My 18 year old is a great kid, really! He handles his own schedule at school, serves at church, has a great group of friends. Josh is a loving big brother, is always willing to lend a hand, cares deeply about people. This boy is always studying and learning wayyyy beyond the scope of what is required for school. He's reliable and fun to be around. And Hot! The kid has a body that just won't stop, got his braces off recently (did I mention he helped pay for them) and he has blue eyes, longer brown hair and wears a bandanna. As a headband. Everyday.
Uhh..bandanna and long hair? Not what I pictured when I wrote the storybook of his life; but, considering that his father wore overalls to high school. Yep! Overalls over a hoodie no-less. So yeah! I'm OK with long hair and a bandanna. Even the pink one. Mostly.
Now, our church prefers the clean cut look. Most everyone knows what a Mormon Missionary looks like, short hair, white shirt, tie. Preferred look, fine with me, I'm also fine with the NO alcohol/tobacco/drugs rule, NO pre-marital sex, No lying, stealing, cheating,and sassing your momma rules. But, lets face it, all these rules are only effective if he makes the choice; his Dad and I can teach the benefits and pitfalls of keeping or ignoring rules but ultimately it's up to him.
And, as I've mentioned he's making amazing choices. But, alas the long hair.
Last year as his older brother Jacob was preparing for a mission, Josh was Mr. Clean cut and was really hard on his big brother for having a longer hair style. Then something changed, Josh refused haircuts and stood up for his brother saying he thought Jacob should be able to wear his hair however he wanted until his 2 year church mission began. Jacob left and Joshua continued to grow his hair and began to get harassed, by people at church and in the community mostly in the form of teasing lots of it.
One day a few months ago I asked Josh what had changed Mr.Clean Cut into a bandanna wearing Hippie. He explained that he found himself judging his big brother, who, like him, was following all the rules except the hair suggestion. He realized that judging another for the choices they make is a greater sin then the breaking of the rule and chose to overcome his judgmental nature by creating the same experience for himself. Walking past the barbers chair in his brothers moccasins, so to speak.
Yesterday as I went through the mail I came across a letter addressed to, Mr. Joshua Smith. Inside were a picture cut from the Newspaper of two returning missionaries and a picture printed from a police record site of a long haired criminal, carefully selected to have hair close to the same style as Joshua's, and a letter that went something like this:
Look at these two pictures which one represents the values you hold dear. Your example has led to half the boys your age choosing a long hair style. You are not following church leaders and need to set a better example.
Actually it was much more harshly worded and left the impression that Joshua was choosing the lifestyle of a hardened criminal because of the length of his hair.
I was livid!
Joshua read the letter then responded to my fuming by relating this story. Two Buddhist Monks came to a river crossing. A woman, also at the crossing but unable to cross on her own, was picked up and carried by one of the Monks across the river. The Monks continued on their way, after traveling several miles one stopped, turned angrily to his companion and said, "Brother, I am unable to continue with out letting you know my feelings. The monks voice rose as he corrected his companion, "We have strict rules governing our conduct, rules that allow us to be our best, serve most effectively and protect us from a lower way of life. One of those rules forbids us to have any physical contact with a woman. You have broken this rule and I must, as your brother, point out this sin."
The other replied, "Brother, I put down the woman many miles ago, you have carried her all this way."
"Mom, sometimes we get so caught up keeping the rules that we forget the purpose of the rules. I am learning from this experience how judgmental and condemning of others I have been and still am. Put it down it's OK!"
Well, shut my face!
I told you he was a great kid.
And, "Friend". Really?