A Letter to My Son on His 16th Birthday

[This is a letter I wrote to my son on his 16th birthday. I am posting it with his permission]


I love you son.

Today you are turning 16. It seems like yesterday you were taking your first steps and not long after that stretching out your legs to ride your big wheel. Now you’ll be driving a car. Turning 16 means you are taking another step toward manhood. It means that in the eyes of the world you are ready for a new set of responsibilities. And I am so thankful I get to have a front row seat to watch your growth.

There are so many things that impress me about you. The truth is that you are way more mature and far godlier than I was at your age. We both know you can be a knucklehead. We both know that you can drive your brothers, your mother, and me crazy. But one of the things that I love most about you is how sensitive and soft you are about your sin. Your quickness in confessing sin and keeping short accounts is something that will serve you the rest of your life.

David told Solomon, “Be strong, become a man” (1 Kings 2:2). Paul told his brothers at Corinth, “Act like men” (1 Cor 16:13). Becoming a strong and responsible man is what God desires and expects from you. Being a man involves two things: masculinity and maturity. Masculinity means you know how to act like a man instead of a woman. Maturity means you know how to act like a man instead of a boy. Now is the time, now is your time to be a man.

What I want to help you do is the combination of David’s and Paul’s counsel: Become a man and act like one. I’m here to help and look forward to you helping me as I grow as well.

On your 16th birthday, I want to encourage you in 16 ways. I could say a lot more than is on this list. But I could not say less. Here you go…

  1. Keep reading your Bible. Remember that it is a supernatural book revealing the living God and will bear supernatural fruit in your life.
  2. Make sure you pray. This great God has given you access to Him anytime and about anything.
  3. Look for ways to remember the gospel every day. Daily sin should bring daily reminders to enjoy the grace of the cross.
  4. Keep loving your Mom. She is the most important woman in your life. And if you look for a wife with her character, you will be exceedingly blessed.
  5. Recognize your influence. You have many eyes on you. Your brothers, your friends, and your acquaintances look to you in ways you can’t imagine and won’t always recognize.
  6. Be a leader. Find ways in every situation to influence the thinking of others to glorify God.
  7. Treat girls like ladies. The way you are learning to treat girls now is setting patterns for life. Open their doors, give them your seat, offer them your jacket, and never let a girl walk to her car alone in the dark.
  8. Read good books. The world belongs to those who read. Find out what the people your respect are reading and consume those books.
  9. Relax. You don’t have to be “right” about everything. (And, oh yeah, you aren’t.)
  10. Be honest. Sometimes telling the truth is painful. But lying has long lasting, destructive consequences.
  11. Laugh. Life has funny moments, but never as funny as you. Learn to laugh at yourself.
  12. Stay off the couch. Between the TV and video games there is a temptation to waste time you can never regain.
  13. Don’t let technology rule you. Don’t become one of those people who are discouraging to talk to because they can’t go long without looking at their smart phones. Stay in the moment when talking to someone in person.
  14. Be humble. Let others praise you. Few things are more ugly than self-congratulations.
  15. Have fun. This world is full of God-given ways to enjoy yourself. Just do so within the parameters of God’s Word.
  16. Keep talking to your Dad. I treasure the way you confide in me and want my counsel. I’m already needing yours.

Again, you are so far ahead of where I was at your age. The world needs men, men of God. Be that man.

Love, Dad

19 Comments on “A Letter to My Son on His 16th Birthday

    • Len, hard to believe Luke is 16. You and your wife were there with us when he was born! We will always be thankful to you my friend… rh

  1. very touching.. as a new father I hope to be able to lead my son’s heart in the way you are doing to yours.

  2. Excellent….like it so much request permission to “borrow” from it to pass on to my 19 year old son!! Hope all is going well in Kansas! Thanks for your service to the kingdom!

  3. Pingback: A birthday letter to a 16-year old « Strengthened by Grace

  4. Pingback: Weekly Links (01/20/2012) « The Beacon

  5. Thanks for sharing this. As God would have it (and always does), just this morning I found and re-read my dad’s letter to me when I was 18 and just shipping off to college, some 30 years ago. My dad has since gone to sem, became a pastor, and is now retired. My own son turns 16 next month. Since we are a little strained right now, I thought I’d share my father’s letter with him, showing him that I had similar dynamics with my father. When I googled for ideas for his 16th, I ran across your letter. I now clearly know what to do. Yep, that’s right…I’ll take him go-karting. Just kidding. I’ll do that, but I’ll also construct a letter to him a la yours and my dad’s. I hope he’ll keep his 30 years or more.

    Thanks again,

  6. Great and inspirational! May I use a modified version to share with my son for his 16th birthday?

  7. Wonderful, love it so much request permission to “borrow” from it to pass on to my 16 year old son. God bless ….!!!

  8. Very touching letter Rick, My elder son has turned 16 today. I am away from home and request your permission to use your letter to write to my son.
    – Sanjeev

  9. RIck, just reading this today. I am planning a “Walk to Manhood” ceremony for my son this July. I know you gave someone permission to use this but I am asking if I can take this and tweak it into a note I can give my son right before he starts his walk. Thank you for the post; what a wonderful letter! – Jared

  10. My son turned 16th today and by accident while looking for something else your letter came up like a magic … I used it with some small changes for my son
    This was great gift for my son
    Thank you for the post it’s beyond wonderful

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