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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.