Right on the heels of what the press here called ‘the world’s first consumerist riots’ (they’ve clearly never heard of the Vikings), I came across a book called ‘Do hard things‘ by twins Alex and Brett Harris, written when they were 18. Alex and Brett have started what they call ‘the Rebelution’ – a movement of teenagers rebelling against low expectations.
Alex and Brett point out that the concept of adolescence as a time of self-indulgence and self-discovery – a gap time between child and adult – is a modern invention. And teen behaviour is spreading in both directions; capturing even younger children, and lasting far into adulthood. By contrast, our ancestors took on adult responsibilities in their early teens.
There are notable cases, of course. Alexander the Great conquered his first new colony when he was 16. Joan of Arc’s entire career took place before she was 20. Mary Shelley wrote the classic horror story, Frankenstein, when she was 19. Louise Braille created the writing system for the blind that bears his name when he was 16. Mathematics has been shaped by teenagers – so much so that some suggest the creative years are over for mathematicians by 25.
But even for those without special gifts and abilities, adult responsibilities came sooner, rather than later. Children began helping their parents with work as soon as they were able. Those apprenticed to a trade took on more responsibilities over the period of their apprenticeship. Others went into service, starting as early as seven, but more commonly at 10 or 11. Noble children were considered old enough (if orphaned) to take up their adult roles as early as 12. Both boys and girls could be married and parents before they were 15.
It’s fair to argue that our ancestors expected too much of their young men and women. By contrast, we clearly expect far too little. We have a society full of people who have been nurtured to believe in their own importance; taught that they are entitled to the good things that can be purchased with money (or looted from a neighbourhood store), allowed to give up whenever things get hard.
Alex and Brett say:
The Rebelution makes what sounds like a radical argument. It’s not just saying that hard things happen and that you can benefit from them. It’s not even just saying that you have the ability to do hard things. It’s telling you that you should do hard things because it’s the best and only way to experience true growth in your life.
Can you think of any period of growth in your life (as a Christian, student, athlete, musician, etc…) that didn’t involve effort and even some level of discomfort? The truth is that all growth involves discomfort. Think of growing pains.
These are not a new ideas. We’re don’t want to reinvent truth. But we do want our generation rediscover what has always been true — and one thing that has always been true is that in order to grow we must do hard things. We must challenge and stretch ourselves, step outside our comfort zones and do something difficult. It’s how we’ve grown before, and it’s the only way we’ll grow for the rest of our lives.