Monday, November 08, 2010

Standing Alone

There was an organization that did Christian family life seminars about twenty years ago. The name Goddard comes to mind, but I can't track it down. Doesn't matter.

I wasn't too impressed with the materials myself, but we had friends who went to several weekend retreats. There was one chapter or session on "Standing Alone," designed for teens and younger, to teach them how to resist peer pressure. Coming out of an evangelical perspective, the ready examples were sex and drugs, but I recall that moments of standing firm for honesty, or not participating in the occult, and being kind to an outcast were all part of it. I thought it was generally a good idea, but worried at the time that there was something of insisting on Christian separateness for its own sake in it.

We had already encountered people who were a bit much in this regard. A local Christian school had its February Vacation a week earlier than the district public schools, which was a cause of some inconvenience. Some families had a child in both systems, or one parent worked in the public schools, either of which screwed up family vacations. When it was suggested that the Christian school rethink this, the Scriptural excuse was given: Be ye not conformed to the world...

It's just head-pounding, really.

But I am coming around on that POV. We are social beings and try to blend in to our cultural environment. Often, we blend too much. Most of us are in greater danger of being a squish who doesn't stand up when we should than of being one of those crank contrarians who revels in being a loner who sticks it in the eye of all the others. Even the contrarians of often those who identify with some other group, not true loners.

Having to stand alone for even a fairly arbitrary reason might be a good experience for a child. It is painful, but there will come a few times in your life when it is necessary. Standing alone for your parents' reasons has an extra level of difficulty, as the child might merely resent it and be all the more determined to fit in with the larger culture. But waiting until their ideas are entirely their own may be very late to teach the lesson.


Gringo said...

Standing alone for your parents' reasons has an extra level of difficulty, as the child might merely resent it and be all the more determined to fit in with the larger culture.

Clane Hayward’s The Hypocrisy of Disco,a child's tale of growing up among hippie parents,is an example.

james said...

I think you can teach the same sort of lesson without explicitly tying it to current things like avoiding drug abuse. My youngest son is reading the Arthurian stories. I remember them, and their underlying theme of honor and "sticking to your guns" even when alone.

Dubbahdee said...

It used to be called Institute for Basic Youth Conflicts, now renamed Institute for Basic Life Principles. Bill Gothard is the name you look for.

Courage is, I believe, the name of the concept. It is a good quality of cultivate -- most especially when put to use toward the right end. Courage untethered to such concepts as honor, right, truth, etc can lead to all kinds of messes.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Thanks, Dave.

CS Lewis noted that courage is not so much a virtue in itself but the measurement of how much we care about other virtues.

I am more convinced as I go along that physical courage and moral courage do not reinforce each other as much as we mythologise. They are not unrelated, but the intersection in that Venn Diagram is smaller than inspirational materials would have us think.

Anna said...

Dang, where was that class when I was a teenager?

Dubbahdee said...

To lack courage then, is simply to lack the capacity to care enough about anything.

The opposite of courage is ennui.

Retriever said...

Well, everyone in my family is a geek and a loner (I'm the most gregarious and we all know that I never learned to play nicely with other children)...As a parent, I feel it's my prerogative to insist that my kids stand alone for certain reasons of mine. Other stuff I don't care about. Thus, I was EXTREMELY strict about drugs, alcohol, and driving with drunk peers (the latter has killed many kids in our area), and ditto about potential cheating or stealing, violence, etc. I told my kids that should they do any of the above I would let them spend the night in jail, would not hire a lawyer to get them off (as other parents around here do) and would support the courts and/or the schools in whatever punishment they came up with. They knew I would be stricter than the outsiders, so didn't test me.

But I was too strict about TV (we didn't have one for years, and to this day nobody watches it except for videos or an occasional sci fi or documentary or old movie). My kids say they missed out on pop culture.

We didn't let the girls drive til they were over 18, because most of the trouble kids get into around here involves cars (no public transportation worth anything). Also, I didn't mind driving them places, as it was one of the few times I could actually talk to them. We did, however, get along better than many teens and their mother, so I realize this may not always be possible. I got to know all their friends, too.

It's hard to know if one is right or wrong to stand apart from the culture. Where we live, greed is good rules. Ditto a focus on girls being super-thin, gorgeous, blonde highlights, and fashionably dressed, and chiefly important because of which ambitious male they are wanted by. My kids, like me, are smart and okay looking but never trophy bride material.

I probably messed them up good. Should have let them hang out with the drunken pseudo-prepsters, the jocks, the stoners and be cheerleaders, then they would have had a bright future ahead as insider traders or their spouses...YUCK!

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yeah, we had no TV and the first two boys read like crazy. When the Romanians arrived, they wondered how they had landed in the only family in America without TV.

And Ben, the insanely fanatic reader, also became the most glued-to-the-screen child you have ever seen when he visited places with a TV. Because it was a novelty, perhaps. And he became a filmmaker...