I have a love-hate relationship with our culture.
On the one hand, as a licensed professional counselor and relationship junkie, I love observing and studying the dynamics of people and how we all interact with the world around us.
On the other hand, I hate (I know, that is a strong word) to see how Christians are being crushed by our culture and the lies it feeds us.
As parents, it seems like more than ever, we certainly have our work cut out for us in fighting the many messages we hear almost daily. We certainly hear loud and clear the world’s view of success, achievement, and happiness.
There’s a lot of talk about happiness these days. There are projects on how to get it, decluttering mantras on how to spark it, and even something about washing your face that leads to helping you achieve your dreams of happiness.
But is happiness really the goal?
The American idol of self
I don’t think it would surprise any of us to recognize that the world is broken and, therefore, leans a bit toward self: self-protection, self-focus, self-promotion. Just look at our reality TV.
That we even have reality television fascinates me. And some of it is so very entertaining. Who doesn’t want to see who will be the ultimate Survivor? Seeing the grit of men and women as they push through physical and emotional struggles is inspiring. Seeing the deception and the betrayal played out in unseemly ways, not so much.
In our family, we enjoy American Idol. We love the stories, the talent (or lack of it), and the fun chemistry and insight from the judges. But does it strike anyone else a little funny (like in that uncomfortable, lightning-might-strike kind of way) that we have a television program with the word idol in the title?
I must admit that I do ask myself, “Do you think it grieves the heart of God that in our culture we embrace a TV show that, at its core, boldly idolizes?”
I think the answer is probably yes.
Sadly, some of the reality shows with the worst portrayal of family dysfunction receive the highest ratings. Why are we drawn to this glorified depravity, and how do we counter the messages being glamorized?
From LIFE to SELF
Almost twenty years ago, I wrote a paper discussing this very “self” crisis in our culture where I referenced a Contemporary Christian artist named Billy Sprague.
He gave his perspective on this issue by shining a light on the progressive selfishness of America just based on the titles of popular magazines. We had LIFE, followed by People, then Us Weekly, and finally SELF. Wow!
And, in case the young people of America can’t relate to those print media examples, how about our age of Instagram followers, likes, and selfies?
Shouldn’t we all just be happy?
As believers, and especially as parents, our job is to counter these messages in our culture with biblical truth and clarity. We are to contrast these worldly messages of self with what the Bible teaches about the value of being “others-centered.”
In Philippians 2:3–4, Paul writes, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (NLT).
Oh, and regarding that goal of happiness.
Well, I’m not sure you are going to find it in God’s Word.
I believe you will find that we are called to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16 ESV).
And, in Leviticus 20:7: “So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the Lord your God” (NLT).
So, is God anti-happiness?
No way. He loves happy. He just never intended for it to be our goal.
Tremendous happiness comes from keeping his law (Proverbs 29:18) and for those “who hear the Word of God and continually observe it” (Luke 11:28 AMP).
“Happy is the man who finds wisdom” (Proverbs 3:13 NKJV).
“Blessed (happy) is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways and lives according to His commandments” (Psalms 128:1 AMP).
I could go on and on with happiness from the Bible.
Let’s just be super careful how we teach this to our kids.
How to turn from self
Another great truth is expressed in Ephesians 5:1, where Paul talks about being “imitators of God.”
Aren’t you thankful for this challenge?
You know we have a wonderful resource of others who have gone before us in the fight. God’s Word is full of fallen people who were quite self-absorbed, self-protective, and self-promoting, like Cain, Moses, Jacob, Saul, King David, Solomon, Ahab, and Jezebel.
Some of them burned out and stayed selfish to the end. Others allowed the Lord to transform their hearts and corrected their selfish ways with a focus and a love toward others.
We also have examples of people with determined mindfulness toward others, like Esther, Hosea, and Joseph. These are excellent examples to use as we discuss current schools of thought being lived out by those in the media, in Hollywood, or even in our own schools.
We have the great opportunity to live in such a way that the world notices and wants to know why we love and live for others.
Let’s challenge ourselves and our kiddos to be “others-centered.”
Let’s be a blessing to someone else by meeting a need.
And maybe we should take a break from the Kardashians and focus on any number of people in our spheres of influence who are hurting or in need of a friend.