An open letter to teenage girls watching Thirteen Reasons Why - Part One

Well... it's 4:00 in the morning. I just finished watching Thirteen Reasons Why and I have some things to say.

Truth...? A couple of months ago, after reading a few comments on Facebook, I was intrigued by a show that I knew would make me cry... and we all know I need to cry on a daily basis, so I thought I should look into it, since I was just waiting around for season 2 of This Is Us... you know, to keep the daily tears alive and well. So I read the synopsis, and I ultimately decided that on an emotional level, this wasn't going to be something I needed to watch, these tears wouldn't be the healthy kind...

...but then I found out how many of you are watching it. And I started reading more about it. And I started remembering our conversations. And I realized I needed to watch it. Not for entertainment, not for a new Netflix binge, not even for the tears, but for you. I needed to watch it because I know the things you're going through at school and at home, and I've been through them too. And because I know you cry when you get home because of the way you've been treated, I have cried those same tears. And because I need you to know why you have value, despite the way petty high school girls make you feel, or selfish high school boys objectify you, and replace your worth with their worthless desires. And because you don't deserve any of those things, or any of the other awful and truly horrifying cards that life has dealt you.

But let's be clear on something: what you deserve even less is some trendy book and show on Netflix telling you how to cope with the way you've been treated, how to be the hero, how to punish those who hurt you, how to change the way people treat each other, how to be a martyr for other kids like you, who are struggling with school drama, and relationships.... and that dying will achieve all of this for you. Hannah Baker was wrong about that...

...but there's something she was pretty right-on about:


And that is the scariest part of this series. Because this series will affect everything... but not in the way its creators meant it to.

There seem to be two camps when it comes to Thirteen Reasons Why... the camp that says it will do more good than harm, and the camp that says it will do more harm than good.  

I want you to look at the evidence in your personal circle and decide for yourself which camp is proving to be more accurate... then I want you to listen, because I have some words to say about this.


Look at your classmates. Are they treating each other differently? More kindly? Are you seeing less bullying and more acts of kindness between the popular group at your school and the not-so-popular group? Or are interactions at school looking the same as they did two months ago, two years ago, two decades ago?

Over the next couple of days I'll share some examples and evidences of the harm this is doing right now in people's lives and hearts, but for now look at your own... Has this series changed your heart? Do you look at people differently than you did before? Maybe you're thinking, "Yeah! I said 'hi' to a kid who was being bullied in the hall yesterday." But what about the bullies? Did you look at them differently? More vengefully? What about the people who mistreat you? Have you found yourself thinking Hannah may have been right? Or have you set your mind to recall and recite the words of Jesus, "Love your enemies, and be pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-45)


I need you to remember something you’ve known since you were a child: people know that their actions will affect others. This has never been in question, people have always known this, forever and ever. Not a new concept, girls. Predators and bullies know that their actions will cause lifelong damage, depression, suicidal thoughts and/or actions.  The sad reality is not that they haven't been taught or learned that their actions affect others, but that they don't care about their victims, or that their evil will affect them. Rapists will still be rapists whether or not they watch a fictional teenager kill herself after being raped on a fictional television show. In fact, these scenes may even be triggers for them, driving them toward more victims sooner than later. Bullies will still be bullies, mean girls will still be petty and shallow. Sexual assault, abuse, anger, hatefulness and all forms of evil will still exist in the world. Fiction will never create new hearts. God creates new hearts. (Ezekiel 36:26, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Instead of hoping a TV show or book will cause people to think about how their actions affect others, you need to pray. Pray for God's intervention in the lives of your peers, your enemies, your neighbors, family members... that He would draw them in, heal their pain, begin a work in their hearts and carry it on to completion. And that He would heal your heart too. That He would erase the lies and images you have seen in this series, that He would carry you through these messy high school years, and one day use them for a glorious purpose. That He would expose any evil you may be experiencing at the hands of others, and that He would protect you in the aftermath. That your peers would see Him when they look at you. That they would see in you what He sees in you: Jesus!

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20


*Check back tomorrow for part two: This is about YOU