Bad is Fun
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Colossians 3:20
When I was probably six or seven years old, my dad asked if I wanted to go to the local high school football game with him one Friday night. I didn’t because a neighbor boy and I were playing. So, he went, and we played. Soon though, we decided we wanted to go the game after all. I knew I should ask my mom, but I was afraid she’d say no. My friend suggested we just leave – so we did. It was exciting, running off without permission, finding our way to the game, and being there on our own. It felt really good to be bad. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, I now know that the excitement was a dopamine surge in my brain, brought on by the immediate gratification of doing something I knew to be wrong, and (temporarily) getting away with it.
It didn’t last of course. I was in a lot of trouble when I got home, which was vital to my development. Just think what would have happened to my developing brain if the only lesson of that night was the excitement of doing wrong. Dopamine surges are addictive. If there had been no painful consequences when I got home, all I would have learned was that I can do whatever I want and get away with it. It was my parent’s responsibility to make sure that my disobedience wasn’t reinforced. In grounding me for a couple days, I learned that disobedience has painful consequences.
In today’s passage on family relations, Paul spoke to children, telling them they must obey their parents. Kids though, without help from their parents, naturally lack the executive function of a fully developed prefrontal cortex to understand obedience. While I was sneaking off to the football game, my mind was unable to look forward to see how things would end. I was simply consumed by the excitement of doing what I wanted. I needed to get in trouble when I got home. That was the only way I could learn obedience.
God asks us to obey – to do what’s right – not just to spoil our fun. As it turns out, he made the world in such a way so that what is right is also healthy for us. Ultimately, God wants us to experience the blessed life for which he created us, but to get there, we must learn to obey, choosing to do right instead of whatever feels good in the moment. As parents, if we want what’s best for our kids, it’s our job to model obedience ourselves as we help them understand it.