Buuuut I’ve never been one to fit stereotypes. According to SADD, “nearly three quarters of students (72%) have consumed ‘more than just a few sips’ of alcohol by the end of high school, and more than a third (37%) have done so by eighth grade.” If your high school is anything like mine was, you might be thinking, “Only 72%? Seems low…”
I felt like almost everyone from school drank, so I admired those who, for whatever reason, chose not to. To me, not conforming to the high school/college drinking culture spoke volumes about a person’s character. What “the crowd” was doing didn’t strike me as particularly admirable, so I decided that I would wait to drink alcohol until I was twenty-one years old.
It is not because I think alcohol is inherently evil (It’s not).
It is not because my family has a history of alcoholism (As far as I know, we don’t).
It is not because people who drink are bad (We’re not).
It is not because some mental/physiological metamorphosis magically takes place the moment a person turns 21 (That definitely doesn’t happen.)
Drinking alcohol is not bad. So what’s the problem?
God made us in his image and likeness. Our free will and our capacity for judgment and reason are a huge part of that. These gifts set us apart from all other creatures and make us capable of love. When a person drinks too much, he cripples (or even surrenders) all three.
Our bodies are very good, and we are responsible for their care. Gluttony of any kind is destructive. If I consume an amount of alcohol that has a destructive effect on my body, I’m abusing myself.
Some use alcohol to run away from reality. The problem with this is that we are called to cultivate, embrace, and protect creation, not reject it. Yes, there are thorns amidst the roses, but when God created the world he created it good. The troubles from which alcohol offers an escape will not go away until we sober up, face them, and fix them.
I celebrated my twenty-first birthday by enjoying my first drinks with some close friends who told me stories and advised me on some pitfalls to avoid (Like “never mix colors.” Who knew?). I felt a little floaty and giggly, but my personality, boundaries, wise judgment, and reason remained in tact. My 21st is a happy memory.
In a letter he wrote me a few years ago, my dad said, “It’s rarely a good idea to run with the herd. It doesn’t know where it’s going or why, and it’s not interested in stopping to think it through. Fight the good fight, then put it away and think about other things.”
The point of this post is not to brag about what I do and do not consume, but rather to encourage you: you don’t have to run with the herd and, in fact, it’s usually better not to.
Temperance, on the other hand, helps us safeguard our souls, bodies, and minds. Temperance means being balanced; stopping before going too far. When I was a kid, sometimes I’d go to my dad’s softball games and afterwards to the bar that sponsored their team. I asked him how he knew when to stop drinking and he told me that if he feels funny, he stops. That made sense to me. Overindulging in a gift that God gives us is abusing it (and ourselves). At the legal age, kicking back with a couple cold ones while enjoying good company is great. Even Jesus drank wine and I bet he’d be happy to have a beer with you.
If you’re of legal age to drink, I encourage you to crack open a Seagram’s Jamaican Me Happy (my favorite adult beverage) and enjoy this video by Chris Stefanick:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.