In the recesses of my mind I visited yesteryear when young boys would gather and present challenges to each other. Invariably, after a challenge the statement was made “I dare you!” If the challenge was somewhat difficult or something that should not be done an occasional “I double dog dare you” would be issued. The ultimate challenge came with the “I triple dog dare you.” At this level you either walked away in humility or allowed the warrior mentality to rise to the forefront and “you went for it.”
There is a scene in the movie Christmas Story when Ralphie and his friends Flick and Schwartz are standing around the flagpole in the school playground. Flick and Schwartz are arguing about whether or not your tongue will stick to a freezing cold flagpole. Schwartz says that his father told him it would. Flick says that Schwartz doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The insult must be answered and what followed was a ‘dare’ by Schwartz for Flick to lick the freezing flagpole. The conversation becomes more complex and Schwartz issues the “triple dog dare.” Flick has to lick the flagpole or be counted a coward and loser forever. So he does—-and his tongue freezes to the pole.
The bell rings and the other boys go back to class, leaving poor Flick out in the cold, stuck to the frozen flagpole.
“I triple dog dare you.” Powerful words and not just for children. We humans seem incapable of resisting the triple dog dare—the challenge to prove ourselves brave, right and worthy.
Probably the first “triple dog dare” came to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan implied that God is trying to hold her and Adam back, but if they want— if they are “man enough” they can eat from the forbidden tree and become powerful like God. In other words “I triple dog dare you to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. If you don’t then you are a patsy—a cowardly loser who will never amount to anything. Adam and Eve felt they had to prove themselves, so they ate the fruit. They would show Satin they are cool, that they can hang with the popular kids—-they are not afraid. They got their tongues stuck to the flagpole and humanity has been stuck outside in the cold ever since.
It has been years since I have heard “I triple dog dare you.” It probably doesn’t exist in today’s vocabulary. However the behavior is as strong, if not stronger, than ever.
Teenagers daring each other to do far more dangerous and damaging things—I dare you to drink. “What are you a coward, a chicken?” In adults it is more subtle, the stakes more sophisticated but the action is the same. “I dare you to spend more than you can afford.” “I dare you to tell…………………..” “Come on, aren’t you a team player?” “You don’t have what it takes to make it in the real world?” “Live a little,” “what’s a little sin.”
Remember you don’t have to prove yourself, Remember who you are and don’t feel compelled to stick your tongue to any frozen flagpoles.
Editors note: America is suffering from a crisis of ethics. This is especially true of the culture that surrounds our children. I encourage you to discuss the topic in this blog with your children, young and not so young. Gary
Special thanks to Heidi Kinner for insights to this writing.