Young People Ask . . .
What’s Wrong With Taking a Dare?
“GO ON,” insisted Lisa’s classmates. “Tell the teacher her breath stinks!” No, oral hygiene was hardly the issue. Fourteen-year-old Lisa was being challenged to accept a dare—and a rather risky one at that!
‘Pick a fight!’ ‘Kiss a girl!’ ‘Sneak out of class!’ ‘Steal a watch!’ ‘Jump on the railroad tracks.’ So urge youths who get perverse pleasure out of challenging others to perform acts that range from mildly mischievous to simply suicidal.
‘I’ll bet you $10 you’re afraid to jump into the water,’ one youth dared his 14-year-old companion. Bowing to pressure, his friend jumped from the ferryboat they were riding on. He did not realize there were powerful currents in the water. And if it had not been for the fact that a deckhand saw the plunge and jumped in to save his life, the boy may not have lived to tell it.
After a round of beers, 17-year-old James poured gasoline over himself and dared one of his friends to set him on fire. One of them took him up on his dare. James suffered third-degree burns over 30 percent of his body. Summing the matter up nicely, James’ father said: “From what my son tells me, the kids were just playing around. It’s plain stupid.” What do you think?
A “dare,” according to the 1984 American Journal of Public Health is ‘the process by which one is challenged to perform a variety of activities.’ Of course, challenges in themselves are not always bad. Receive a bad grade in math and your parents might well demand, ‘Learn that multiplication table now!’ And you’ll find yourself rising to that challenge very quickly!
But when you are challenged to do something silly, unkind, or downright dangerous, it’s time to think twice about accepting it. Said a wise man: “Dead flies are what cause the oil of the ointment maker to stink, to bubble forth. So a little foolishness does to one who is precious for wisdom and glory.” (Ecclesiastes 10:1) In ancient times, a valuable ointment or perfume could be ruined by something as tiny as a dead fly. Similarly, one’s hard-earned reputation could be ruined by just “a little foolishness.” Do you want to take that risk?
Why It’s Hard to Say No
Nevertheless, researchers Charles and Mary Ann Lewis found that almost one out of three young persons would rather accept a dare than be called chicken. Without question, desire to be accepted by peers is potent. The book The American Teenager cites a survey showing that whether youths are rich or poor, “their concern is to be liked.”
So a dare might put you in a difficult position. You want to be liked, so turning down the dare could seem costly. As the young man Mike said: “Your friends make you feel like an outcast.” But carrying out the dare could be dangerous.
Also, if you take them up on their dare, will you violate the standards of the Bible or those taught by your parents? If so, do you really want the standards of fun-seeking youths to control your life? Too, are youths who ask you to put your life and reputation on the line really friends? A proverb states: “There exist companions disposed to break one another to pieces, but there exists a friend sticking closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) A true friend would never think of putting you in a dangerous situation.
He Listened to “the Young Men”
The peril of giving in to youthful peers is well illustrated by the experience of King Rehoboam of ancient Israel. Early in his reign his subjects begged him to lessen the burdens his father had imposed upon them. Rehoboam first sought counsel from older men who wisely told him to “speak to them with good words; and they will be bound to become your servants always.” (1 Kings 12:7) Reasonable advice, was it not? Yet, not content with what they had to say, Rehoboam went for advice to the young men that had grown up with him.
His friends, in effect, urged him to prove how tough he was. They prodded him to say: “My father, for his part, loaded upon you a heavy yoke; but I, for my part, shall add to your yoke. My father, for his part, chastised you with whips, but I, for my part, shall chastise you with scourges.”—1 Kings 12:10, 11.
Rehoboam selected the advice of his young friends. His subjects, however, were incensed. Rebellion erupted and 10 out of the 12 Israelite tribes chose another king! All because Rehoboam ‘took counsel with the young men that had grown up with him.’—1 Kings 12:8-17.
Clearly, it is better for you to “incline your ear and hear the words of the wise ones.” (Proverbs 22:17) That may mean finding more wholesome companions. “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly,” says Proverbs 13:20.
It can also involve learning to discern between helpful advice and the manifestation of playful—perhaps harmful—“desires incidental to youth.” (2 Timothy 2:22) If someone dares you to do something, consider the consequences of following through on it. True, as a youth named André observes, youths often try to entice you by saying “no one will be watching.” However, ‘you will reap what you sow.’ (Galatians 6:7) And childish pranks often do result in lower grades, suspension from school, and even arrest!
Learning to Say No
How, then, can you avoid the snare of dares? One Bible writer said: “Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking [or responding].” (James 1:19) Give thought to who is speaking and what you are being asked to do. Is it reasonable? Is it loving? Does it manifest kindness and unselfish concern for others? If not, ignore the dare. True, as another youngster, Maurice, put it, “they will make you feel like an oddball.” But who really is “odd”? The sane person or the one promoting foolishness?
You might therefore try reasoning with youths who make dares. Eighteen-year-old Terry likes to “take the fun out of it” by asking questions such as ‘Why should I do it?’ ‘What would it prove if I did it?’ ‘How would I benefit from it?’ Perhaps using the Bible will be effective. Let it be known that you have definite standards you intend to live by. One young girl tried to dare a young boy into immorality, saying, “You don’t know what you’re missing.” “Yes, I do,” the boy replied. “Herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis . . . ” How true it is that exercising a Bible-trained conscience can help you avoid doing something you’ll later regret!—Compare Genesis 39:7-12.
Nevertheless, young Lisa observes: “When they know you won’t go along with them, most kids will leave you alone. However, there are some who will test you again and again.” While alone in the wilderness for 40 days, Christ Jesus was tempted by the Devil on three occasions. Taunted Satan: ‘Turn stones into bread!’ ‘Jump off the temple wall!’ ‘Bow down to me!’ Jesus’ reply was, “Go away, Satan!” (Matthew 4:1-10) Even so, Luke 4:13 adds: “The Devil, having concluded all the temptation, retired from him until another convenient time.” Resisting repeated dares may require similar persistence on your part. But do not let yourself feel challenged by silly dares. Have the courage to stand up for what is right!
Now that is a real challenge, isn’t it?
[Picture on page 22]
Following your Bible-trained conscience prevents you from doing something you will later regret