Editor’s Note: A personal friend of mine wrote about his experience at girls camp and it was incredibly insightful. Below is his story
Yesterday I did something that made me sick to my stomach. I am a male adult leader who was put in a position of trust at a church camp for girls from 16-18 years old. I have always enjoyed being around the youth and I think the sentiment has been largely reciprocated; giving these relationships a naturally occurring level of mutual influence. Knowing this I have always sought to guide youth away from making some of the same painful choices that I made during the same period of my own life; but yesterday I tried to influence some of these girls to make wrong choices, and sadly after several attempts…I convinced one girl to give in.
This all occurred during one of the planned activities of the camp. The activity was referred to as a “Lifeline”. The premise of the exercise was that the girls would be blindfolded and guided to the course where their hands were placed on one end of a rope. A rope that they were instructed to hold onto at all costs. A rope that they were told would safely lead them along a course that would represent their life. This path was designed with various sections representing different phases of life; a fallen log that symbolized leaving home which they had to balance across, various points where sharp changes in direction were necessary, periods where the ground beneath them changed and footing became difficult, points where they would have to reach and it became uncomfortable to hold to the rope, and even a period where they would have to maneuver through some trees that indicated a particularly difficult period of their life. They did all this in the darkness of the blindfolds, with only the rope to give them physical reference to their surroundings.
Initially, I was enthused…and overconfident as I tend to be. I was sure I would be able to get these girls off the rope. They knew my voice, they liked me, they had no reason not to trust me, I was certain I could convince many to follow after me. But as the activity began, I found myself frustrated by the teachings of parents and the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. I would call girls out by name, and in a happy loving voice tell them I would guide them the rest of the way that they should let go of the rope and follow me…no success.
I would rush down loudly and urgently throwing large rocks into the river that they walked adjacent to in an effort to frighten them. I would tell them they went the wrong way, that they were walking into the river, that it was dangerous and that I would help them get back on the path, again they would have to let go of the rope and follow me…no success.
I had to change my approach. These were after all seasoned youth, already tested and tried in the halls of high school, on the public square of social media, and by the multitudinous factions online and otherwise alluring them with false depictions of beauty, sex, drugs, and so many other destructive sources of emptiness. These girls had chosen to leave those influences to be at a camp where they were striving to strengthen their relationship and understanding of God.
Such direct and obvious attacks I determined would continue to be ineffective. I had to evolve my strategy…I started helping them. I would lend them a comforting hand, I would help them balance themselves in their “leaving home” phase, I would remove obstacles, I would tell them where they could take shortcuts…”You don’t have to let go of the rope, just reach out to the side with your other hand grab the rope, it is easier this way.”…and they would, almost all of them accepted my help. Even though they had been warned about me, by the “Holy Ghost” who was becoming more aware of my changing tactics. It was almost as if they felt that if they had one hand on the rope they were safe in testing the depths of what I was telling them, and often I told them the truth. I grew encouraged as I saw them loosen their grips on the rope, as they tested what I told them and they found it to be true, they started to trust me.
By the end of the first group I even got one girl to completely to let go of the rope; I walked her past a difficult obstacle and placed her right back on the rope, I wanted her to believe in me. I was making headway, but the Stake President was frantic in his efforts to repair the damage I was doing. And when it came time for me to offer them another pathway and to follow me, they all decided to hang onto the rope in the end. He even reached the one girl I got off the rope earlier as he whispered to her, “You just made a big mistake, but you can repent, be careful not to make the same mistake again, stay on the rope.” When I approached her again she replied, “Not this time.” The first group had finished…no success.
But I was no longer frustrated or discouraged. I was learning. And I decided that on the second group I would alter my methods again and build upon what was working by the end of the last group. I decided to do something insidious…I started to whisper.
Read the rest of this insightful piece on Little Bits of Lights