In High School, I Was Never “One of the Guys”
by Dan Blankenship
Shortly after I entered high school, I began martial arts training at a health club in a nearby town. My Isshin-Ryu Karate instructor (Sensei) was also a Baptist minister. So not only did I receive training in self-defense, I learned a great deal about how God wants us to live our lives. Our Sensei had the students memorize Bible verses and character lessons and asked us to repeat them while we were doing pushups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks. As I progressed in my ability to block another man’s punches and strike back with a few of my own, I began to also sharpen my ability to deflect negative influences in my life.
Typically, high school is the place where trying to be “one of the boys” can become an obsessive behavior, with groupthink (making decisions based on what the overall consensus of an assembly would be and ignoring individual expression of ideas that might not coincide with the group) often causing teens to participate in activities that lead to serious trouble.
My high school friends noticed a change in me as I continued my combined karate and Bible study classes. On Halloween, when the guys I hung around decided that it would be cool to go out and toss eggs at peoples’ homes after everyone was done trick or treating, I explained that I thought such behavior was wrong. I even asked my classmates how they would feel if they had worked hard, purchased a home, and then had someone come vandalize that home. I cannot accurately explain the look of shock upon my comrades’ faces. This was not the old Dan they knew. In times past, I would have quickly invented an egg-catapulting machine to help make the group’s adventure more enjoyable.
But I could no longer participated in things I knew God had commanded me to avoid. Galatians 5:14-15 (NIV) states, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Memorizing this Bible verse had given me the strength of conviction that allowed me to voice my disdain for what my friends were about to do.
I believe Christians should let empathy play a lead role in the decisions they make. It was very hard for me to comprehend how my classmates could not step outside themselves for a short time and try understanding how wrong it was to vandalize another person’s property. I wondered how I could make them think about the consequences of their actions and not just think about how things affect only them.
So what did I do? Why I invited all of them right down to that health club, where on a racquetball court they learned how to kick through boards, punch through concrete, and build the type of character and personality that would allow them to see the world in a different light – the kind of light that exposes the darkness of vandalism, foolishness, and groupthink for what it is.