rebelling against low expectations

“Do Hard Things” Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Have Fun


When Alex and I were invited to speak to a church youth group while we were in Alabama. We were excited to have an opportunity to share some of the ideas we’d been developing here on the blog, including “The Myth of Adolescence” and “Ruining Our Lives With Fun.”

The day of the “event,” Alex and I worked a long day at the Supreme Court, hopped in the Davie’s car (i.e. Colton Davie’s family) and arrived at the youth group still wearing our court attire (i.e. suits and ties).

We proceeded to tell these public school teens (ages 12-17) that the whole idea of the “teen years” is a recently developed concept and that our culture is robbing them by telling them to “just have fun.” We told jokes, we told stories, we even had some audience participation — but we could tell that most of these young people had never heard anything like this before.

This became even more apparent during the Q&A time afterwards. Questions like, “Do you guys always dress this nice?” and “What do you do for fun?” and “Do you guys ever play video games?” etc. gave us the impression that some of them thought we were aliens from the planet of Boringwork located in the galaxy of Nofun.

Once we realized the impression we were making Alex and I quickly explained that we weren’t “freaks of nature” with a genetic disposition for work. We are a lot like “normal” teenagers. We like sports (we’re short, but we try really hard), we love music, we watch movies, we style our hair, and we even play video games from time to time. But, we have a different way of looking at fun. Here are two principles we try to follow:

1) First Things First

Being a “rebelutionary” does not mean you have erased “fun” from your life. It means that you have relegated it to its proper place. “Do Hard Things” does not eliminate fun, but it elevates, honors, and recognizes the superiority of the activities and pursuits that strengthen, stretch, and grow our character and competence for the glory of God.

We explained to the youth group that night that Alex and I view fun as a break from the “hard things” that we spend the majority of our time doing. Did you catch that? We view fun as a break from hard things. We have fun after we feel that we have accomplished something significant.

Our culture, on the other hand, tells us that we should have fun first and do hard things only “when we have to.” Do you see the difference? It’s all about priorities. We will always prioritize that which is most important to us. A rebelutionary will place “fun” in its proper place, understanding that responsibility to God and others comes first. Our culture spreads the lie that our pleasure, our enjoyment, and our fun is first priority.

Our culture acts like it’s giving us something by allowing and encouraging us to just have fun — but the truth is that when all we care about is “having fun” we’re being robbed. Robbed of contentment in the future, robbed of effectiveness for God, robbed of competence, robbed of character, maybe even robbed of the spouse we’ve always wanted, because we weren’t prepared for them and didn’t deserve them.

A rebelutionary recognizes that what is most valuable isn’t always the most fun. A rebelutionary puts first things first, and second things (like fun) second.

2) Hard Things Can Be Fun

You might (accurately) conclude that Alex and I do fewer “fun things” than the average teen, but you couldn’t say we have less fun. We might spend less time playing video games, going to parties, and just “hangin’ out,” but we also enjoy much of the work we do.

In other words, it is possible to enjoy doing the hard things that develop your character and your competence for the glory of God. Alex and I love delving into the biography of a great man or woman, we love writing, and we love speaking. Which is good because that is what we spend the majority of our time doing!

The topic of how we develop a liking for hard things will be the subject of a future post. For now, the point I want to leave you with is that hard things can be fun — not the way snowboarding is fun — but still in a fulfilling, exciting, and positive way.

3) Conclusion

“Do Hard Things” doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. It means that you put first things first and that you learn to have fun learning, growing, and developing yourself into the person God calls you to be.

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Thank you so much for this post. I love your Hard Things motto, that is so great. What can take the world but a force of teenagers who want to live a life of no compromises, of doing hard things, and pure love for God? And I love your point that doing hard thing’s isn’t always…hard! (You sound like a Christian Hedonist. 😉 )

  • I really enjoyed hearing you speak in Montgomery! It was really exciting to hear you speak on many things that I agree with. Hearing you both helps me realize that there are others out there like my family and friends. What you shared really encouraged others as well, as we told our friends about the evening. Keep up the good work!

  • Natalie: Thank you! I hope your family is doing well. Any new CD’s coming out soon?

    Carley: We’re Christian Hedonists through and through! Your Christmas book list (i.e. Piper, Piper, Piper, etc) looks great!

    Anna: Thank you! We so appreciated having you and your family there. God bless you!

  • Thanks, Brett, for helping keep the idea of “fun” in perspective. I think you’re right to point out that fun should not be our priority, but I’m glad you also point out that doing hard things doesn’t mean being miserable. It’s so easy to get it distorted one way or the other!

  • Wow- great post. It’s very true that hard things can be fun things also. Like, for me, writing. Hard because of the discipline it requires, and the practice, but also just plain enjoyable. 🙂

  • Something my mom said really hit me. You said that you enjoy hard things(especially writing, speaking, etc.). She believes that that enjoyment is, at times, simply a God-given joy which often comes when you obey Him by doing that hard thing, even when you would normally not enjoy it!

    Excellent post. Thanks.


  • Great post. Your blog is thought provoking. A great many adults need this message as badly as teens. I sincerely appreciate your respect and honor of your father. This is just a note of encouragement to keep up the hard (good) work.

    God Bless.
    Jeff Short

  • Brett, I had a pretty good idea that you were a Christian Hedonist…(forgot where I read about Piper on your site, but I sure was excited when I did!) My latest Piper book is The Pleasures of God…I’m really enjoying it, and reading your site…

  • Hey gents!

    Great to hear the “Christian Hedonist” word!

    This concept of doing hard things is absolutely brilliant. It has such far reaching consequences – like for example, a structured devotions time or prayer life. Excellent. Thanks for the constant encouragement.

    I am sure you two must LOVE the verse from Ecc 9:10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might”!

    I don’t know if you guys (and anyone else) have ever heard of the book entitled “Religious or Christian” by O. Hallesby? Well anyway… in it, he expounds the concept of “Manly Christianity”. I am sure you will appreciate this:

    “Christianity makes people manly. We see this best in Christ, the manliest of all men. He was manly in the presence of friend and foe, manlyin joy and sorrow, manly at work and at rest, manly in suffering and death. I do not know which you will rank highest: the courage with which He spoke the truth, the courage of His acts, the courage with which He sacrificed Himself, the courage with which he endured suffering, or the courage with which He faced death.”

    What a great example!

    Have a great week everyone.

    Yours in Him,

  • You’re not always in suits?????????? LOL, I’ve gotten that question myself (seems like a ton of the organizations I’m in require a suit and tie).

    You put is so well when you explained how fun and hard work can and should go hand in hand. As always, keep up the good work.

  • Excellent post! Thank you for the encouragment! It is so easy for our priorities to go askew….by God’s grace, we will stay on track! God Bless!

  • Great post Brett!

    I linked to it, in fact. I really enjoyed hearing a story of your experiences in talking to teens common questions, and your response. I’d love to hear more!

    As for me, I wear a suit and tie a lot, being with my Dad as much as I am, but oddly enough, I’ve never been asked if that’s what I wear all the time. Or rather, I don’t remember being asked. I suppose it’s just expected of me in the business circle my Father has created.

    Great post, and I look forward to reading more!

    God Bless!

    ~ IN Christ, John.

  • Hey guys! I just read this post–it’s been a while since I’ve been here. But this post was such a good one. It clarified a bunch. You guys have so many good things to say–keep it up brother’s. It’s very exciting actually. I have always thought (sometimes not conciously but it was still there) that if I were to become a “rebolutionary” or careful with my time et cetera that I would then be living a very boring life…where fun was a sin or something like that, where I would always have to be serious. Ak! Fun has its place (thank God!) but as you say, First thing is first. I agree. Thank you guys so much for your blog. Press on and may God bless you both abundantly my brothers! I will be reading this blog more often I promise. 🙂

  • Great post! So many teens are turned off by the issue that you were dealing with. Fun is so often feeding flesh…when you focus your fun activities on God it becomes not only fun, but there is joy, health and life. It’s just one other way to give everything to the Lord.
    Some people have asked me why I can’t ever have fun. I don’t watch very many movies that poeple my age watch, I don’t listen terribly exciting music (classical musician. I anjoy things like bluegrass and jazz)…I don’t play video games. I do play sports. Some people try to fill themselves with “fun” things…devices from the enemy to destract us from God. But what they don’t realize is that I have joy deep down…I now prefer to spend my time withe the Lord…or about His work. Whenever I’m “craving” something “fun” I know it’s because i’m trying to feed myself with it.

  • I’m not saying that every time you do something fun you are trying to fill yourself with it. But I do believe that it is all too easy to start spending too much time on any of the wordly distractiong. I.E. Movies, ipods, video-games, certain kinds of music and even the internet can be very addicting. I like to ask myself not “what are the bad contents in this [game, movie]” but what is the good stuff? How will I be brought closer to God by this? How will I be a better light for the world by spending my time doing this? What would Jesus do?
    Thank you for this critical point in the process of becoming a rebelutionary. I am so relieved that I’m not the only one that has felt convicted about this for so long! Sometimes I believe I’m half insane.

    But then I remember….I am isnane. I’m insane for the Lord.

  • You can have fun working. If you are working with the right attitude – doing it for God – great joy and even fun can be found in your work.

  • Daniel Gilman;
    Christian Hedonist- Human with a devotion, especially a self-indulgent one, to pleasure and happiness as a way of life; but with the viewpoint of God as the center of pleasure.
    (just looked it up) God bless,

  • Doing hard things can be very fulfilling, greatest of all is the satisfaction that you’re getting done what you need to do. What God has called you to do.

  • Thank you so much for this post! My dad recently came across The Rebelution, and immediately told us about it. Already it has been a great blessing.
    This caused me to really think about how I have been spending my time, and I’m not very proud of it. I’ve got to truly “press on toward the goal,” instead of waiting for “free time” to do it in.

    Thank you,


  • This is a topic I have wanted to address in my church youth group. We are all about fun. Even the adults expect much higher participation in an activity if the activity is going to be fun. Their low expectations and our low expectations lead to low output. I do not think the kids in my youth group realize the depth of life that comes from a passiontate pursuit of God most high and a deep love for each other.

  • If I seek fun, or other pleasure, as the first thing in my life, I will be disapointed. Life is not fun. Life has a lot more work than fun. Most people experience more pain than pleasure. Life is enhanced most by love. And God is the most important thing in life. Is God fun? Not usually. God is romantic, just, terrifying, holy, angry, forgiving, self-sacrificing, self-serving (where would the universe be if the center of reality was not most valuable to God himself), and, very occaisionally, fun. Look at God’s response to Job, and his creation of so many joyful, beautiful things. Laugh at a baby’s first words, a gooney bird, a natural face in a cliff face, and the ridiculous foolishness of the world’s wisest.

    God made fun, like any pleasure, for our enjoyment and his. But when we seek it as an end in itself, we make an idol. Idols are fruitless, dissatisfying, and idiodic.

    I can really have a fun time by seeing it, as Brett and Alex said, as a relaxation and a break from my labors. In fact, I enjoy the same kinds of this as you Harrises (excluding the hair styling).

  • My mom says you must work when you want something. so I work for a man who lives down the road. I totally agree with what you are saying. if you want something you must work to get it. you must do the hard things to get the fun things you want in lfe.

  • I heartily agree with this article. It’s my belief that work is a concept. Yes, work is exerting yourself or perhaps something everyday, but think, why does a little girl complain through housework, and then when finished, run to her room to play house with her dolls? Why do we play sports and then gripe about yard work? Why do we paint, sketch, and draw and then slouch through school work? The answer? At the end of each “chore,” we see…

    house WORK
    yard WORK
    school WORK

    …the word WORK! “WORK” suggests an annoying, taxing, boring, vexing chore. Really, (as your article clearly states) we can rejoice and enjoy all that we do.

  • If I recall correctly, it was Hitler who said, “Give me one generation, and i can change the world.” He of course wanted to use the one generation for evil purposes, but i think that if this new generation (our generation) gets their priorities straight (with God first) and work hard to do hard things, we can accomplish so much for the Lord, and maybe even change the world. Their really is no limit to how much the world can be impacted by a generation of young people whose lives and hearts belong to the Lord.

    ~Elisabeth J. Gruber

  • Well said!

    I like the point you made about the “teen years” being a recent concept.

    And I also like how you said that work and fun don’t have to be polar opposites. They can go together. Work can be fulfilling, which is exciting. Especially when one accomplishes something and overcomes many obstacles. The fruit of one’s labor is a thrill to see, especially when you can put it to use.

    And yes, if we’re leading productive, diligent lives, it isn’t wrong to relax occasionally and just enjoy ourselves. What matters is our heart’s intent. Do we generally live our lives with the desire to serve others, to be challenged and conformed to His image, to invest our time and effort in people or projects that will bring maturity? Or do we look to please our flesh? Each person needs to examine WHY they do what they do to see what they are chasing after.

  • uh… wrong button. 🙂
    … than in doing the excess “fun” that’s supposed to give me more pleasure than the “boring stuff” like pursuing God, learning the Bible, etc. The idea of what will really give me happiness vs. God’s will is a myth. I’m not trying to say that we’ll always have good feelings while doing God’s will, just that doing it will give us real joy.
    To summarize, obeying God will give long-term pleasure and long-term joy; pursuing fun as an end will give short-term pleasure and long-term discontent.

  • Really Good! Sometimes when I read verses like ” Be ye sober, and watchful unto the coming day of Jesus Christ, ” I have to remind myself that God made joy! He loves it!

  • That’s the truth! And the fact is, when we are focused solely on God, doing hard things for Him WILL be a joy!

    The real test comes though when we have to do hard things for God that really hurt. And then, it won’t be fun, and that’s just the time where our hearts are revealed. I’ve found it amazing what kind of will-power I’ve been able to work up just to get hard things done that are in the way of some fun thing on the other side. But when there is no fun thing on the other side, that’s when we have to understand that God is building our character and promises to draw us closer to him through all circumstances. Great post!

  • This may be repeating other comments, which I haven’t read, but there is the saying about happiness not being doing what you love but loving what you do… Who says hard work can’t be fun?

    In a different way, most of the time, but fun nonetheless =)

  • This is amazing to hear this from another teen because recently my dad has been getting on to me for not putting my job before fun. I thought doing this might be terrible ,but this blog is reasuring. Thanx, I might try this some day, hehe.

  • Awesome post you guys! Everything you guys say is 100% true. I always thought that doing hard things would be boring and not at all fun, but after i read this and stated to really do some hard things, i found that it was not as hard as i thought. It made me feel good to be able to say that I did it and to know that i could do it. And guess what? I found it was also fun when I had a good attitude about it. Like my mom always says, attitude is everything.
    Keep up the good work guys!

    With love from your sister in Christ,

  • I really enjoyed reading this. It’s extremely hard for me to fit in with kids my age because they don’t get what you’re saying. To them fun is anything they’re not allowed to do or really shouldn’t be doing anyway. It’s nice to hear some one else saying serious people can still have fun, we just have ours after the work is done. Thanks so much for being such an inspiration!

  • Wow.. I really appreciate this post. I just graduated from high school and have been working over 40 hours a week… The first couple weeks of my employment were a drag and a very tiring experience. I didn’t have the time to have all the “fun” that I used to be able to have. Fortunately, however, God led me to verses in Ecclesiastes that basically said that it is God’s purpose and GIFT that we take pleasure in all our toil… not AFTER our toil, but IN it. This idea is repeated several times, first in 2:24 and later in 3:13.

  • This really tells it ideally as it should be! I’m facing this right now, especially with my junior year starting in a few weeks. I’m really starting to realize that with the classes I’m going to have & everything that goes along with them, my regular responsibilities at church & home, & babysitting to have money to have fun when the opportunity comes, it’s going to be a lot of work! But really if you get to do fun things all the time it’s just something to do, I think you tend to definitely appreciate downtime more when you really need it after working hard. & this is the time to learn to prioritize before college! But I’m also learning how much more rewarding it is to do things that have a greater significance & effect on the future than watching tv or going to a movie like investing in my relationship with Christ & other people.

  • Thanks so much for this blog! It certainly puts things into perspective. I am 16 years old and have struggled my entire life with staying focused on hard, but worthwhile, things because I wanted to go outside and play. But that phrase of “hard things can be fun”, puts things in perspective. I love school and reading, but I don’t always want to do them. But I can now go into these and other acitvities that I have a hard time staying focused on praying, “God, please show me how to make the best out of this task and to make it fun, for Your glory.”

  • Hey Brett,

    I have agreed with everything that you have said in “Do Hard Things” and on this site (that I have read 🙂 ) but I am afraid you lost me in your fifth paragraph. ” We style our hair” 🙂 Just kidding! I don’t mind it when a guy keeps his hair neat or when he puts a little gel in it, but I can’t stand it when they style or dye it. Auugh! But if you just keep it neat I have no problem. 😉

    Oh, and by the way, how do you even get the time to play video games?

    God Bless!

    Sarah 🙂

  • My friend Christie has a sign on her refrigerator with a great saying. It says, “First we work, then we play, then we rest.” I had never really thought of that before… but I like it.

  • Actually… I think it makes sense to put that sign (“First we work, then we play, then we rest”) on the refrigerator because I tend to be one who would regularly eat dessert as the main course. To follow the analogy, first we eat for nutrition, then we eat for fun (if we’re still hungry after all the good healthy food we filled up on). Isn’t this the way God designed our bodies to work?

  • Great post. That’s really what I needed to hear right now, kinda funny how God works these things out huh? Heh, anyway just wanted to say it was good…er …better than good, great…Yeah. Really great timing too! Thanks!

  • I love the post and totally agree. Doing hard things and working for God doesn’t have to be boring. Following Him can actually be fun at times. It’s fulfilling to know you are pleasing Him.

  • Thank you guys that was really helpful because I didn’t know how to treat fun when I started doing hard things.

    God Bless

  • This was really a helpful post! I completely agree and I try to put these things into practice. I so agree that doing hard things can be really fun! I enjoy being with people and so i try to use those oppurtunities to share Jesus with them. I am trying to step outside of my comfortable box. This is really helpful to keep me on the right track for doing hard things! thank you so much!

  • I love this post! Thanks guys! My dad always told me (and still tells me as a matter of fact) to do hard things with a good attitude! And that is SO true! Actually our youth group at church camp (not me tho, i got sick 🙁 oh well )helped out in the kitchen with smiles and the workers noticed it and complimented them for it. 😀 Now i try really hard to do things with a good attitude. Sometimes it’s hard tho.. 😀

    In Christ,

  • Oh..okay I kind of get it now. I used to think that doing hard things meant having less fun in your life. The post explained it was about priorities! I wonder what the teens were thinking when you guys walked in wearing suits and ties!! :))

  • I really enjoyed reading this post! It cleared up a lot about what you guys mean about doing hard things. I’m reading your book in my Bible class and really enjoy it. It’s a very well written book, you guys did a great job!

  • This is a good post Brett. It answers one of the questions I have been muling over in my head for a while. Thank You! -Julie

  • Hi All,

    I am a mom with two boys: 14 and 12. I bought “Do Hard Things” to listen to cd’s on tape for our drive from KC to the Mayo clinic this week. While their dad and I enjoyed the book so very much……we think both of our boys are “over-acheivers” and put so much pressure on themselves to succeed. While I don’t think we fall into the group of adults who “dumb it down” and have low expectations for our kids……we do fall into the catagory of parents who say this: “It is such a beautiful day…can’t you take 30 minutes to shoot hoops in the driveway or go for a run, or walk the dog after school?” Here is the response we get: “No way…..I have 2 hours of homework before soccer practice, and then I have to come home and finish reading my book for my book report due on Monday”. ……or something like that.

    Their Dad has cancer, and we so wish we could impart “Life is short” on them. They both have wonderful hearts for God and are involved in mission trips and church too. To us, the sky is bluer, the grass is greener and the air is fresher since their dads diagnosis…..we remember our childhood of “kick the can” and late nite “hide and seek” in the neighborhood…and we would love that for them.

    While I absolutely LOVE the message of this book and I love Brett and Alex’s heart for God and “hard things”……someplace inside of me……I long to say this to my fabulous amazing boys: Smell the roses….take sundays and “do easy things”….breath in the simple things in life and get your heads out of those books!!!!

    Please….tell me what I’m missing here?
    Open heart and mind Mom,

  • Good post. Thanks for the reminder gentlemen.

    Teresa- yes, yes, yes. I agree whole heartily. It is so easy to get caught up in all our work that we forget to spend time with God and just enjoying what he created. (for example Martha)
    Sometimes even going outside to do your homework is the best thing in the world. You can enjoy the beautiful day and do what you need to get done.
    And I’ll be praying for your husband.

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  • One thing that was really hard for me to understand is work before play. And what i meen by that is you can’t play before your work is done. Just like you can’t get your pay check before doing the job or dessert without dinner. I had a hard time understanding this idk why i wanted to get a job and i never did my chores at home first. Part of being responsible is proving yourself in the little things then you can do the big things. Don’t ignore the little things and say there not important they are more important than you think.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →