What makes us want to try?

A spiritual look at issues of interest to young people

When I was in junior high, I decided to try smoking. I hadn't planned ahead. I didn't want anyone to see me, so I couldn't borrow a cigarette. No one around me smoked, so I couldn't take one in secret. And, since I lived in a small town where everyone knew everyone else, and anything you did was quickly the news of the day, I couldn't go out and buy one either.

So I had to make my own cigarette. It was fall, and there were lots of oak leaves on the ground. I crumbled some up on a piece of newspaper and did my best to roll it into a small cylinder. I held it together with tape. It didn't look like any cigarette you've ever seen before. But it was the best I could do.

When I lighted it with a match, it produced a pretty big flame. It wasn't going to last long, and was impossible to smoke, so I stubbed it out. Then I tried inhaling what was left. I wish everyone's first cigarette was as horrible as mine. I never smoked again.

But what is it that even makes us want to try? Have you ever thought about that? I don't know anyone who enjoyed his or her first smoke. These days, everyone knows smoking is stupid and self-destructive. So what's going on?

If you found an old piece of used gum, would you chew it? Or does that sound disgusting? But what if every day you saw pictures of good-looking people in four-by-fours, riding horseback, or playing at the beach - and they were chewing old gum. There they are, those independent, self-assured people. Maybe they're a bit rebellious, beautiful, sexy - all eating old gum.

Still sounds gross, doesn't it? But studies show that enough of that kind of advertising can have an effect on the public. It could start an old-gum-chewing trend. After all, when it comes to smoking, that sure does work.

An article on the Net made the point. It said: "The imagery [the ads] use is so attractive to youth. They use images of freedom, independence and control with photos of attractive and sexy models - things that appeal to the basic core values of adolescents. Cigarette companies have mastered the use of those images." One expert said that kids who like these ads "start changing their beliefs. They stop believing it's harmful to smoke. And they start believing they can quit when they want to." Do you like the idea of being manipulated? That really bothers me. It's hypocritical. These ads promise independence, but being addicted to smoking is not independence.

The person who started this newspaper said it in slightly more sophisticated language: "In a world of sin and sensuality hastening to a greater development of power, it is wise earnestly to consider whether it is the human mind or the divine Mind which is influencing one" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pgs. 82-83).

It takes independence - it shows independence - to resist the greedy influence of people who want to promote smoking. Cigarette companies don't want the public to be independent. What they want is our money! That's all. That's why it's up to us to detect what's influencing us. Is it good? Or is it harmful? God ("the divine Mind") is a good and strong influence. God gives us what we really need: confidence, ability, strength, beauty, intelligence. You can listen to Mind. And when you do, you find that you feel self-assured and secure. There's no greater power than God. The divine Mind lets us handle things on our own, with confidence.

If you feel destruction creeping up on you, the Bible says to shut it down quickly: "Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (II Cor. 6:17, 18, New International Version).

Being accepted by God is a great feeling, and it opens the door to friendship with people - with all God's "sons and daughters." It brings a self-assurance and strength we never knew before.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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