13 Take Aways From The Netflix Series 13 Reasons Why

In my last post I talked about what I hated about 13 Reasons Why.  The series was not devoid of meaning or purpose, the message was loud and clear: kids are killing themselves and it’s preventable.

There are no new revelations as far as youth culture goes. Stereotypes, acting out, drinking, smoking, sex, have all been a part of growing up in some form or another. Her are my 13 take aways from the show and why they’re important to me as a youth worker.

Attention: Possible spoilers ahead

Gossip is as deadly as anything

It’s easy to look at the drinking and drugs and think. “This is what’s killing our kids.” It’s actually not. The drinking and drugs are simply methods of dealing with  or staving off other kids from talking about them. But talkers are gonna ‘ talk.

Proverbs says

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. Proverbs 20:19

And Solomon lists it as one of God’s top six hates

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19

We should all address the symptoms, but we need to get to the root.

Teenagers are complicated

Duh Paul ! I know, but the show reminded me of the politics of teens and the  manuvering each of them  has to do to avoid unwanted attention and to stay atop the food chain.

The show also reminded me that what I am saying to teens is not as clear as I think it is. I have to get better at communicating the gospel and what hope looks like.

I also understand that no matter how well I communicate, what I say could have no relevance or meaning to a kid. I have to let the Holy Spirit do his job of touching and changing hearts.

Pay Attention

Teachers are busy running their classrooms. Administrators are busy running a school. Parents are busy running their families, I get busy running a youth program. These are the excuses we use for not paying attention.

I have to pay attention to the signs, but beyond the signs I have to listen to my heart and the Spirt. After Hannah was done talking with the guidance counselor she waited outside, hoping he would come after her. He did not. We have to pay attention to our gut not matter how stupid or weak it may make us look.


These kids weren’t just mean, they were cruel. They acted out of their own insecurities and did everything they could to protect themselves. I have to remember that the kids who enter our youth meeting have been chipped away at by many hammers by the time they enter my room.

Cruel words can crush you. I know. I had a substitute teacher tell me one time that I would not about to anything. Silence is equally as deadly. I had a Pastor one time refuse to answer me when I asked, “Do you think I am the best person for this job.” Crushing.

Words can be like hammers pounding at our souls  until it break or words can be the balm of healing that covers the wounds.

It’s Still Far Worse For Girls

I can’t imagine being a girl in today’s society. It must suck. As a youth worker, I cannot completely identity with all the struggles of the girls of my youth group but I can be like Jesus to them.

Jesus defended the woman who was to be stoned

Jesus talked to the woman at the well

Jesus defended the woman who washed his feet with her tears

There are times I  have to stand up for the girls in my youth group because no one else will. I have to be a ‘dad” of sorts when their real dads are not being the father they should be.

I have a daughter. She’s the greatest thing to me. I have always tried to be careful with my words but I know I have failed. My words have had an impact on her both for good and bad. She is married now and  still text her I love you and do my best to affirm her in every way I can.

Work Harder, Talk Less, Observe More, Pray Always.

    These are simple phrases that I have to practice if they are to have any impact.  Platitudes are useless for handling the serious matters of teenagers.

Pain is compounded

I have to remember that pains is multiplied. Pain at school, pain at home, pain online leaves a kid no where that is pain free.

I have to remember that the life of a teen is attacked from all sides and I have a chance, every week, to not only create a pain free environment, but a healing place to put that pain.

Life is demanding. Friends demand us to be like them. Parents demand that we get our crap together. School demands we get good grades. What does God demand? If we keep is simple it should be


Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30,31


He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

If a kids is already feeling like he is failing everyone, the last thing I want to do is make him feel like he is failing God.

I Was A Jerk

I was sadly reminded of what a jerk I was in High School. I was very much like Clay from the show. I was way awkward and both, as he put it, “The bully and the bullied.”

When someone dumped on me I had sure to pass it along. I was not like this all the time,  but I can remember a few key moments.

I wish I could back and apologize to all the girls I dated and say, “I’m sorry, I had no clue.”

Remembering who I was is helping me more empathetic and less self-righteous.

Good Parents Are Not Enough 

Of the families featured on the show there were five families that had two parents in the mix. They were not enough. Hannah, the girl who committed suicided, had a great mom and dad who had normal struggles. They loved their daughter and did anything they could for her, but it was not enough .

Kids need all kinds of people in the life to make it. Teens need good parents, good teachers, good coaches, and yes, good youth workers to help them through, what is for many (it was for me ) a miserable stretch of life.

I have a FB group for our parents and I do my best to not only put event stuff but links to culture and parenting  articles. I cannot afford to only be a youth pastor, I have to be a family pastor whether I am any good at #adulting or not.

The Soundtrack 

I did not know many of the songs from the series but I did know two: The Call and The Alarm. Two of my favorite bands growing up. You can check out the full list of songs here 

Don’t Hype The Show 

If I’ve learned anything from almost 30 years of work with teenagers, is not to hype the culture. Yes, many teens have watched this show, by many or even most of the teens in my youth ministry have not.

I don’t want them t watch it. It’s horribly graphic and it, in some ways, romanticizes the notion of suicide as being a noble deed.

The 22 year old me would be tempted to do a 13 week series on the show or suicide or to over blow the use of show quotes or clips for street cred with the kids. This is not good. To glorify the show could do more damage than good. I’ll stick with overhyping Guardians of the Galaxy instead.

Moral Relavatism Still Does Not Work 

    In the show there is a character named Tony, In discussing the tapes, he refers to the as “her truth” . The truth, the absolute truth, of God’s love for and her worth and value were never shard with her. She had only her own thoughts and the thoughts of others to form and opinion.
    God’s word is Truth. All the small “truths” are only revenant as to how they connect with the absolute truth of God’s word and character.
    1. If any of these character had the absolute truth spoken to them, the story changes drastically. Clay and the guidance counselor talk towards the end of the series. Clay says, “We have to do a better job of loving each other.” The guidance counselor responds of our (his)  inability to be be perfect (since he was one of the reasons), and he is right, we are flawed. But Clay comes back, “But can’t we try harder?”


    Yes Clay, we can. When we get grip on what real, absolute love is, we can.
    It Will Never End
    Sadly, for every day a kid watches 13 Reasons, another teenager commits suicide or attempts suicide. You can get more facts on suicide




    If you are a youth worker/minster I recommend these resources
    • The Youth Workers Guide To Helping Teenagers In Crisis.


What Do I Do When Teenagers Are Depressed and Contemplate Suicide

I do not recommend kids watch 13 Reasons Why.

I do recommend parents watch 13 Reasons Why if their kids have watched it so they may have a context for conversation. 

Did you have any take aways from the show? What were they?

Feel free to leave a comment below.

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13 Reasons Why I Hated The Netflix Series 13 Reasons Why

Five minutes into the Netflix series 13 Reasons, I was hating it. If you’re not familiar with the show, 13 Reasons is based on the book of the same title, written by Jay Asher. 

The 13 episodic series tells the story of Hannah Baker’s suicide, why it happened, and who she thought was responsible. Hannah recorded 13 tapes and were given to one of the people she blamed for her death. Once they were done with the tapes they were to pass the tapes on to the next person.

Hate is a strong word, but, what I hated about 13 Reasons is based on my 26 years of working with teens and parents as well as being an ardent observer of teenagers and their culture. There are some things the  series got right and some they got wrong. I will be posting another article on my take-aways from the series, but for now,  these are the things I hated.

Warning: Potential Spoilers

Absentee Adults 

Every teenage movie has dumb or absentee  parents because the movie needs a foil for the jokes. I hate the way many of these parents are portrayed. Th only thing words than parents who are portrayed is buffoons (think almost every sitcom) are parents who are absentees.

Of the families featured, three of them that had a nuclear style families with mom and dad being present including Hannah Baker’s family. One family had two dads who were responsible and caring. If the series shows anything, ti shows that no matter if you have a nuclear, blended, or alternative, family, no one is exempt from the distress of adolescence.

The rest of the families feared, or not, were helmed by a tiger mom, drug addicts,  or were, in many cases, non existent in the show at all.

For all those absentee parents there’s an army of caring parents doing their best to care for their kids. These parents are engaged,, have late night talks with their kids, talk about culture and it’s effects on their kids, and yes, talk about suicide and depression no matter how uncomfortable with their kids. These parents pick up on signals and signs of disturbing behavior and act on it, which Clay’s mom eventually did.

 Snappy West Wing Style Dialogue

Kids do not talk like this. The content is real but the delivery is not. I understand that this is a scripted show meant to deliver a certain cadence and pace to audiences. I am not saying that students are not articulate or snappy, but when it come to real life, communication is more awkward than awesome.

Devoid of God

Let’s face it, if Hollywood had put a Christian in this movie, the believing student would have been represented by a stereo type rather an empathetic student of  faith. In fact, my guess is there would have been an angle about some Christian kid preaching about suicide and hell (not that this doesn’t happen…) rather than a caring believer trying to make an impact.

It’s my belief that if you put one caring, Christian teen in this series, we may have a very short series with Hannah Baker finding hope instead of death.

Romanticizing/Revenge Aspect Of  Suicide

I didn’t read the book so I was shocked at the tapes being used as a plot device. When I first heard Hannah speaking, is when I started to hate this show.

On the tapes, Hannah is heard to be calm, cool, and collected. It’s also where I heard the tinge of revenge in her voice. I started to feel like I was watching the movie The Ring. where if you watched (or in their case, listened) to the tapes, your death (or something really bad) would be imminent.

I get it. She wanted the lives of others to be destroyed the way her life was destroyed. Mission accomplished but he best revenge would have been to graduate, become successful in life, married Clay, ultimately to say, “You didn’t beat me” .

The Plot Mechanism of Tapes 

Hearing Hanna’s voice was like listening to a sick version of The Wonder Years. In today’s world of social media, there are more than enough ways for a teen to communicate their pain and suffering, and they often do behind selfies and smiles.

I would hate to think that some kid right now is making YouTube videos and scheduling them to post every day after his or her death so they can make their point to those who’ve harmed them.

Suicide Wrapped in Narrative

Watching Hannah suffer day after day, knowing the outcome, was just heartbreaking. I would have rather watched a documentary with facts and stats than the gut wrenching downturn of a young soul.

No kid really wants to die. Hannah didn’t want to die, but every suicide has a story. Maybe I just hated the fact the story had to be told at all.


By episode 3 I knew that nothing good was going to happen to  Hannah, or anyone else, in any episode. I just waited to see what terrible thing happened next.  It  felt, almost, sadomasochistic. You knew the bad thing was coming and you just couldn’t look away and you couldn’t stop it.

If the goal of 13 Reasons Why was to show that high school life is pure crap. they succeeded, but don’t kids already know that?


The types of kids, in 13 Reasons Why,  existed in my high school universe. None of them were as extreme as the ones shown in the series. The producers, and writers  are much like the caricature artist at the fair.

The artists job is to offer a

a picture, description, or imitation of a person or thing in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.

I have had several students tell me, “These kid are not real” and this is true. In actuality, these characters are not true, or meant to be true, but their cruelty, their apathy, their insecurities, are all true.

I hated 13 Reasons Why because, although the characters were not real, their conversations, motives, and fears were real and nothing as gong to stop them from acting on them.

In real life, we have to look past the stereo types and look a the heart of a person. Sadly, the script only showed the malevolence of the teenage heart instead of it’s capacity for mercy.

Too Graphic 

I hated this series, not because the moments were real, but because they were too real. Nothing is left to the imagination. It was raw the way Passion of the Christ was raw.

The rapes, the sexual assault, the bullying, all too real. I had to fast forward though much of it and I’m glad I did. I hated that the directors and producers had to be that graphic to get a point across. Some may need the wake up call, but most don’t; especially students.

A Map For Middle Schoolers? 

Another point  I had not considered, was brought to the front by the CPYU podcast. This movie acts like a distorted map for middle schoolers. If I were a middle school kid, this series would scare the hell out of me.

“Is this what life is really like? ” and  “Am I going to commit suicide because I can’t handle the pressure?” would be just a few of the questions I might be asking if I were a middle school student.

The Ending

At the end of the series there is a suicide attempt. One of the main characters is seen being rushed the hospital.

Were we supposed to see this coming? Was this the shows way of showing that another attempt was right in front of our eyes, that we had somehow missed the Easter eggs they planted?

I hated that it was this character. There was, to me, no reasoning behind why it should have been this character or that there should have been any attempt at all.

Why didn’t the show take a positive take at the end? Because life just sucks? I think they did a good job of showing that for 12 episodes. Why not show a kid making a difference? Why not draw a map for those middle school kids that leads them to taking  positive action?

 Season 2?

Yep, there’s enough loose threads to lead us to believe there will be a second season. 13 Reasons Why is the most watched show in Netflix history. If they plan in cashing in on a second season, I think they will have devalued what they tried to say in this series.

Magnified the Negative  

I listened to a podcast by CPYU (Center for Parenting and Youth Understanding), and they brought out why I felt terrible with every episode, no one was having any positive happen to them in High School.

I can relate. I hated High Schoo. I don’t go back to any reunions because I felt my four years there were a compete waste from both social, as well as, academic reasons.

Maybe I hated 13 Reasons because it was too close to my real high school days. I had several flashbacks to the days I was bullied or left out of life. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that suicide crossed my mind as an opt out, but I think I respected my opportunity at life more than I hated it.

Let me break it down 

Should parents watch 13 Reasons Why? 

Yes, if they want to (and they should want to ) have a discussion with their kids about the subject matter of the series.

Should students watch 13 Reasons Why? 

Many have already watched it but for the few that haven’t, real life is hard enough with our watching others be destroyed episode to episode.

What do you think?



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Re-Branding Your Ministry In 3 Questions

Re-Brandng a ministry sounds daunting, and it is, if you don’t know where to start. In this episode of the Youth Ministry In Motion podcast, I share how I started the rebranding process with just three questions.

Don’t forget to subscribe the Fresh Impact newsletter to receive the notes to this podcast and, as a bonus, my 7 Secrets To A Successful Youth Ministry.

If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving some stars and a review. Thanks.

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The Unpardonable Sin In Youth Ministry?

What do you do when a  kid (or kids) from a fellow youth workers youth group comes to your youth ministry?

If you’re in a small town, like mine, you’re going to have  kids church hop. Kids will make the rounds from youth group to youth group. You know those kids, they come for a few months and then they’re gone,. Trying to get them to commit is like trying to nail snot to a door.

Then, there are those times when a  kid who attends. another youth group regularly shows up at your youth meetings. This can be a little awkward if you’re friends with the youth worker of that church. It’s even more awkward if you’re not friends with them.

So,  do you tell that youth worker their kid was in your youth group the night before?

I have a standing rule, if I know the youth pastor, and I know one of their kids has attended my group,  I give them a heads up the next day. It’s what I would want them to do for me. I would want them to tell me if one of my students was at their group because

  • That student may have a personal issue with me and is avoiding me
  •  I may be doing a poor job of helping that student plug into our ministry
  • I would want to know the kid is at least going somewhere

I consider it a professional courtesy to let the other youth worker know that their kid has been showing up to my group. I believe that youth worker needs the chance to investigate why their kid would be checking out other youth groups, especially if that kid is a leader.

I would not say that snatching other kids from other ministries is the unpardonable sin of youth ministry, but if you believe in reaping and sowing, I’d watch how you handle other church’s kids.

What do you think? Has someone ever “stolen” one of your kids and never told you? Would you (have you) stolen someone else’s kids and never told the other youth pastor or at least let them know they have not dropped out of church?

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I Don’t Want You To Be A Better Youth Pastor

Making life-long followers of Jesus. It’s kind of the point of my blog here. Every idea, video, etc, is meant to encourage you to think long term. To change something about yourself, your program, or even your theology when it some to making disciples.

I want you to become life-long disciple makers, not just more creative youth workers. Playing better games is a means to an end.  Being an awesome communicator is not the end game . It’s not about tactics, it’s about the lifestyle.

“But making disciples is far more than a program. It is the mission of our lives. It defines us. A disciple is a disciple maker.”
― Francis Chan, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples

My hope is that every post, every video, every resource, leads us all to becoming lifelong disciple makers and not just better youth pastors.

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Sorry, You’re Not A Member? Are You Kidding Me Church?

Just had a conversation with a friend of mine. Her and her husband wanted counseling to work on their marriage. As many of us, who wanted help I our marriage, we’d look outside of our church because we might think the people in our church were too close to the situation.

She told me she went to another church, who has  counselor on staff, but because her and her husband were not members the sessions were to cost $120 per hour. This made me just sick.

Church who have this “members only” attitude  are why many churches are struggling to have any members at all. I can understand paying for a counselors time but $120 an hour? For people who just want to help their marriage?

Here’s a few suggestions for you “Members Only” Churches

  • Create a fund or a scholarship to help these non-members at least receive one meeting with a counselor.
  • Have the counselor do a Facebook Live or other online consultation that does not have to last one hour.
  • Have the counselor create a series of videos with a comment section or a downloadable pdf where couples can answer questions together.

Yes, there are a few things that should be members only:

  • Voting in business meetings
  • Leadership Roles (Teacher, Deacon, etc.)

I just don’t understand the the arrogance of a church today to look at people and simply refuse to work with someone who is actually trying to make things right in their lives.

When people price something astronomically high, they do it on purpose because they do not want to work with you. This is how people are vetted and are declared unwelcome.

I understand, commitment is a two a way street. We want the people to commit to our congregation, pay their tithes that underwrite the counselor, etc. but for heaven’s sake, let’s make room for those who cannot do anything. I’m not saying we have to do it for everyone, but let’s make room for those Non-Members and at least treat them as fellow believers.

Remember, Members Only belongs on jackets in the 90’s, the past, not on today’s churches.

Are you a members only church? What can only members do?

Is there room for non-memebers, who are looking for help, to participate?

How do you do this?




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The Best Summer Job Ever!

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time you know I love camp, and not just any camp, Life For Youth Camp to be exact.

They’re looking for summer counselors and, if you are a youth worker,  I’d like you to consider sharing this post with your college students and graduating seniors as a possible place of ministry this summer.

I took to Facebook Live the other night to share my testimony of the camp. Take a listen and if it sounds like a great place for your students to work, please let them know. Here’s the link to apply. 

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Don’t Be Surprised

Christians under daily punishment flourish all the more. This is the high rank to which God appointed them; and it is not permitted to seek exemption.  – Ignatius

Ignatius seemed  kind of obsessed with martyrdom, at least according  to his writings,  and being torn apart by wolves and such. Let’s us just stay I’m not as excited for martyrdom as he was. Nevertheless, I agree with the last part of this statement that comes from his Epistle to Diognetus.

We cannot seek exemption from times of persecution because exemption shall not be given. Yet, in our entitled society, exemption is the only thing many believers seek.

We pray things like”Why me Lord?”, “What did I do?”, “Whys is this happening to me.”, wen trouble comes to us.

Even the early Christians understood that exemption was a ridiculous thing

I John 3:13 says

Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.


I Peter 4:12 says

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

Ignatius saw persecution as a high rank given by God. Today we see trouble and suffering as something to be prayed away rather than accepted and prayerfully explored, and even pursued  as the Apostle Paul was

I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, Philippians 3:10

When I see Christians in Syria killed, I am saddened but not surprised.

When a church is bombed in Africa I am saddened but not surprised.

and when I see this stat

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, an academic research center that monitors worldwide demographic trends in Christianity, estimates that between the years 2005 and 2015, 900,000 Christians were martyred — an average of 90,000 Christians each year. – via Fox News

I am saddened, but not surprised.

If I have a choice between being persecuted or not being persecuted, I (in the flesh)  choose not to be persecuted, but if I am, I will  not be surprised by it. Will you?


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Audit Your Circle

If you’ve kept up with this blog you know there are a few people I like to quote, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk (where I got audit your circle), etc. and none of them are Christians, let alone Pastors. “So, why do you quote them Paul?” Because they’re saying things in a fresh way that I do not hear Pastor’s saying.

“You’re not listening the right Pastor’s Paul” maybe not. The deal is,  I’ve audited my circle. There are people I could listen to, good dudes who love God but they’re not winning like I want win. They’ve accepted the status quo and preach it like it’s something new. Not my style.

They, like many Christians I know, have the same tired platitudes to offer when times get tough like “Just have faith” etc. I have faith, now I want action to match that faith. Very few preachers, I know, are action driven. Knowledge, learning, systems, are great, but they don’t move the ball down the field, advancing the Kingdom.

I listen to voices outside my circle because they’re doing what I want to do. I want to say things in a fresh way to a generation who has given up on God and even the concept of God because they were spoon fed these same platitudes for years that were suppose to sustain them and they did not, not because the information wasn’t good but because there was so little action to match it.

For those looking for any kind of scriptural reference, let me point to

“Bad company corrupts good morals”  I Corinthians 13:33

Hanging around people without dreams, visions,  imagination, or passion is as equally corrupting as hanging around with drunkards, criminals, and devil worshippers.

Any circle you’re in, religion, business, sports, etc, has it’s own language. You get to know it pretty well and then you start throwing the words around your self. This kind of insulation can stifle true action, true creativity, true “this is scary” kind of dreams.

People like Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, and others like them , are not Pastors, but they are preachers, and I am listening.

If you’re wanting to learn more about Seth Godin I recommend starting with his book Purple Cow.

If you want to know more about Gary Vaynerchuk I recommend The Thank You Economy 

Who’s  in your circle? Are they winning the way you want to win?

Who do you need to get out of our circle?

Is it possible you need a whole know circle? Who would be in it?

You can catch more of my thoughts in the FB Live Devotion

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I’m A Youth Pastor First

I have been cranking out quite a bit of content lately and boy is my throat and fingers tired lol. In case you did not know, this is what my schedule kind of looks like in an average week.

Up at 6:00 a.m. (most days)

Morning Facebook Live Devotion (10-15 minutes)

Create a 2-3 videos a week of YouTube (almost to 1300 subs)

Write 3-4 Blog Posts

Work on message series

Work on podcast

You may ask, “Paul, with all this, how do you have time for youth ministry?” That’s easy, I’m a youth pastor first and foremost. The needs of the kids in our ministry come first. There have been weeks where I haven’t posted anything, anywhere, because I was 100% focused on the church and our youth.

You see, I’m a youth pastor who happens to make videos, write stuff, and make podcasts; not the other way around.

My passion for other youth workers and their needs is somewhere around 9-10 in a top 10 list. One day that may change, but for now, I minister to teenagers and my community full time and create on the side.

I’m not going to lie, creating, speaking, to youth workers, etc. is very tempting, especially if I am not liking the direction of our youth ministry or I just don’t want to deal with an issue.; but when kids hug you before leaving the youth meeting, get inspired and tell they want to start a drama team, and laugh at your lame jokes, it’s easy to know where my treasure is.

Scripture says:

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:34

Where is your treasure right now?

Is there anything competing for your heart? What?

How do you deal with the tension?

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