Rebelling for the Right Reasons

While I don’t yet know you, I declare with great confidence that you will be someone who rebels. Even in your current state of innocence, your daily cries indicate an unwillingness to accept a world that doesn’t exactly conform to your wants and expectations. This proclivity to fight has a chance to be most productive, especially when your mental powers blossom and your frustrations can be directed at matters beyond lactose.

I warn you now, though, that as rebellion becomes increasingly intertwined with your identity – as it will in adolescence – it can turn downright counterproductive if you adopt the “rebel without a cause” posture. And make no mistake, many peers will turn toward RWC because it’s a seductive way to gain status. RWC is also foolishly simple to adopt: be anti-authority. Parents, school, teachers, priests, the system, the man, experts, and whatever else appears to be trusted is necessarily the opponent of RWC. Perhaps you already see the flaws in the philosophy, because while sure, OK, yea, authority need be challenged, one jams himself into an unnecessarily tight box when fully subscribed to a status quo where authority, by virtue solely of its authority, is always wrong. Still, no amount of illogic erases the aura of coolness awarded to outsiders (especially if that outsider has Jesusesque hair, a leather jacket, and ripped jeans), and thus RWC uptake persists – you wouldn’t be crazy to give it a try.


Or maybe instead adopt the rebel path I believe is fundamentally superior to RWC. Instead of anti- being the guiding principle, truth is. That is to say you want to get it right, not be right, and that the surest path to fully understanding the complexities and nuances of any given issue is to fearlessly challenge everything, all while knowing that what you are being told may, indeed, be perfectly correct. In practice, the truth-seeker can seem like RWC. Twenty kids in a classroom all nod their heads in agreement, but, no, not you. Never you. You go 1 vs. 20 + the teacher and sniff out any loopholes, contradictions, and weak assumptions. This requires tremendous skill and self-confidence, attributes a careful observer will appreciate distinguishes you from RWC. As your abilities increase, you’ll notice that this rigorous probing reliably gains something, that there is always a question that reveals more, that large swaths of the population are regurgitating lines and truly have no idea what the hell they are talking about, and that, vitally, truth-seeking doesn’t require you to reach an alternate conclusion, but rather bestows a level of complete understanding that leaves you smarter, more empathetic, more creative, and way more interesting. So yea, you’ll gain prestige similar to RWC adherents, AND you’ll obtain a superior grasp of reality.

There was a time when I worked at a gas station. At that time, “energy drinks” (which will hopefully be extinct by the time you read this) were en vogue. My employer, being a pragmatic capitalist, decided to get in on the gold rush and undercut the prevailing price point with a knock-off version of the high-margin brand name product. Better still, the knock-off version was tastier to 7 out of 10 consumers. Better better still, as an employee of this gas station, I received a hefty discount on all merchandise. So, I did what seemed not-all-that-novel and sold the knock-offs to my football teammates at a price that allowed me to capitalize on the spread created by my employee discount (a.k.a. I profited off my friends). As unreliable as our memories may be, I remember having zero qualms about this. Your father, on the other hand, had maximal qualms once he discovered the scheme. Not only did I genuinely think he was wrong, but I also enjoyed arguing for the sake of arguing, which cast me dangerously close to RWC and the never-admit-defeat attitude it engenders. You should want your mind changed, because you should want to inch closer to truth. That’s hard to appreciate – just look at a country being run by people who never admit the other side may have even a sliver of a point – and I doubt that I did in any real sense during high school.

Your father lives by an ideal that one’s role in friendship is to always be there doing all you can to love, help, and support (never profit, obviously). For as busy as he may be, he’ll drop it all if you call him in need. Many people speak a similar noble ethos, but I’ve found few who actually live by it. After first rebelling against your father’s friendship ethic, he helped me appreciate the error in my ways, and I now try to be one of those elite few adhering to a higher standard in relationships.

So when you fight with your parents just try to remember that it is possible they may be right. In fact, given their collective wisdom, they will offer valuable lessons, I’d venture to guess, a large percentage of the time. Combine this inherited “wisdom” edge with a pure aim on truth and I think you’re set up quite nicely for an extraordinary life. Welcome!