January 9th, 2013
10:52 AM ET
Editor's Note: Cathleen Falsani is an award-winning religion journalist and author of four books including her latest, BELIEBER: Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber. Find Cathleen on Twitter @godgrrl or on Facebook.
By Cathleen Falsani, Special to CNN
Chickity check yo self before you wreck yo self ~ Ice Cube
Please consider this a well-being check from someone who genuinely cares about you: Me.
Let me begin by saying that I am for you. I have studied you and your career since you stepped into the public spotlight as an adolescent. You are a gift to the world – to your family, your friends and your tens of millions of devoted fans.
Sweetheart, here’s the thing (and this is an “and,” not a “but”): I’m worried about you. It’s not that you smoke pot (or anything else). It’s what that choice and behavior means.
Like so many of your admirers, I have celebrated your successes, danced to your music, sung along with you in the car, prayed with you when you’ve publicly asked us to join you in lifting up the victims of cataclysm and despair, and prayed for you – for your protection and health, direction and inspiration.
I know you are keenly aware of the many gifts you’ve been given and who bestowed them on you. And I know you understand that to whom much is given, much is expected and required.
With a perspective and sense of responsibility far beyond your years, throughout your public life thus far you have articulated beautifully and clearly your gratitude for the extraordinary favor and experiences you have had and continue to have as the most famous teenager on the planet.
And you have given thanks publicly and consistently to your supporters, the team that manages your business, mentors, creative partners, and your God.
You regularly encourage your fans – young and old – to follow your lead and recognize the blessings in their own lives, to “pay it forward,” give back, and try to change the world for the better.
Justin, as has been your intention, you have been a positive influence on countless children and young people around the globe. And I believe that you will continue to be a force of light and joy as long as you don’t choose to ignore the divine GPS located in your heart of hearts.
Few of us, who know you only through your public persona, can fathom the pressures of superstardom that you live with every day.
Last year you reached a milestone when you turned 18. You are living in a liminal state, standing at the threshold between childhood and adulthood, still more boy than man.
Times of transition and change are difficult for anyone, never mind someone whose every move in public is chronicled by relentless paparazzi and other members of the media. You must be gentle with yourself as you navigate these new waters, but you also must be diligent to guard your heart and mind more now than ever.
Whether you’ve partaken of the “sacred herb” just once or burn more cabbage than Tommy Chong at a Furthur show is not the issue that most concerns me.
It’s the decision to light a spliff or one-hitter or cigarette or whatever it was in that Newport Beach hotel room last week where folks were snapping pictures with their smartphones that troubles me.
What you do and say echoes around the world. Your very young fans watch and listen to you carefully. When they see images of you with a butt or blunt in your hand or waiting for a friend to pour you a glass of vodka, the message they receive is inconsistent and confusing.
I can’t imagine that was your intention, if you gave much thought at all to what you were doing before you chose to do it, but that’s the reality.
Is it fair that you should need to consider millions of other people before you decide how to spend an evening with friends? Probably not. But that is the life you have chosen (or that, perhaps at least, in part, was chosen for you by others) and you have a responsibility to act accordingly.
You do have the choice to disregard your responsibilities. But you don’t have the choice to avoid the consequences of your actions.
Everybody makes mistakes, and all of us behave in ways that are not our highest and best selves. None of us is defined by our worst moments. That’s what grace – and I know you understand what grace is – is all about.
In the past, when you’ve made choices that maybe weren’t the best, you have owned them, apologized, made amends and self-corrected. As you lean farther into young adulthood, I pray that you will continue to do so.
You know better than anyone exactly what temptations and opportunities celebrity brings. And I know you know well the cautionary tales of far too many child celebrities who have reached the threshold in which you now stand and made terrible choices that have led to their destruction.
I don’t believe that’s how your story is meant to end. But it could be if you are reckless and lose sight of true north.
Remember who you are, Justin. Remember who you were created to be. A city on a hill. Salt and light.
Don’t forget that you are loved precisely for who you are: Justin Drew Bieber, precious child of the Creator. Not because you are a pop idol. Not because you are a commodity. Not because you are a superstar.
You are loved because you are. Full stop. Nothing you could ever do would make God love you less. Nothing you could ever do would make God love you more.
Pick yourself up, knock the dust off, check that sacred GPS, and walk on.
May the God who loves you more than all of your millions of fans ever will continue to bless and protect you.
Grace and all the good things,
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Cathleen Falsani.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.