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What Is True Rebellion?

  • 8 min read

As a rebel, it’s surprisingly easy (and common) to miss the point of being a rebel entirely.

I must admit that for most of my life, I didn’t get it.  My whole act of rebellion consisted of criticizing others, being a hater and doing my best to act in ways opposite of what people expected from me.

I wanted to be free so badly that I actually made myself less free by not allowing myself to exhibit any behavior I associated with “those people” I was rebelling against.  (Whatever that meant  “those people” is a term vague enough for your mind to start including all kinds of stuff that has nothing to do with them.)


Acceptance Vs. Resistance

If you want to help an alcoholic clean up his act, the first thing would be to actually find a way to get them to accept that he suffers from an addiction.  If they can’t admit their problem to themselves, then how do you expect them to solve it?

Similarly, if you want your act of rebellion to contribute in any way to whatever problem you’re rebelling against, you’ll first have to accept the situation as it currently is.

Think of it this way: 

If you want to guide a group of people (society) to a different place and you’re  looking for the way to get there, then the first step will be to start where you are right now.  If you can’t accept the fact that you’re there, how will you be able to go ANYWHERE? You can’t use a map to find the way from point A to point B without actually fully admitting that A is the place from which you start.

Don’t worry.  Accepting the things you don’t like about the current situation doesn’t actually mean condoning them.  It means not reacting to them in an unbalanced manner (hate, anger, frustration, aggression,  …) because that will not do anyone any good. Especially not yourself.

I’ve mostly managed to transcend such unproductive behavior over time.  But occasionally something still manages to trigger me and drag me back to that level.  Bureaucrats tend do a very good job at this.  They are extremely skilled at making me think “Why don’t you get it??  Millions of years of evolution and you still haven’t figured out the basic workings of life that even my dog understands???”

But of course in those situations, I really should be thinking:  “Wait… We are both human beings.  I’m a lot like them.  How can we deal with this situation in a way that addresses both of our needs?” Because make no mistake: Your revolution, no matter how righteous, is always about your personal needs.

I’m getting better and better at catching myself early when these reactions come up and not allowing myself to snap into an ineffective mindset.  But sometimes a knee-jerk reaction slips through the cracks. Thank God for bureaucrats and the free mindfulness training they give me without even requiring me to file a form for it 😉 

What Are You Fighting For?

If consider yourself a rebel, you constantly have to ask yourself “What is my cause here?”  “What positive ideal am I fighting for?”  Because if you can’t answer that question, you are just a trouble maker looking for people to blame your own victim mindset on.

If you come up with an answer that includes words like “don’t”, “not” “stop”, etc.  You didn’t find your cause.  You found the opposite of your cause.  That means there’s a big chance your ego is involved in this. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

For example, you may be subconsciously trying to remove all the things from the world that made you feel bad as a kid (I know in my case it started with that).  But perhaps when you get rid of that selfish perspective, you can still conclude that rebelling against those things would also make the world a better place for everyone else.

In any case, now that you’ve found the opposite of your cause, you can easily find your true cause by simply looking for the positive situation you want to create underneath it.

For example:

• You are not fighting against slavery. You’re fighting for liberty.

• You are not fighting against toxic masculinity. You’re fighting for healthy forms of expression for all gender roles in the world.

• You are not fighting against a loose migration policy, you are fighting for the well-being of people native to your country.

Note that these are not necessarily causes I agree with. But what I want to illustrate is that fighting against tends to turn your rebellion into something destructive, and fighting for into something constructive.

For example, if you think you are fighting against women being kept in the kitchen, you may push for a law that forbids married women from being a housewife with no income. But by doing this, you are taking away the freedom for women who make that choice.

If you think you are fighting for their right to also have careers, your choices will actually increase their freedom.

When you’ve discovered the positive ideals you stand for, you can focus all your attention & energy on making a positive change instead of just destroying what exists.

  1. You make your problem stronger. Because that’s what resistance does. Just like resistance training in the gym can make your muscles grow stronger, you are giving the things you’re trying to fight some free resistance. (On the other hand, if you have a positive cause, then the problem is the thing giving you resistance and making you stronger.)
  2. You will experience a lot more of this problem in your life, because you are training your mind to focus on it.
  3. Deep down, you will want the problem to keep existing. Why? Because your cause needs it. Otherwise, once the problem is gone your cause is gone, and you’re left with no purpose. However, if your cause is something positive, there will always be new ways to contribute to it.

How Will You Create Change?

The second question you’ll need to ask yourself is: How will I positively influence the very people whose behavior I consider unethical?

It’s one thing to aim to be the change you want to see in the world, and that should be your number one focus.  But if beyond that, you feel you’re ready to take it a step further and try to influence other people, realize that is something that’s not within your immediate control.

So to change those things from the inside out you have to think:  “What will be the most effective way to spread my positive message? “

Will the most beneficial way be to vilify and antogonize them?  To judge them and condemn for doing the things they consider normal?

Or would you agree that if you want to get people to listen to your message, that may not be the best way to bring it?

Would it perhaps be more beneficial for you to first learn to understand their point of view?  To see reality through their eyes? To come and meet them where they are (point A), so you can lead them from that place to where you want them to go (point B).

And that is if you still agree with your cause now that you’ve seen their perspective. What if by taking on their perspective, you find out that they are right, and what you have been seeing as a problem to fight, was actually doing good in the world? But that you couldn’t see it before due to a lack of information? Would you be willing to drop your cause? If not, you’re not rebelling to create positive change. You’re only rebelling to feel like you “won” some kind of personal battle.

Imagine someone had the answers to all the questions life, the universe and everything.  The key to both saving the world and making everyone love you at the same time.  Of course you wouldn’t know yet that they had all this wisdom.  Because if you’d understand their point of view, you’d already have the wisdom too.

Now imagine that person wanting to get you to see it. So they come yelling at you that you are an “ignorant hypocrite evil nazi”.  That everything you do and enjoy in life is unethical. That you need to listen to them right now so you can finally learn act like a decent human being.

Would you calmly welcome them and listen what they had to say?  Or would you feel offended and try to defend yourself, because you consider yourself a decent human being with good morals?

Now what if this person first listened to you for hours. Learned to understand your life perspective and where you’re coming from. Then gently made you see that some of your perspectives aren’t helpful (as is the case with every body) and how to turn them into something that made the world a better place.

What do you think would lead to the most positive change?

True rebellion is about the good thing you’re trying to bring forward.  It’s about spreading the wisdom of a better, more positive alternative reality that is available to us. But it’s not about fighting the people who don’t agree with you on that.

So if you want to be a rebel, before you dream of changing anything, you should always consider:

Do you really stand for something right now? 

Or do you merely stand against something / someone?

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