The word rebel has negative connotations. People seem to perceive it as hedonistic, self-centered denial or attack of some set structure or system, for the sole purpose of denying something to which other people adhere. Sometimes people rebel simply to rebel, but there can be completely valid and good reasons to rebel. Think about this way. If no one ever rebelled, nothing would have ever been done differently, and society today would be exactly the same as it was 6000 years ago. The first person to invent and use the wheel was rebelling against their cultural system. The Reformers were rebelling against the flawed theology of the Catholic Church. If we are ever going to progress, to improve, to make this world better, we must rebel against the existing conditions and system.
So, with that mind, I’m going to do a series of posts on what I see as problems in our world, and what we ought to rebel against.
Mediocrity. Being mediocre. “Mediocre: of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance: ordinary. so-so.” We live in a world content with the ordinary. People so easily satisfy themselves with an ordinary life. We settle for something that is so-so. We don’t set high standards for ourselves. We don’t hold ourselves to being anything more than mediocre. Students manage to get through school with mediocre grades, and they are content with that. Parents offer their children ordinary, mediocre childhoods. Employers settle for a mediocre job doing mediocre tasks for years on end, so they can eventually have a mediocre retirement.
What is wrong with us?
It is like a guest at a feast who is content with nibbling at a crust of bread because anything more would be too extravagant. It is pure insanity to satisfy ourselves with an ordinary, so-so, mediocre existence.
I would argue that the definition of mediocre in our society goes even deeper than the dictionary. We are content with mediocrity because that is the norm. We are afraid to be anything other than ordinary because that means we would be different than everyone else. We are afraid to set high standards for ourselves because no one else does. We are afraid to be that student who pursues excellence in their education because that would make us stand out from everyone else. We are afraid to be those parents who want to give their children an extraordinary childhood because that would be such a contrast to everyone around us who only know mediocre parenting. We are afraid to be that person who finds a job they are passionate about when everyone around us are content with their mediocre positions.
In other words, no one wants to be that first person to do something new. Why is there so much hesitation? We are afraid of the majority. We don’t want to be criticized. We don’t want to be mocked. We don’t want others to make fun of our difference. And let’s take this a step further. Why is there this reaction from the majority? Why is it so likely that they will respond negatively to someone who rebels against mediocrity? I think there are a few reasons:
• A different way threatens the ordinary way. People will feel threatened that what they know is going to be changed by this rebellion. A dramatic example of this would be the Luddites during the Industrial Revolution, who went so far as to actually sabotage factories because they felt their employment and way of life were being threatened, which was probably true. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way of living. Change is not always a bad or harmful thing. But it is uncertain. We don’t know exactly how this different approach to life is going to impact us. We don’t know all the consequences. So it is easy to be afraid and to cling to what we know simply because the known is safer than the unknown.
• Seeing someone else pursuing their passion and refusing to live an ordinary life will remind people of how they had once wanted to do this but were too afraid. Instead of understanding why there was this fear and instead of admitting a mistake and trying to do what is right, people will attack something different because they wish they had the courage to do it. People don’t like seeing someone else enjoying life and fulfilling their dreams, while remembering all the dreams they were afraid to pursue. It is hard to see another person doing what they love, and then realizing the reason you aren’t with them is because you’ve trapped yourself in a cage of safety and mediocrity.
• Refusing to live according to mediocre standards means that you cannot be controlled by the majority. People will sense this loss of control and resist it. They want to be able to influence other people, they want to make everyone else live just like them. This inability to “help” or control someone else will be frustrating and troubling. People will criticize any loners or rebels because they have made it clear they won’t let their lives be dictated by the majority.
Does this mean that we should settle for mediocrity? Knowing that it will be resisted, should we give up before even trying? Are we on this earth to please God or man? Are we here to gain approval from everyone around us? Why is it important to aim higher than mediocrity?
Every human being is unique. Why are we supposed to live “normal” lives—as if there was such a thing as normality? Why are we supposed to live the same kind of mediocre lives when we are each different individuals?
As mentioned earlier, mediocrity will result in the same way of living being perpetuated across generations. There will be no progress, no innovation, and no improvements if we are content with mediocrity.
From the Christian perspective, there are even more compelling arguments for rebelling against mediocrity.
Firstly, we do not serve a God content with mediocrity. We were not made in the image of a mediocre Creator. Why create a beautiful, vast universe when a small, plain, dull planet would have been enough? Why fill this earth with such abundance, beauty, and diversity when uniformity would have been enough? Why decree to send the person of Christ, very God of very God, to atone for the sin and transgressions of all who would believe, when condemning the entire race to eternal judgement would have been enough? Or why not just choose to save a handful of humans? Why promise that the saved would be more numerous than the sand of the sea or the stars of the sky? There is nothing remotely mediocre about our God.
Secondly, we have been called, not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are not here to continue the same failures and ordinary living of this world. Christ did not come to perpetrate mediocrity. In fact, the Pharisees and religious rulers were upset with Him because He was rebelling against their standards, He refused to be defined or controlled by their way of life. If we are surrounded by mediocrity, than we must follow our Lord and transcend the ordinary “normality” of this fallen race.