rebelling against low expectations

True Love Meets Multitasking


Imagine a movie where the noncommittal boyfriend finally gets down on his knees, looks up into the eyes of his sweetheart, and solemnly intones, “Darling, to signify how important our relationship has become to me, I am now removing the second earpiece of my iPod.”

Soaring orchestral music rises in triumph as he reaches to his ear, never taking his eyes off of her, and in a radical display of commitment removes the glistening piece of white plastic and places it carefully in his pocket for later use.

After several moments of silence, while his sweetheart allows the last strains of Coldplay to fade from her own remaining earpiece, she returns the display of devotion. Then, they kiss. This is Hollywood at its best.

Laughing At Them? Or At Ourselves?

Of course, we can laugh at the characters’ seemingly shallow idea of love and commitment, but at the same time, we need to be careful that we’re not laughing at ourselves. An ongoing, four-year study of modern family life led by Elinor Ochs, director of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families, shows that technology is having a profound impact on what happens — and what doesn’t happen — at the end of the workday when families reunite.

“We saw that when the [father] comes through the door, the other spouse and the kids are so absorbed by what they’re doing that they don’t give [him] the time of day,” says Ochs. “About half the time the kids ignored him or didn’t stop what they were doing, multitasking and monitoring their various electronic gadgets.”

TIME Magazine’s interviews with teens participating in Ochs’ study reveal statements like these: “When I talk to my best friend he’ll have one earpiece [of his iPod] in and one out.” Or “If a friend thinks she’s not getting my full attention, I just make it very clear that she is, even though I’m also listening to music.”

This Is Not Just A “Them” Problem

Even in my own life I often find myself working in the kitchen with my siblings — with both earpieces of my iPod in! Or perhaps I’m sitting in our living room for a family meeting and I’m absorbed in my laptop computer. Just a quick review of the past week convinces me that I could learn something from our “Hollywood Couple” and their not-so-shallow expression of love. I might not listen to my iPod if I was with a girl I liked, but when was the last time I removed an earpiece for my sister or brother? When was the last time closed my laptop for my mother or father?

We laughed at our fictional “Hollywood Couple” because their expression of love was so obvious! “The most basic sign of affection is attention,” we think, “everyone knows that!” Yet we’re really laughing at ourselves because our generation is setting records for how long and how completely we can withhold this basic expression of love.

Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Do we stand out from the rest of world because of the way we show love for others? Or, are we just like the rest of our generation — so connected that we’re disconnected — distracted from the people God has placed in our lives?

These are hard questions. But we must challenge ourselves to answer them honestly and with humility. And then we must make ourselves respond appropriately to what we see in ourselves.

Making Things Practical, And Eternal

For me this has meant setting limits on when I can get on the computer, not listening to my iPod when I’m working with my family, and not taking calls in the evenings. For me it’s a question of selfishness vs. selflessness. A question of whether I’m going to love my family by being with them 100%, or love myself by partially ignoring them.

I’m not perfect at this, my family can tell you that. And it’s not always glamorous either — there’s no soaring orchestral music when I turn off my iPod. Oftentimes I don’t even feel like loving my family and I have to cry out to God to help me love them from the heart. He doesn’t usually answer that prayer immediately; He seems to prefer that — by still obeying His command to love my family, even when I don’t feel that love — I act myself into a better way of feeling, rather than “feel” myself into a better way of acting.

I think that is part of what the Bible calls the obedience of faith — trusting God’s wisdom and goodness enough to obey Him, even when I don’t feel like it. And as I look to Christ my King — who commanded this love — I know with unwavering clarity that His approval, not my entertainment, is all that matters and ever will.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • I had an opportunity to see this whole multitasking craze play out vividly. I was waiting my turn at a speech competition. Almost everyone in the back room had something going; graphing calculators and calculas books were scattered about. But first place went to two guys who were kneeling in front of a table. In the midst of the pandimonium that was playing out around them, (due to imending stage fright) these two guys were sharing an ipod headset and trying to help their schoolmate with a 12th grade math problem. They couldn’t do it. Last I saw, they had sunk to their knees in front of the table, la-la-la ing to the song as they swayed back and forth in tempo with the song! It appeared that math, ipods, singing, and swaying didn’t go well together! It was hilarious to watch, but pathetic, considering all the opportunities they were throwing away by choosing to act like that. Needless to say, these two were not the speech champions!

  • Gosh, I seem to live in a different world from you all! I’ve never heard of an ipod, and what’s and MP3?

  • Brett, I agree with you on the obediance thing…you’ve got a good point there! THanks for clarifying and letting me know what I was trying to say. =P THe Lord bless you!

  • Heidi: Thank you for sharing. I completely agree. It probably isn’t clear in the post, but my intent was to uncover a lack of love — not only a lack of expression of that love — which is what I think you’re getting at.

    Another observation I would make along these same lines is that when we truly desire for God to change our hearts and we ask Him to do so, the outgrowth of that God-birthed desire will result in aggressively seeking to change our actions. Often God doesn’t choose to instantaneously change our hearts, but rather allows us to practice obedience, even when the “feelings” aren’t there yet. The neat thing is that God has made it a lot easier to act ourselves into a better way of feeling (i.e. love for others) than to “feel” ourselves into a better way of acting.

    As soon as we have requested God’s help in obeying Him, we must start obeying, in faith, even before the feelings of love come.

    However, I really appreciate your comment because this is an aspect that I wanted to address and my fuzzy brain restrained me. 😛 But I’ve now added to the last section of the post. Let me know if it helps.

  • Great post. I have been enjoying this series very much!

    I tried listening to my portable CD player outside of my own room a few times. It did not work at all, since I enjoy listening to family conversations. I felt cut off from everyone, it made me irritable over interruptions, and I couldn’t participate with the family. I decided “multitasking” in this area wouldn’t work.

    The computer is trickier, since I am not usually listening to anything on it. It can be difficult to turn away from it completely and devote undivided attention to the other people in the room. Thank you for dealing with this relevant subject!

  • Very good post, Brett. My mom used to complain to me about the fact that I was always so connected to my gadgets that she felt like she never had my full attention. I don’t think I really understood the problem. But recently, my mom got her own laptop, and pretty soon I was making the same complaints about HER! When she’s working on her laptop, I don’t feel like she’s actually listening to me.

    When I saw the problem in someone else, I finally started realizing it was an issue in my own life. Now that we all see things in a clearer light, our whole family is working harder to prevent our gadgets from coming between us.

  • Another convicting post. I just got an MP3 player on Monday so I need to watch myself on how and when I use it.

  • Hmm…

    All of it was good, except I think I half-disagree with the comparison of love to a girlfriend/boyfriend with love to a parent. I know what I’m about to say would be a very touchy subject, but I’m gonna say it anyway, in the kindest way, to the best of my ability. =D

    I think the problem, when it comes to our parents or siblings and “taking out the earpiece” for them is a problem from the heart, not from the action. I think the root of the matter is, do we really love our parents and siblings more than or at least as must as a grilfriend/boyfriend? Of course it may not be the “lovers” love, but are we COMITTED to loving them, to the best of our ability, in the way that they deserve from us?

    I state this becuase as true as this post is, and as good as it is to realize what’s going on, I think it’s also important to reconize that it’s more of a heart issue than anything else. In fact, that applies to the rest of your post as well. THe bible states “where your treasure lies, there your heart will be also.”

    SO the main point of what i am trying to say is….awesome post, but I think in order to go to the heart of the matter (excuse the pun) we must examine our hearts and beg God to help them change to become more like His.

    Thanks for letting me ramble!

  • Another excellent post guys.

    I have been convicted of this lately, especially since my schedule gets closer to full.

    When talking to another, I have started to close the lid of my laptop, so they know that they have my attention, and so I’m not tempted to divide it.

    Your series has been a great encouragment for me, and very relevant for what is happening in my life.

  • Hi, I’ve never commented before but I’ve been reading this site for about a week or so.

    This post is so true. I know I really struggle with my MP3 player and some other issues. Your post was a really good reminder to me, so thanks. Since I’ve started driving again (I had some ankle issues so that kind of stopped the whole driving thing) I haven’t really been using my Creative mini, but there are so many other ways that I shut my family out. *sigh* There are things for me to work on.

    But I really enjoy your blog, all of your posts (and your brother’s posts) are very true and though provoking.

  • okay THAT was good. I especially liked the last two paragraphs. Very nice. I don’t have an i-pod ‘cuz I can’t afford one (I think that’s kind of a good thing, lol) but I do have an mp3 player of some sort. I think you did another real good job on here. Well said.

  • Thank you! I have been guilty of biased attention. My family, whom I love more than my friends, I treat worse than my friends! That isn’t right, and thank you for reminding me of that. 🙂

  • Wow! As I was reading this it suddenly struck me that I am doing that to my Mother. Very often when she is talking to me she is trying to fight a war of my attention with my laptop! That should not be! I will really try to work on that! Thank you guys for waking me up!

  • Thanks for this wonderfully convicting post! I find that it does not need to be electronic to consume the attention that should go to my family. A friend of mine put it well, “Every time you girls start reading you turn into a brick wall!” It really shows what we value most and who we really love, (our families or our selves).

    “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt 6:21 and Luke 12:34

    I have been reading your blog for several months now (this is my first post), and it just keeps getting better and better! Keep fighting!

    Solo Christo,

  • This is an old post but the truth of it will never get old.
    Wow! I so needed to hear this. I know I’m not respecting the time God has given me [and expected me to use wisely] when I spend way too much time on the laptop instead of getting with the family or studying or just doing other more active things then indulging in technology constantly. And really, it is so refreshing to get out and spend time with people rather than an Apple or Mac anyway. 😉
    Our friends and family deserve better. (And really, we’re doing ourselves a favour when we balance our use of technology).
    Thanks for this. It’s good to hear it spoken out.

  • That was a great post. I know I’m a bit behind in reading it, but it just pulled me up short and really made me think about the way I treat my family.

  • I’ve beaten Elizabeth and Alyssa P. I’m even MORE behind in reading it.

    I know that I use a lot of my things, like my MP3 player and computer, with a good measure of self-control, but still reading this reminds me to pay more attention to the people around me, and it cautions me not to become self-absorbed. I still have progress to make. Thanks very much for the post. (The Hollywood boy-girl romance introduction was MOST amusing and entertaining.)

  • Ha, although the intro is hilarious, it’s convicting. I know a lot of people (myself included!!) that will zone out on a drive to a youth function or camp with their ipods and cameras and not pay attention to those around us. Same with at home, when we’re supposed to be with our families but taking time away from that to facebook or even reading. Thanks for the post…still convicting after almost four years! 🙂

  • this is so true. i used to think it was cool and that i was skilled that i could text 4 people, message 8 on facebook, watch tv, and carry on a conversation with my parents and grand parents. i see now that it is dividing the attention i should be giving my family.

  • Lately I’ve been trying to break this habit I have of listening to my mp3 while doing my quiet time… I mean, the music is uplifting and everything, but it defeats the purpose of a QUIET time! God speaks to us in the silence, and just talking to Him isn’t all there is to it. Thanks for the great post though. Another daily reminder to listen to something and Someone else besides just my music!

  • Ooo…this is really convicting. There have been countless times that I’ve been so “plugged up” I just completely ignore my family. Thanks for posting this!

  • hey. i do not have an ipod or mp3 player, but i agree with this post completely. it evens applies with cell phones. i have seen friends at school, who have SAID that they are in a relationship, but that “relationship” only occurs on facebook, or by phone. if they really were in a “relationship”, they would try to actually find time to spend with one another! dont you think?

  • Oh! This is so true! I have an ipod and yes, I listen to it probably more than I should! However, when I am cleaning the kitchen I have it on the speakers so that everyone in the room can hear it and I am not limiting it to just me. I do turn the music down so that we can talk and it is just in the background. This post is very thought provoking Brett! (and convicting) 😉
    Thanks so much!
    In Christ,

  • Steve Mendoza, I 100% agree with you!
    I do have an iPod, but I try not to use it around friends/family.
    And yes, those “relationships” bug the heck out of me! I know a few people who do that, and I’ve tried to talk some sense into them, and show them who our friends who actually see each other in person are so much happier!
    I don’t have a boyfriend (yet), but I hope that when I do, he and I will spend more time in person rather than texting or Facebooking. I have a young man that he and I are, well, almost dating, and we enjoy each others’ face-to-face time soooo much more than just texting. It’s so much more meaningful when you realize the other person took time out of his/her day to actually be with you!
    So, yes Steve, I agree with you!!!! haha
    Your Sisiter in Christ,

  • The first was funny…until I read the rest.
    This is truly sobering and I must say that I also have trouble with
    listening to my ipod a lot.
    I personally do not have a phone but I really don’t like it when I’m trying to talk to my friends and they’re texting, while having a conversation. You feel like you being ignored.

    God Bless,

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 →