I never considered myself a rebel growing up--unless you count having long hair and sideburns during the 60s and 70s, or using contemporary chords in my songs that some felt played to the "baser instincts" (I still smile with this critique I got from some of the "gatekeepers" in the church), or when I became a pastor not wanting to preach traditional sermons in style and content to instead stretch theological boundaries and congregational methodologies.
Maybe some of those things could be considered "rebel"-like? But really, me a Rebel?
But the older I get, the more I realize how significant it is to learn how to say No to some things in order to say Yes to others. And especially to learn which are the more important things to push back against and push forward toward.
I read this week a powerful quote from the author Gregg Levoy which really helps to contextualize what it means to be a Rebel. Notice this ...
[shareable cite="Gregg Levoy"]'The philosopher Albert Camus, in his book The Rebel, describes a rebel as anyone who protests whatever negates them, who says 'No!' to any condition of life that’s unacceptable and oppressive, grinding the integrity, dignity, and life-force out of them. And that 'No!' is ultimately a 'Yes!'—to yourself.'[/shareable]
There are two things I want to say about this.
Say No to that Which Diminishes You and Others
You and I need to be Rebels who choose to protest and push back against whatever forces around us diminish life rather than empower and enhance life.
Like what? We are living in a culture of bullying and socially aggressive behaviors and attitudes. All of this is oppressive. It is crushing the life force out of people and our very cultural psyches instead of breathing life into people.
I saw a news report recently that said road rage is at an all time high--the kind where people are actually assaulting other drivers for anything that pushes their button and makes them angry.
Sexual violence is at an all time high on U.S. university campuses.
Our political discourse involves bullying, adolescent put downs and name calling, slander, and fear-based motivational techniques.
Social media is inundated with screaming, violent verbal abuse, criticism and judgementalism.
The list is endless, filled with real life human, painful examples.
There has developed a perilously low level of respect and honor for human life.
You and I need to learn how to say No; to push back against that which diminishes rather than enhances human dignity. We are being called to be Rebels!
When forces around you put pressure on you to compromise your authentic identity and sense of self; when others say No to who you really are and what you really feel; when people try to shame and guilt you for standing up for who you are and choosing a path in life that expresses more fully your true self; when people in your life lower the boom on you because you're not matching their expectations for you, or friends walk away from you for the same reasons ... when these things happen, you and I are called to be Rebels.
We can stand up together and say No! We don't accept their behavior and attitudes. We will refuse to cave in to shame, guilt, anger, and negativity. We say No in order to say Yes to what really counts.
Not Saying No Diminishes You and Others
One of my favorite Brene Brown statement on this is:
[shareable cite="Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 53"]If you’re like me, practicing authenticity can feel like a daunting choice—there’s risk involved in putting your true self out in the world. But I believe there’s even more risk in hiding yourself and your gifts from the world. Our unexpressed ideas, opinions, and contributions don’t just go away. They are likely to fester and eat away at our worthiness. I think we should be born with a warning label similar to the ones that come on cigarette packages: Caution: If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief. [/shareable]
Living authentically is not a small matter. It is a life and death issue! Refusing to be a Rebel, one who fights against diminishment and for empowerment, destroys your life bit by bit, piece by piece, until there's nothing left of you. It hurts you physiologically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.
And our choices for inauthenticity end up hurting the social systems all around us, including the people closest to us.
The world is better and more healthy when you are your authentic self. You then have the inner boldness and confidence to face down those forces and systems in the rest of the world that continue denying human dignity with abandon.
Here's the Truth: The world is better when you and I are Rebels who have learned to say No in order to say a resounding Yes!
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