If there was one sin to characterize the United States of America, I believe it would be idolatry. This is somewhat ironic given the etiology of this nation. America was founded upon the notion that individuals should have a greater degree of autonomy than previously was common under other forms of government. If anything, America was founded upon values that should have facilitated pride of the individual.
Today, it is all but a crime to prioritize the individual over the common. More specifically, it is looked down upon to cultivate and voice your own opinion when it appears to significantly differ from that of popular opinion.
We’ve shifted from pride to idolatry. No, perhaps our pride has evolved into idolatry. That sounds more accurate.
Why do I say we are characterized by idolatry?
First, the obvious: celebrity worship. I enjoy television. I enjoy movies. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with either, so far as I can tell. However, there is – I believe – an absurd level of time and resources being poured out by audience members in respect to celebrities. We change our dress accordingly, our political views accordingly, even our religious views accordingly. We act differently around friends and family due to our being influenced by celebrities.
Now, the not-so-obvious: movement worship. This very closely resembles (and is even impacted by) celebrity worship. People are exposed to certain movements, such as occupy this, protest that, overturn this, outlaw that, etc. The movements aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves (and it wouldn’t matter even if they were). The problem, is with the sort of investment people make in these movements.
What happens when these movements or celebrities fail to bring us fulfillment? What happens when movements fizzle or celebrities fail?
If your hope was placed in them, your hope follows them to extinction.
It seems to me that many people are no longer individuals. People seem to be so busy searching for something or someone to be moved by, that they neglect themselves. Whether it be celebrity, social movements, or even religion (I am a Christian, but I believe many – maybe most- Christians also neglect themselves unnecessarily and even to their own detriment), individuals are more and more giving themselves over things external to themselves.
This is far too easy to do. I’m sure all people do it to some extent. I know I do. I get lost in ideas and ideals frequently. I latch on to some concept I come across, and lose myself in it for hours, days, months at a time – neglecting my self along the way.
But, when I do remember to take time for myself, it is a wonderfully refreshing experience. All it takes is either time in a dark room by myself, or a walk down a trail, or a long shower, or writing in a journal (or writing posts for this blog). For me, these things are essential.
You might have some other way of connecting with yourself. Don’t neglect it. If you find yourself in an emotional funk, try to reconnect with yourself.
From a Christian point of view: God made you in His image. He respects you so much that when He made you, He made you with autonomy – that is part of His image. Remember this. Taking time for you can be a way of worshiping God. After all, God made you. I don’t believe He takes that lightly. I don’t believe He made you simply so that you can live as/for someone or something else. Now, living as you will may in fact relate to living according to God’s will. You should do this when it’s genuine. If it’s not genuine, remember that God judge’s man by his heart. What is your heart other than a reflection of your will?
Be yourself. If you sense that you should improve yourself, do so. However, don’t be an impersonator. Don’t pretend. If you find it difficult to change, but you earnestly want to, it would be best for you to find a way to change that doesn’t require you to be disingenuous.
An analogy relates to addiction. You may come to a point where you recognize that you have an addiction and you want to change. I would caution against simply pretending that you were never addicted in the first place. This is superficial, and by definition week to attacks. Instead, build your new self in a genuine manner – so that the new self is truly the new you. This is strong and firm, and would take many strong attacks to overcome.
Likewise, if you find yourself living superficially, changing your course according to the winds of popular opinion, and you find that you’re not so sure if you like yourself because you’re not even sure if you have a self…each journey begins with a dedication of will. Choose, and step. Choose, and step. Each genuine movement corresponds to a reformation of your self. Do this deliberately and diligently and you will find that you have build a self upon a firm foundation with walls of brick and stone.
With so many distractions, and so few incentives to the contrary, it is very easy to live a superficial life of idolatry. Particularly in developed countries, there is little time or reason to reflect on your self. We have all the necessities we need, and more luxuries than we’d could ever want. This is all superficial, meaningless, and crumbles all too easily and quickly.
Nothing external is permanent. Do not place your hope there.
Take care of yourself. Take care of your self.