Selfies and Selflessies

The word “selfie” was declared popular enough to grab a slot in the Oxford Dictionary in 2013. In a sense, the addition of this word was very appropriate given the nature of the generation who made it popular. That is to say that the Millennial generation has become one that is, among other things, defined by a focus on self. From the rise of self-help books and the development of college courses aimed at achieving happiness, it seems that the generation is overly interested in themselves and how they feel. While it is certainly right and good and healthy to be concerned with ourselves,  it can also be a very dangerous thing which results in numerous changes within; not only individual lives but also family lives, and by extension, the society these individuals and families comprise.

One of the dangers of a selfie generation that I have noticed is the danger of depression. Millenials are said to be the most anxious and depressed generation that has ever been recorded. Some studies link this depression to the need of validation found in meeting the standards of others. I’m sure there are connections here to the phenomenon of social media and access to the internet with the ability to connect to millions of people who are creating an image online for others to adore, but there is also a very real spiritual problem here.

Millennials have been raised by a generation of people who were told by the experts that self-esteem was the most important thing they needed to inculcate in the life of their child if that child was going to live a happy and productive life. One of the issues with this view, however, is the view that people are entitled to happiness; and we see this view all around us. Happiness is the best selling philosophy in American culture right now. How does one achieve happiness? They must have high self-esteem; they must think about themselves in positive ways and exude that confidence in order to win friends and succeed in the workplace. At least, that’s what we are told. But what are we to evaluate ourselves against? What is the standard that we can look to in order to be confident that we do have self-esteem?  Just what is it?  We aren’t told this crucial information, we are simply told that we should do that which makes us feel good; pursue those things and behave in a way that brings us happiness. One of the biggest problems with thinking this way (besides the issue of people finding good feelings in harming others) is that when people fail to achieve that which they think will make them happy they become convinced that they just aren’t as good as they thought they were. In other words, the very nature of the philosophy of self-esteem defeats the goal it aims to achieve: happiness.

From a biblical worldview we know that the most important thing in life is not to find happiness within ourselves, but to find peace outside of ourselves. As Christians, our life is one of dedicated service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who gives us peace with our Creator through salvation from the curse of sin (Rom. 12:1-2; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:20-25). It is not merely an inward examination of our desires and gifts that we should observe, it is also a recognition of our weaknesses and failures. This inward realization of who we are, as helpless sinners, drives us to look outward for help, not to dig deeper within ourselves for the solution. It is through this recognition, joined with faith in Christ, that true joy and happiness are found.  Jesus is the objective source that answers all of the problems of humanity (Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20), because all of the problems of humanity ultimately stem from humans being sinners.

This is why Christianity is so foolish to the world around us because we find peace with God, ourselves, and our neighbors through a recognition of our depravity, not of our esteem or some supposed goodness within. It is through weakness we are made strong and through pain and suffering that we enter God’s eternal Kingdom. It is the humble who are the conquerors and it is the meek who will see God (Matt. 5:2-12). This is the polar opposite of the message of the world.  No wonder they think us foolish. But that is the way it should be, Christian. I’m reminded of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (cf. 1:20-25).

The pursuit of happiness is not the purpose of life, it is a recipe for depression. We should be bringing a message to the world that reminds them of their frailty, their weakness, and their sinfulness, and we should remind them of the good news that Jesus Christ has come and he provides life everlasting.

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