There’s quite a buzz about the video of (Chris) Ashton Kutcher accepting an award recently in front of thousands of teens. As a youth pastor, and as a parent, it struck a chord in me. The kind of chord that wants to say a couple things about what has been said. (and viewed several million times by others since then)
We’ve had statements like this by famous people before throughout the years. Statements apparently grand and wise because it’s by someone who’s achieved it all, and has some great nugget of wisdom to pass along to those following behind (or beneath) them. Although I definitely applaud Chris with using an opportunity to point somewhere other than himself, and make teens think…I also want to use this moment to encourage us to go a step further.
Because what he said isn’t enough of a foundation. it’s not incredibly deep wisdom to live from. It shouldn’t be passed around to millions and millions of people because of how crazy-different it is than the commonly accepted way we all think. Unfortunately however, because of the low standards/ethical & moral decay/and brokenness in our world, his simple reminders DO actually stand out in a way that make people want to get those 3 points tattooed on their shoulder (or at least make a killer meme).
Here are my main beefs with his quick statements: (That I realize are unfair, because he just stood up and spoke seemingly “off the cuff”. But as popular as his words have become already, and the fact that he thought out his main 3 points….I think this is worth saying.)
1. Opportunities look like hard work. He then goes on to talk about several jobs where he had to work hard and sweat it out. It’s definitely a great reminder to our young people they are not “too good” to work at dirty jobs. But it comes with the unspoken tag, “As long as those jobs get better and better, stepping up until ultimately you find yourself here.” He doesn’t mention working without pay, serving others sacrificially, or working for something larger than your desire to get ahead.
2. Always be sexy. He closes with this line, and it’s memorable. His point was to “redefine sexy” as being: Smart, Thoughtful, and Generous. I’m glad he’s pointing teens to look at something other than physical appearance, but he still uses the same vocabulary. As much as they cheer in the moment, and might forward the link to others – the very word “sexy” is about being and wanting to be desirable/appealing to others. The goal then becomes to appear smart. To act thoughtful. To seem generous. But all with the goal of being thought of as “sexy/desirable” by others. Not because you’re actually compassionate, intelligent, and loving. My advice? Don’t worry about redefining “sexy”; just be compassionate, intelligent, and loving.
3. Don’t live life – build one. His work on a recent movie about Steve Jobs apparently reminded him of this foundational truth. But it’s about as vague as anything he said. “Everything around us that we call life, is made up of people who are no smarter than you.” That could be encouragement, or a slam against the mental capabilities of his entire audience. It’s true that we’re not required to simply “follow” everyone who came before us. But to assume everything that exists simply came from other human beings, and there will never be anything better than what the sum of humanity can conjure….is not as hopeful as he made it sound. Look around at what we’re doing: to our planet, to animals, to each other. I don’t wanna tell my kids or my teens – “sure you may have limited capabilities, but you can still dig deep & try really hard to make things better than the people who lived before you did. In fact, you must!”
I’d much rather point them in the direction of a source, and a foundation, much more solid than the words here. Point them toward a life of serving and sacrifice for the sake of Loving others. Toward a life of knowing they’re infinitely desired by God already, and living in the peace & confidence that brings. Toward a life that doesn’t put hope in humanity coming up with better and newer things, but instead joins God’s creative moving in our world to bring about transformations of Love, Grace, Mercy, Healing, Justice, and making all things New.