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13 Words from a Father to His Son on His 13th Birthday

8. There are girls. It’s okay that you take notice of girls and wonder what life will be like when you start dating. It’s okay that you wonder about all kinds of things in this area. That’s totally natural. But take it slow. We live in a world that objectifies women (reduces women to their physical appearance and diminishes their value as humans) and has historically failed to value women equally.

You’re going to be different. You’re going to treat women with the utmost respect. Cultivate within yourself the tendency to see every girl you meet as a human soul, precious to God, just like you. You will learn from women and sometimes answer to women in leadership positions over you. Trust me, this will make you a better human!

9. Give yourself grace. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to make some unwise decisions. Remember, when you do, that feeling guilty can be good for you (guilt says, “I did wrong”) but feeling shame can harm you and those around you (shame says, “I am bad”). You should love yourself, forgive yourself, and get stronger as a result of failing.

10. I’ll fight for you, even when you fight with me. There will come a day when you need to talk to me about some of the ways I may have hurt you or held you back. You have permission, now and in the future, to have those hard conversations with me. And even when we don’t see eye-to-eye and have conflict, know that I will always fight for you. I value you as my son too much to let a disagreement separate us. So when you need to talk, let’s talk.

11. Stay thankful. Nothing will bring you more peace and joy than gratitude. Every day for the rest of your life, think grateful thoughts. Express gratitude to God at the end of every day for at least three things, especially for the people who have made your life better that day.

12. Live for love, not stuff. As Bob Goff says, we’re here to “become love.” God is love and he came in the form of Jesus to show us what love looks like. Following Jesus is not about going to church or believing certain doctrines. It’s about becoming love, like Jesus. You’ll likely choose a career path and work for decades, but your purpose isn’t being a productive employee. Your purpose is to love God, to love yourself, and to love others. If you get to the end of your life having loved well, your life will have been a complete success!

13. Get upset and do something about the right kinds of problems. The world is a hard place for most people. You get to see your privilege and fight for things that matter, like justice and equality. “You only get one shot” (according to Eminem) to leave the world better for other people than you found it.

I’m proud of you. I have high hopes for you. I believe in you. I’m here for you. I’ll forgive you. I’ll accept and affirm you. I’ll always, always, love you. Happy 13th birthday son!

This article originally appeared here and is used by permission.