Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker

Encouragement is Super Lame

I’m sharing this post by my seventeen year old friend, Andrew. One of the main reasons that I want to share this is because it is such a great example of a high school boy who does not fit into the stereotypes that so many have about these guys. I’ve worked with adolescent boys for almost 20 years now, and Andrew isn’t alone in demonstrating empathy, creativity, and sensitivity. I’m tired of hearing that boys are naturally aggressive, brutish sex fiends who don’t care about connecting with others. Boys and girls are complex human beings. They don’t fit into pink and blue boxes. It’s time that adults focus on helping them see themselves as world changers and equipping them to move forward in making a difference in the world around them.

(Warning: The following post contains views and subjects that are contrary to societal norms. Read at your own discretion.)

Yesterday I watched the movie Frozen at the theater. Frozen is a Disney-produced animated musical about two princess sisters—one of whom has magical ice powers—who become estranged and must reconcile their relationship and [insert spoiler here] in order to save the Kingdom of Arendelle. I’m a seventeen-year-old dude who loved this movie. (I am as unashamed to tell you that I loved this movie as I am to tell you that I enjoy listening to Jesse McCartney.) The songs were well-written and clever; the humor ranged from slapstick to bizarre to adult (or at least humor that would go over a kid’s head); the story was very creative and fresh; and it had plenty of good lessons to take away. I would recommend it to anyone.

Later last night, I watched this video from a YouTube channel called BlimeyCow, which I highly recommend. This video is basically a guy talking about seven lies that we are often told, either directly or indirectly. He mocks these messages and comes out with the message that 1. You are super cool, 2. you look great, and 3. you’re doing just fine. It made me happy.

I liked the movie and the video and walked away from them encouraged. And, upon thinking about this, I realized something last night: encouragement is super lame. It really is—especially for guys. I don’t know when it became lame. Maybe it always has been lame. Perhaps the male species has always felt uncomfortable giving or receiving a bit of out-of-nowhere kindness. Maybe it’s society’s fault for forming stereotypes of boys and men that are stoic and emotionless. All I know is that there’s a mood of discomfort that often falls when a word of encouragement is spoken to someone around my age.

You might think this would be different in a church setting, especially in the Bible Belt. But it’s really the same old story with a slight twist. Often in a church setting, I often see kids go out of their way to encourage one another—sometimes they’ll even say that they’re doing it!—then promptly resume life as it was before. It’s as if we understand that we need lifting up, but we’re so unaccustomed to it that it can be awkward when we go out of our comfort zones.

There is a solid number of people who I can think of in my life who have no problem whatsoever encouraging the people around them without any visible reason. I’m sure you know people like this. They’re selfless and they find joy in other people’s happiness. I always find myself becoming extremely jealous at how freaking happy those people are all the time. It’s sickening.

When I’m around people who consistently encourage others, I always feel better about myself. Yet I still hesitate to speak up when I have a positive thought about someone… but why? Why do I do this?

I don’t know why people are so averse to encouragement, and I don’t know what it would take to change that. But I do wonder what it would be like if people all took it upon themselves to be encouraging? I suspect there would be fewer YouTube comment debates. I bet there would be less need for authoritative intervention to stop bullying in schools. And who knows, maybe kids would start feeling better about themselves. Perhaps they would start feeling confident and motivated enough to try something new and make the world a better place. Maybe they (we) would slowly begin to tear down gender stereotypes and racial barriers and the fear of people who “just aren’t like us”. I can only imagine the ripple effect such an attitude would have on us.

Until then, all I can control is how I live, and all you can control is how you live. So let’s choose to be encouraging, even if it means being lame. Nothing’s stopping this guy.

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2 comments on “Encouragement is Super Lame

  1. lorrainem9
    December 11, 2013

    Andrew, I really appreciate your assertiveness in expressing your views, your confidence in being yourself, and your commitment to raising awareness. I value your optimism in working for a better future and your determination to spread the virtues of cooperation and encouragement. I encourage you to continue developing those virtues! Luckily, you are not alone. If you’d like to know more about other people who also firmly believe in encouragement, check out this website: http://www.virtuesproject.com. Thanks for your great post!

  2. Pingback: KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Review Oscar Animation Nominees - Shaping Youth

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This entry was posted on December 11, 2013 by in For Teens and Tweens and tagged , , , .

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