind of help do your children need? How can you prepare them for adult life? Indeed, what future do you want for your children?

They Need More Than Sustenance

Think for a moment about the challenge that parents face in protecting their children today. Because of a decline in the quality of family life and an increase in poverty, in many lands the number of children who live on the streets is increasing. Child labor is a result of a failure to protect young ones from exploitation. Drug abuse also destroys many young ones. For example, when a certain Brazilian teenager became a drug addict, peace disappeared from his home. Besides the emotional strain experienced by his parents, there was the struggle to finance his recovery, and pitiless narcotics dealers came to their door demanding payment.

Despite the pressures of life, however, many parents continue the struggle of providing their children not only with food, clothing, and shelter but also with protection from violence, drug abuse, and other problems. This is a noble endeavor, but is it enough? What about protection from emotional and spiritual harm? Many realize that successful parenting includes the tackling of challenges that involve their children's choice of friends and recreation. Yet, how can parents avoid being either overprotective or too permissive?

who are jehovah witnesses?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I want to tell you all that the next article will talk about who Jehovah witnesses are, they are one group of people that are highly organized and evetything they be!ieve in is in the power of Jehovah becos he is the creator of heaven and earth and will always forgive us, if we ask him with a genuine mind.

Can Riches Make You Happy?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Do you think that riches would make you happy? If somebody gave you a large sum of money, would you not be pleased? Probably you would. Likely you could think of ways to spend it.

ADMITTEDLY, there are plenty of things to buy to make life more comfortable and enjoyable. Money can also serve "for a protection" against unexpected problems, such as disease or unemployment.—Ecclesiastes 7:12.

But what is the relationship between money and happiness? Do you think, as many do, that happiness is a by-product of wealth? Finding the answers to these questions may be difficult because money can easily be measured, or counted, while happiness cannot. You cannot put happiness on a scale and weigh it.

Then, too, some rich people seem to be happy, while others are miserable. The same is true of those who are poor. Still, most people—even those who are already wealthy—believe that more money will bring them greater happiness.

One person who wrote about such matters was King Solomon of ancient Israel. He was one of the richest men who ever lived. You can read a description of his enormous wealth in the 10th chapter of the Bible book of First Kings. Notice, for example, that verse 14 states: "The weight of the gold that came to Solomon in one year amounted up to six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold." That figure is equivalent to 25 tons of gold. Today, that much gold would be worth well over $200,000,000, U.S.!

Solomon at his palace Yet, Solomon was not merely rich; he was blessed by God with wisdom. The Bible relates: "King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. And all the people of the earth were seeking the face of Solomon to hear his wisdom that God had put in his heart." (1 Kings 10:23, 24) We too can benefit from Solomon's wisdom, since his writings make up part of the Bible record. Let us see what he had to say about the relationship between wealth and happiness

How to Make Real Friends

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We All Need Friends
“A friend is someone you can talk to freely about anything, someone you can call any time of the day.” —Mary
“A friend understands when you’re hurt and feels the same things inside that you do.” —John
“THERE exists a friend sticking closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) Since the time those words were written in the Bible some 3,000 years ago, human nature has not changed. Friendship is still as vital to the human spirit as food and water are to the human body. Yet, for many, satisfying this basic need for friendship is difficult. Loneliness is common. “We don’t have to look far to see some of the causes,” state Carin Rubenstein and Phillip Shaver in their book In Search of Intimacy. They cite such factors as “widespread mobility”—people changing residence frequently—“impersonal, crime-ridden cities,” and “the substitution of television and home videotape-viewing for face-to-face community life.”

Modern life also spreads our time and energy thin. “Today’s city dweller comes into contact with more people in a week than the seventeenth-century villager did in a year or even a lifetime,” writes Letty Pogrebin in her book Among Friends. With potentially hundreds of acquaintances crowding our lives, it can be difficult to focus on individuals long enough to develop and sustain deep friendships.

Even in places where not long ago the pace of life was less hectic, social conditions are changing rapidly. “We used to feel very, very close to our friends,” says Ulla, who lives in Eastern Europe. “But now many immerse themselves in their jobs or in personal pursuits. Everyone is busy all the time, and we sense our old friendships slowly coming apart.” In the haste of the times, friendships can get relegated to a lower priority.

But our need for friends remains acute. Young people in particular feel this need. As Yaël, quoted above, explains, “when you are young, you need to feel accepted and to belong, to feel close to someone.” Young or old, we all need happy and meaningful friendships. And despite the challenges, there is much we can do to make and keep real friends. The following articles will discuss this.

How Can I Avoid Getting Involved With the Wrong People?

WHY did Beverly reach the conclusion expressed above? She now realizes that this girl influenced her to become involved in unwholesome trends. “As I continued to associate with her,” Beverly explains, “I also became involved in spiritistic books, even writing a story along those lines.”

A youth named Melanie was also led into misconduct—but by someone claiming to be a fellow Christian! How can you know whether someone is likely to be a wholesome associate? Is it always dangerous to associate closely with unbelievers? Are friendships formed between fellow Christians always safe?

In particular, what about friendship with a member of the opposite sex? If you are looking at someone as a potential marriage mate, how can you know whether the relationship is likely to be a wholesome one? Let us see how Bible principles can help answer such questions.
What Kind of Friends Are Good?

Should the fact that her schoolmate was not a worshipper of the true God have made Beverly hesitate to cultivate a friendship with her? Granted, true Christians do not assume that a person is indecent or immoral simply because he or she is not a fellow believer. But when it comes to forming close bonds, there is reason to be cautious. The apostle Paul warned those in the first-century Corinthian congregation: “Bad company ruins character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33, The Bible—An American Translation) What did he mean?

It is quite possible that some of those Corinthian Christians were associating with the Epicureans, followers of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. Now, Epicurus did teach his followers to live in accordance with good sense, courage, self-control, and justice. He even discouraged them from secret wrongdoing. So why would Paul consider the Epicureans, and even those within the congregation with similar ideas, to be “bad associations”?

The Epicureans were not worshippers of the true God. Since they did not believe in a resurrection of the dead, their focus was on making the most of their current life. (Acts 17:18, 19, 32) Little wonder, then, that because of keeping company with such ones, some in the congregation at Corinth had begun to lose faith in the resurrection. That is why 1 Corinthians chapter 15—in which we find Paul’s warning against bad association—is packed with arguments designed to reconvince those early Christians of the reality of the resurrection hope.

The point? Even godless people may manifest fine qualities. But if you choose them as your close friends, your thinking, faith, and conduct will be affected. Thus, in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul stated: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.”— 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

Fred, aged 16, learned the wisdom of Paul’s words. He initially agreed to join an extracurricular school effort that involved traveling to a developing land to help teach children there. However, as he and his fellow students prepared together, Fred had a change of heart. He said: “I could see that so much time spent in their company would do me no good spiritually.” For this reason Fred chose to withdraw from the project and to help disadvantaged ones in other ways.
Friendships Among Fellow Christians

What, though, about friendships inside the Christian congregation? When writing to the young man Timothy, Paul warned: “In a large house there are vessels not only of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for an honorable purpose but others for a purpose lacking honor. If, therefore, anyone keeps clear of the latter ones, he will be a vessel for an honorable purpose, sanctified, useful to his owner, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20, 21) So Paul did not gloss over the reality that even among Christians, there may be some who do not conduct themselves honorably. And he was just as frank in exhorting Timothy to keep clear of such ones.

Does this mean you should be suspicious of your fellow Christians? No. Nor does it mean that you should expect your friends to be flawless. (Ecclesiastes 7:16-18) However, the mere fact that a young person attends Christian meetings or has parents who are zealous in the congregation does not of itself mean that this one is a good choice for a close friend.

“Even by his practices a boy [or girl] makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright,” states Proverbs 20:11. Therefore, you are wise to consider: Is this person’s relationship with Jehovah clearly the focal point in his or her life? Or, instead, is there evidence of thinking and attitudes that reflect “the spirit of the world”? (1 Corinthians 2:12; Ephesians 2:2) Does being with him or her build your desire to worship Jehovah?

Good associates are a positive spiritual influence

If you choose friends who have a strong love for Jehovah and for spiritual matters, you will not only avoid problems but also find greater strength to serve God. Paul said to Timothy: “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.”—2 Timothy 2:22.
Friendship With the Opposite Sex

If you are of age and want to marry, have you given thought to how these same principles should affect your choice of a mate? Many factors can make you feel drawn to a prospective spouse, but none are as important as the person’s spiritual condition.

Thus, the Bible repeatedly warns against marriage to one who is not “in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39; Deuteronomy 7:3, 4; Nehemiah 13:25) True, people who are not fellow believers may be responsible, decent, and caring. Yet, they do not have the motivation that you have to build on such qualities and to persevere in marriage as the years go by.

On the other hand, one who is dedicated to Jehovah and loyal to him deliberately cultivates Christian qualities and safeguards them, come what may. He or she appreciates that the Bible links loving one’s mate with having a good relationship with Jehovah. (Ephesians 5:28, 33; 1 Peter 3:7) Thus, when both mates love Jehovah, they have the strongest incentive to remain loyal to each other.

Does this mean that marriages among fellow believers are guaranteed to succeed? No. For instance, if you were to marry a person who has only marginal interest in spiritual things, what could happen? Unequipped to resist the pressures of this system, a spiritually weak person is more likely to drift away from the Christian congregation. (Philippians 3:18; 1 John 2:19) Imagine the heartache and marital strife you could face if your mate got caught up in “the defilements of the world.”—2 Peter 2:20.

Before developing a relationship that could lead to marriage, consider: Does this one give evidence of being a spiritual person? Does he or she set a fine example in Christian living? Is this person well rooted in Bible truth, or does he or she need more time for spiritual growth? Are you convinced that love for Jehovah is the primary force in his or her life? Knowing that the person has a fine reputation is helpful. However, in the final analysis, you must be convinced that the one in whom you are interested is devoted to Jehovah and will likely make a fine marriage partner.

Remember, too, that some who are attracted to the “wrong people” are first drawn to the wrong things—such as some form of inappropriate entertainment or activity. Exemplary youths in the Christian congregation would not share with you in such things. So examine your heart.

If you find that your heart needs discipline, do not feel hopeless. The heart can be disciplined. (Proverbs 23:12) It comes down to this: What do you want to want? Do you want to be drawn to what is good and to those who practice it? With Jehovah’s help, you can develop that kind of heart. (Psalm 97:10) And by training your perceptive powers to distinguish right from wrong, you will find it easier to determine who will make wholesome, upbuilding friends.

How Can I Deal With Sexual Harassment?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

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.

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