Thursday, May 08, 2008

Capable of So Much More

“This. Book. Changed. My. Life. I am so encouraged by the humility of the authors and the straight-forward way they approach their subject. They have written on a very important subject that needs addressing and did an amazing job. Please read it!”

-- Cait Elizabeth, Rebelutionary, let us rise up, 4/15/08

Alex and Brett Harris are 19-year old twin brothers who are doing their best to foment a rebellion. Or rather, a “rebelution.” They are urging teenagers to join in an uprising against social norms created by “a media-saturated youth culture that constantly reinforces lower and lower expectations.” They began a website at and have authored a book called “Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations.” (The website is hugely popular and the book is selling like hot cakes). They take issue with the modern concept of adolescence, which holds that teenagers experience a period of “storm and stress” that can only be accommodated by lowering expectations for them until they come out of it. This theory sparked a cultural redefinition of the teen years in the first half of the 1900’s that persists today. The Harrises beg to differ.

“Like so many of the culture-shaping psychological studies of the 20th century, the theory of teenage storm and stress was inherently flawed, based primarily on observation of teen psychological patients – hardly a representative sample. No wonder we are taught that the teen years are inevitably filled with emotional turmoil, rebellion and angst….Of course, this new way of looking at the teen years didn’t create teenage rebellion, but it did normalize it.”

The Rebelution blog has been flooded with teenagers who say, in effect, “My parents (or other significant adults) have just assumed that I am going to be shallow and do stupid things as a teenager and have never challenged me to be different. So I meet their low standards. But I know I am capable of so much more. Thank you for challenging me.”

Think of the societal norms that are perpetuated in this way: “Teens will party and get drunk.” “Teens will experiment with sex.” “Teens and parents will continually bicker and argue.” We hear these so often that they become the equivalent of “the sun will rise in the east.”

Of course, the concept of doing hard things in order to form character and competence applies to adults as well. What are the societal norms that adults allow ourselves to view as inevitable patterns? Let me suggest a few: “We will carry large credit card balances that compromise our financial integrity in order to experience instant gratification.” “Marriage inevitably settles into a kind of negotiated mediocrity.” “There’s really no way to follow Jesus passionately unless you live in an inner-city or on a foreign mission field.”

The Harrises challenge teens in five ways: Do things 1) outside your comfort zone 2) beyond what is expected or required 3) too big to accomplish alone (thus requiring collaboration) 4) that don’t earn an immediate payoff 5) that challenge the cultural norm.

As serious Christians, they cite I Timothy 4:12 as an overarching principle, “Let no one despise your youth.”

It’s powerful stuff, and not just for teens. Feeling rebelutionary?


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