Make a Mantra and Use It
I love Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in Whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, Who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
Royal Thanksgiving for Victory
We have finished the “Heart of Encouragement” unit and there are a few random topics I wanted to write on that will appear over the next few days, before we start another small unit on “Choosing to thrive in my circumstances.”
One of my most memorable experiences in all the years I have gone to summer camp occurred in the summer of 2021. I was assigned to a cabin of young men who were juniors and seniors in high school. Working with teenagers is hard. Trying to teach about the Christian faith and Christian morality is tough. I decided that the best approach with this particular group would be to appeal to their “manhood.” The entire week I was purposeful in calling them “men” instead of “boys” or “guys” or even “young men” or “teens.” We ended up having some pretty amazing conversations—deep, personal, and emotional. I will not discuss them in further detail. We all agreed that part of what would get us up to go deeper was a commitment that whatever was said in the room would stay in the room. And I will honor that commitment.
On what would be my last night with them, as our session was about to come to a close, I threw out a bunch of things for them to think about in a very rapid fire manner:
Think about being a real man when you are objectifying women.
Think about being a real man the next time you want to smoke weed.
Think about being a real man when you are cheating on your homework.
Think about being a real man when you are looking at pornography.
I told them the story of how my dad died. I also told them the story of another dear friend who passed away. And I told them that real men think about their salvation. I could see that it touched a nerve with several of them. The session ended, I left, and we all prepared to go to our next activity. A few minutes later, the counselor of this cabin called me back. He told me that all the men were upset and wanted to talk more. I came back to the cabin to find the men very emotional. One of them said, “We’re not the men you are building us up to be. We aren’t doing most of the things you are talking about.” I could see that a lot of them were very upset and in very deep thought. I felt bad for them. And I also wondered how we could end this now extra-session in a way that would make them feel encouraged rather than sad. I suggested that they each come up with a mantra.
What is a mantra?
A “mantra” is a short statement that can be used as an answer for every question. Think politicians. Most politicians have a five-line mantra that they use as the answer for every question. “We want to build the economy, make America stronger, stick up for the rights of citizens, create jobs, have the best schools, etc.” So when the politician is asked a question like, “How do you plan to make America stronger?” the answer is going to be, “We are going to create jobs, fix the economy, fight for the American worker.” And if the question is, “How are you going to fight for the American worker?” the answer will be, “We’re going to build up the economy, create jobs, make America stronger.” You get the idea.
Mantras for Difficult Situations
The mantra I was suggesting their write would be a fine line answer they can give for every stupid question they receive. Here is a sample:
I have value.
I am above stupid sh*t.
I need people who are going to pull me up and not tear me down.
I need more God in my life.
And now the mantra can be the answer to every stupid request:
Do you want to smoke weed?
Let’s cheat on our homework together.
You want to go to a party and get drunk?
Each of these three questions, and more, can be answered with the above mantra.
Mantras for Maintaining Purity
Here are mantras for the person who is trying to maintain purity, to offer to their boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé:
I love you.
But I love God more.
I want it all.
I want you and God, and I don’t want there to be any conflict.
I will work to honor both you and Him.
Mantras for Newlyweds
Here is a mantra for the newly-married couple whose parents complain they aren’t seeing enough of them:
I love you mom and dad.
We just got married.
We are trying to figure it out.
Mantras are a First Step
The men of the cabin at summer camp seemed satisfied that writing a mantra would be a good first step, a good tool, to have in their teenage toolbox. Several of these men have told me since camp that they have their mantras printed and up on the wall in their rooms—they look at them every day.
A mantra isn’t the answer for every problem, but it is a good way to clarify things that are important to you.
Lord, thank You for the gift of my mind, and its ability to think and to solve problems. Help me create in my mind, mantras, short statements of what I believe, that I can offer with conviction when confronted with a challenge or temptation. Help me to put my faith in You as the thing I value most, so that whatever else I am flows first from my identity as a Christian. Give me the words to say in difficult circumstances. Help others to hear my words and respect the conviction and the faith that is behind them. Amen.
I encourage you to write a mantra for yourself, so that you can clarify who you are, what you believe and what’s important to you, to everyone else.
**Dedicated to the men of St. Luke’s Cabin, Week Two, 2021, St. Stephen’s Summer Camp**