For Moms About To Rock, I Salute You!


I grew up in rural Indiana, in a small town where the only kids around who had long hair usually had reputations as trouble-makers as well.  And there weren’t many of them.  Back in Jr. High I decided I wanted to play electric guitar, and found inspiration from the glam metal bands popular at the time.  I was a big Stryper fan.  Go ahead and take a second to remember those days, if you can.  Ahhhhhhhh.

Anyhow, one of the most vivid memories I have of that time in my life was when I decided I wanted to grow my hair out and get an ear ring.  We’re talking 7th grade here, 1987.

My mom was always a very level person, and wise but never flashy with her dispensations of it.

I remember going into my parents’ bedroom and standing near the vanity as mom got ready for work.  I said, “Mom, I think I’d like to grow my hair out long.”  She asked, “How long?”  I said, “Like the guys in Stryper, maybe.”  (Essentially, I was asking for a six year haircut break. This is a part of how I’m wired.  I don’t mind starting things I know will take years to accomplish.)

She thought about it for a while and said, “Well, okay.  But you have to promise me two things.”

I was excited, “All right.”

“First, you can’t start acting like a punk or a trouble-maker.” She said.

“Okay.”  That wouldn’t take a lot of work for a kid like me anyway.

“And second, you can’t get upset with people when they look at you and think you must be a punk or a trouble-maker.”

russ-guitar-senior-pic-1991.jpg It was like a truckload of wisdom had just been delivered, and it fell to me to unpack it and sort it out.  Actions have consequences.  Sometimes people presume things based on appearances, and she was telling me there were usually cumulative, if not good reasons for these presuppositions.

If I wanted to look a certain way, I’d have to be willing to extend mercy to people in my hometown who formed impressions of me based on my appearance and I’d have to work to change their minds—and mom was telling me I couldn’t get upset with them in the process because, in many ways, it was a path I was choosing and I needed to understand this.

I can’t tell you how much of an impact that had on my sense of what I should demand from people who don’t know me.  It has also had a deep impact on how I approach misunderstandings.  It can be easy to presume misunderstandings originate because the people who aren’t getting what you’re all about are just too dense.

I recently came across a blog post from Abraham Piper who said, “When misunderstood, my goal shouldn’t be to prove the misunderstander wrong, but to discover, own, and perhaps clear the confusion I created.”

My mom spoke to my young heart that day and used my desire to have long hair as an opportunity to teach me about loving people well.  I have not always taken her wisdom to heart, but neither have I forgotten it.

Thanks Mom.

Russ Ramsey is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. He grew up in the fields of Indiana and studied at Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, ThM). Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story Series (IVP, 2018) and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017).


  1. Sharon

    Russ ~ Your mom was indeed wise. And I applaud you for “getting” her message.

  2. Russ

    “So, you’re a pastor?”

    I’m guessing there are preconceptions that you’re happy with and those that you want to prove wrong – just as I’m sure there were preconceptions of a long haired teenager that you were happy with. Grace is a good thing. 🙂

  3. Aaron Roughton

    Outstanding. I tried to zoom in to verify this, but is that a leather jacket and acid washed jeans you’re wearing? And is that an Ibanez? You look like you rocked. Did you rock? I grew my hair out once, but I never made it past a strange looking Prince Valiant thing. My mom did NOT warn me that I might be asked to dance around with a sword in a fancy outfit. (Thanks for NOTHING Mom.)

    More seriously, thanks for posting this great story. Your mom sounds wonderful and wise. I hope you got her an appropriate mother’s day card.

  4. Jonathan Rogers

    Brilliant, and a beautiful testimony to your mom’s wisdom. My favorite moment in the story is the seventh-grader looking for a point of comparison for how long he wanted his hair to be: “Like the guys in Stryper, maybe.” What kind of mis-spent youth did you have, Russ? It’s a miracle you survived to adulthood.

  5. Paulh

    ..I’m very much still a fan of the Yellow & Black Attack”!! They paved the way for so so many.
    I am waiting for the volume of “Pickin’ On Stryper” to release as I have gravitated to more bluegrass in my mature age.

  6. Aaron Roughton

    By the way Russ, I grew up in Florida, but my mom’s family lived in South Bend. We spent our Christmas vacations there, and I always noticed that the population of rockers in Indiana was far greater than that of central Florida. I wonder what it is about the midwest that makes you want to rock? I think in ’87 I was in 8th grade wearing multi-colored Converse high-tops and pink Polo shirts and listening to Wham. I might as well have taken my senior picture with a key-tar. I feel like I’ve said too much.

  7. Peter B

    Russ, thanks for passing along some great wisdom there.

    Aaron, I misread your sentence as “thanks for posing for this great story”… which makes a certain amount of sense, but it still caught me off balance.

  8. Tony Heringer


    I’ve thought your mom (and dad) were cool since we bantered on Facebook. This story takes it to a whole ‘nother level.

    My teen rocker son will enjoy this story. He too has had to deal with this sort of issue and my wife and I have delivered advice similar to your mom’s. Parenting, its not just a job, its an adventure. 🙂

  9. Cindy Kasten

    What a really cool and wise Mom she was to you! I hope I can be more thoughtful like that in my dealings with my 16 yr. old.

  10. Robin Ramsey Benjamin

    A great testimony Russ – I have a 14 year old who is an amazing young man but tends to like the Fohawks and I have battled inside with this. This writing has opened my eyes.

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