Characteristics of true ‘rebel’ not always what we see on screen

I have been thinking about rebels lately.
Just to be clear, I am referring to individuals who resist cultural, governmental and social “powers” in order to make a change in the world. I am not referring in any way to the organized military “rebels” who fought in the Civil War.
Rather, by “rebel” I am referring more to the knee-jerk reaction many of us feel inside when we are “told what to do.” The word “rebel” was used in English long before the American Civil War and I’m using it here in the way many English speakers would have used it in a pre-Civil War era.
I know, to some extent, I have this rebellious voice living inside of me. I don’t know if it is because I have Oppositional Defiant Disorder, because I am an American, or because I simply don’t like to be told what to do.
Either way, the subject of being a “rebel” has caught my attention lately and I am going to try my best to outline three ways to be a “true rebel” in today’s culture.
Popular entertainment seems to overly romanticize the “rebel” caricature. Think with me to James Dean films, the Star Wars saga and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”
These plotlines, and countless others, feature a rebel caricature who can envision how things can be approached differently and then sets out to execute that change. The authority figure in the plotline often tries to stomp out the rebel with resistance, but the rebel continues to fight.
Here we have the underlying plotline of many major motion pictures including, but not limited to, “The Little Mermaid,” “Rocky,” “The Notebook,” “The Bad News Bears,” “Gladiator,” “Footloose” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Really, it’s hard to think of an American movie in which rebellion doesn’t play a role, if not the prominent one.
Even companies like Dutch Bros, CrossFit, and Rogue Brewery use the romanticized imagery of “rebel” and “rogue” to invoke feelings of resistance to mainstream culture.
When I use the term “rebel,” I am not referring to this fanciful caricature of a “rebel” either.
When I think of a “true rebel” I think of someone like Jocko Willink. Adopting Jocko’s extreme ownership is the first of three ways to be a “true rebel.”
I once heard an interview featuring Willink, a former Navy Seal commander. Growing up in a small New England town, his joining the Army was an act of rebellion. Due to the politics at that time, joining the military was the most rebellious thing he could think of as a teenager.
In his book “Extreme Ownership” Willink encourages readers to take ownership of the one life we have to live. He suggests 4:30 a.m. wake-ups, exercise, and a strict diet for those who want to rebel against the convenience-store culture of mediocrity and comfort.
Taking extreme ownership of one’s actions, words, emotions, and thoughts is a mark of a “true rebel” today.
It is too easy to have thoughts, words and emotions fed to you. It takes extreme ownership and shows the mark of a “true rebel” to think for one’s self and control one’s words, emotions, and actions.
Secondly, when I use the term “rebel,” I am not referring to Luke Skywalker’s host of friends. When I think of a “true rebel” I think of a loving father or mother raising their children to the best of their capacity.
Theodore Roosevelt once remarked: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” To be a “true rebel” in today’s culture is to follow Roosevelt’s quote when it comes to parenting.
Parents are not called to be perfect, but just present, patient and persistent. I believe, with the pervasive pressures of our culture to chase after money, prestige, and success, those goals present a cost to the wellbeing of our children.
Likewise, with the pervasive pressures of our culture to drop out, resign and raise the white flag of defeat, all present a cost to the wellbeing of our children.
I propose a third “rebellious” option. It is the tactic that I’ve seen many well-intended, what I would consider “good,” parents perform decade after decade: spend time building a child’s moral compass.
Do this for a few years and you will stick out as a “true rebel” in our culture, which is both too busy and not busy enough for children.
Last, when I use the term “rebel” I am not referring to Bruce’s blue jeans on the cover of “Born in the U.S.A,” but to the unwavering steadfastness of St. Francis of Assisi.
For those who might be unfamiliar with St. Francis, he was a 13th century Catholic monk during a time where it was popular to leave the Catholic Church.
A story tells how St. Francis received a vision from God portraying a crumbling and decaying church building. Then God told St. Francis to “rebuild” and “restore my church.”
So, rather than joining the growing exodus, St. Francis did the thankless work of a “true rebel” and remained faithful to the Catholic Church, reforming from within. He eventually founded an order emphasizing simplicity of life and moral conduct, which served as a fresh breath of air to the struggling church leadership.
Being a “true rebel” is not jumping into a spacecraft and battling intergalactic villains. It can be as simple as choosing to stay in a broken system, in a broken marriage, in a broken company, or within a broken political party and doing the quiet work of reforming within.
Being a “true rebel” is as simple as taking extreme ownership of one’s life, raising kids as best as one can, and reforming from within rather than joining a mass exodus out of a broken system.
If you have thoughts, opinions, or comments about this column on being a “true rebel” feel free to email me at [email protected].

Skyler Bascom serves as the dean of students at Ralston Academy and as the Life Family Pastor at Community Chapel. You can hear his podcast dedicated to serving at-risk-youth at Mentoredpodcast.org.