Wednesday, December 28, 2016

OUR SEARCH FOR IDENTITY

I am a part of the 60's revolution.

Two slogans from that era epitomize the desire we held and the methods we felt would achieve our imagined Utopia—




"Burn, baby, burn!"
"All you need is love."

Of course, there is much more which influenced that period and the decades since, but I trust the irony of the reality is not lost for you.

This apparent conflict of ideals was lost on many as efforts went forth to bring change to our way of life through the use of this means to achieve the desired end.

The stress of such cognitive dissonance maintained throughout a generation resulted in a continued degradation of society which only now is beginning to be noticed.

The legacy of such a tussle between opposing forces is evident in the current psychological state of society at large.

While every generation has sought its meaning and purpose by building and improving upon that which had gone before, the current generation has nothing but shifting sands upon which to build.

This does not bode well for our future as a people, as a nation, as a global society.

My generation, rebelling against the pro forma society into which we were born, raised up a generation of anarchists—"those who rebel against any authority, established order, or ruling power." (Merriam-Webster)

The guiding mantra of that generation was "question everything."

The resulting staunch individualism has left a generation adrift with nothing solid with which to anchor their wandering souls.

"Every man doing that which is right in his own eyes" (Dt. 12:8; Jdg. 17:6; Jdg. 21:25; Pro. 12:15; Pro. 21:2) may seem like an evergreen utopia to which we all should aspire, but without a foundation from which to direct our sense of "right," we will only realize confusion.

In other words, look around. Observe. You can see the rotten fruit of such an approach.

Rebelling against "what is" seems to be a necessary part of coming of age. It has certainly been the legacy upon which this country was founded.

In the ordinary course of things, this rebellion is what brings about necessary change to a stolid but dying order.

However, when everyone is doing that which is right in their own eyes, there is no established order against which to rebel.

Witness the protests of the past few years—
  • Occupy Wall Street 
  • the whole "Occupy" movement  
  • pipeline protests  
  • Bureau of Land Management protests 
  • "Trump is not my president" protests
These are each minor skirmishes with no broad-reaching focus.
And, there can be no broad-reaching focus, because when everyone is doing that which is right in their own eyes, there is an amoeba-like quality that defies definition of form.

Because there is no definition of form, there is nothing to which an isolated human being can belong with any sense of security.

That lack of a sense of a security has left the current generation hopeless, desperately trying to make sense of their senseless world—
  • where life has little value
  • where work has no meaning beyond a paycheck
  • where relationships are less than temporary
  • where existence itself appears to be a waste of time
When these types of negatives begin to arise within a people, hopelessness increases, which exacerbates the suicide rate.

A New York Times headline of April 22, 2016 stated,

U.S. Suicide Rate Surges 
to a 30-Year High

The modern church, ever quick to seize an opportunity, has stepped in with its usual plastic palliative of a pious platitude—

People just need to know who they are,
their identity.

Books and songs are being cranked out at breakneck speed trying to "help" people recognize who they are in Christ. (This is also happening in the secular world, just without the "in Christ" concept.)

I recently challenged the fact of so many of our "worship" songs being about "me." One person came back with a retort straight from Chris Tomlin—
In today's society people need to know who they are. They have no sense of identity. That's why we sing those songs.

This is not the place to go into all the ramifications of praise and worship.

However, the very idea of "why we sing those songs" is at the root of our problems as a society, let alone as the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow defined a hierarchy of needs, with the particular revelation that when lower level needs are not met, then higher-level needs will be abandoned in favor of shoring up the deeper needs. To the right is a common graphic representation of Maslow's Hierarchy.

Notice the very top of the pyramid of needs—Self-actualization.
Said another way, IDENTITY.

Maslow theorized and research has shown that unless the lower needs are sufficiently met, the higher needs will be abandoned.

What is the "need" that has been most promoted for at least the last decade if not longer? Would you agree with me that it is "Self-esteem?"

Society recognized the prevalence of low self esteem and set out to rectify the situation. The caricatures of, and slams against, "participation trophy" highlight the emptiness of our collective attempts to raise the self-awareness of the next generation.

We have created a generation of narcissists based on the concept that
"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." (Buddha)

What has been lacking is the truth of what Denis Waitley said—
"To establish true self-esteem we must concentrate on our successes and forget about the failures and the negatives in our lives."

"Successes" are the result of having done something.
Simple.
Profound, when one considers how many parents and teachers have missed this reality.

Telling people "who they are" will not result in identity awareness anymore than telling people they are great resulted in higher self-esteem. It is a need that must have a basis for its fulfillment.

That basis is now non-existent in our society as a direct result of the short-sightedness of my generation—"If it feels good, do it; just so long as you don't hurt anybody."

I will close with the following video, which puts a finger on the current problem and a possible solution.




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