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Celebrities Gone Wild
Seizing Teachable Moments in the Chaos
An article from David R. Smith at

One celebrity hit his girlfriend, and another celebrity took a hit from a bong. Both are paying high prices for their lack of self-control. These separate incidents – revealed within days of one another – have captured the attention of millions of teens. Here’s a resource to help you address it with your kids.

Chris Brown Goes Downtown
Chris Brown is known for his stunning good looks, his incredible dance moves, his golden voice, his many awards, his sexy girlfriend… and now, for his recent visit to the Los Angeles County jail. On Sunday, February 8, he turned himself in and was arrested for accusations of assaulting his girlfriend – and fellow singing sensation – Rihanna.

Instead of performing live at the 2009 Grammy’s on that same night, he paid $50,000 to be released on bail.

But that’s not the only price he’s paid in this fiasco. He has already lost an endorsement deal with got milk? and Wrigley’s Gum. On top of that, Sesame Street is pulling the episode he starred in, and Kiss FM in Cleveland is “following the lead of our listeners,” and is refusing to play Brown’s music on their radio station.

Finally, his reputation is totally trashed. Brown was always admired by fans – and adults – for being clean. It’s hard to predict exactly how much this incident will cost Chris. Some music biz experts think it could end his career if the allegations are proven true. (Click here for the details of this story.)

Michael Phelps in Hot Water
Michael Phelps could do no wrong at the 2008 Summer Olympics. During the contest, the good looking, 23 year old kid from Baltimore, Maryland won a record-setting 8 gold medals for his superior achievements in the pool, giving him more gold medals than anyone who has ever competed in the Olympics. Not only did he make history, he made swimming cool again.

But being cool out of the pool has a price, and Phelps is finding that out the hard way.

On Sunday, February 1, 2009, Phelps acknowledged that he had smoked marijuana from a glass pipe after a photo of him doing so was published in a British magazine.

“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I'm 23 years old, and despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public – it will not happen again.”

For this incident, Phelps has been suspended by USA Swimming, the governing board of American swimmers, and has lost his endorsement deal with Kellogg’s Cereal. (Click here for the full story and most recent updates on the continuing investigation.)

Sadly, this isn’t the first time Phelps has been in serious trouble. Following the 2004 Olympics in Athens where he won 6 gold medals, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated at the age of 19. He issued a public apology here as well.

Hmmmm. I guess Kellogg’s and USA Swimming are tired of hearing apologies.

Making Sense of the Meltdowns
Some celebrities seem prone to self-destruction. Snoop Dogg’s arrest record is too long to count, and you can take your pick of multiple Amy Winehouse meltdowns. Dare I bring up Spears and Lohan? Let’s not.

I don’t pretend to understand why people who seem to have it all, suddenly – and publically – fall apart. But what I do know is that our teenagers have a front row seat to the spectacle when it happens.

But the cases of Brown and Phelps might be even more consequential for our teenagers. These two celebrities are young, which connects them to this generation of teenagers. Heck, they’re a part of the same generation! For the most part, they both had very solid backgrounds, and were admired and respected by teens because of their “good guy” image. Oh yeah, they’re beyond talented. These guys easily qualify for hero-status.

Not anymore.

Celebrities’ tall pedestals can get quite shaky, and if they fall, it’s not just an image that gets shattered. The damage caused by losing self-control has the potential to be unlimited. That’s the nature of losing control! When celebrities’ lives spiral out of control, there is always a price to pay. Chris Brown and Michael Phelps understand that…now.

But what about our teenagers? Do they also understand the gravity of losing self-control?

Conversations on Self-Control
You may want to spend several minutes talking with the teenagers in your life about these high profile incidents, with the hope of preventing the same devastation in their own lives. The truth of the matter is, when we lose self-control, we also pay a price.

Here are a few questions and some Bible passages that will help you steer the conversation towards a lesson on self-control.

  1. Who are some of the heroes of your generation and why?

  2. Describe the reputation of Chris Brown and Michael Phelps BEFORE these incidents. How do their reputations differ today?

  3. The actions of Chris and Michael have cost them big time. Given the price they’ve already had to pay, do you think they would change their actions if they had a chance to do it all over again? Why or why not?

  4. Even if it’s not endorsement deals or suspensions, is there a price to pay when you and I lose self-control? If so, give an example.

    • Let’s read 1 Peter 1:13-16
      Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

  5. Name at least 5 things Peter says for us to do in these verses. (prepare your minds for action, be self-controlled, set your hope on the grace of Jesus, do not conform to evil desires, and be holy)

  6. In what way(s) do you think Chris’ and Michael’s stories would be different if they had lived by these habits outlined here?

    • Let’s read 1 Peter 5:8
      Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

  7. Based, on this verse, why is it important to be self-controlled?

  8. What do you think Peter means when he says, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour?”

  9. In what area(s) of your life do you need to show more self-control?

  10. How can I help you do that?

Only God knows what your conversation could mean to the teenagers in your life. Take a few moments to pray and ask for God’s help in the matter, and then jump into a gracious conversation with teenagers that need Him and you so desperately.

David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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