How a “Selfie” Culture Can Lead to a Selfish Life
“Many people are unhappy and are not experiencing life to its fullest because they’ve closed their hearts to compassion, they are motivated by only what they want and what they think they need. They rarely do anything for anybody else unless they have an ulterior goal in mind. They are self-involved and self-centered.” ~Joel Osteen
“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small parcel.” ~John Ruskin
“As long as we live, our self-absorption and our insecurity will walk together, holding hands and swinging them back and forth like two little girls on their way to a pretend playground they can never find. Human nature dictates that most often we will be as insecure as we are self-absorbed. The best possible way to keep from getting sucked into the superficial narcissistic mentality that money, possessions, and sensuality can satisfy and secure us is to deliberately give ourselves to something much greater. Jesus showed us that giving, rather than getting, is the means to receiving: to find yourself, your true self, you must lose yourself in something larger.” ~Beth Moore
Have we become a culture of “selfies”?
One of my pastors, Pastor Pete Wilson, started a new series at Cross Point Church this past Sunday called “Sabotage,” which over the next few weeks, will break down several behaviors that sabotage our relationships. The first two weeks are on the subject of pride – and how many, like me, can testify to the fact that pride is, in fact, a MAJOR relationship killer? I literally wanted to stand up and holler as I watched church online on Sunday, that’s how good this message was. It’s so relevant to the culture we’re living in at this very moment, a culture I’ve dubbed “the selfie culture.” Why do I call it that? Because where we once turned our camera lens outward to shoot the world around us: vacations, friends and family, birthday parties, milestones; today it seems the focus is turned inward on ourselves, resulting in an endless parade of “selfies” and just sort of a generalized overall cultural selfishness. From our TV screens to our Facebook timelines to the magazines and newspapers we read each week, it seems everyone around us is screaming: “Look at me! Notice me! Validate me!” Perhaps no one so much as the beautiful young ladies in today’s music world who instead of stripping down their vocals, are stripping off their clothes to get attention, to assert their “independence,” to prove themselves, to feel loved and admired and respected. In my opinion, though this current “attention seeking” trend that seems to be rampant in our culture is often viewed as narcissistic or prideful…I think it’s all rooted in insecurity. The need to show people how important we are. The need to brag about how great our lives are because on the inside, we fear that they’re not that great at all. And I’m not speaking AT you on this one, friends. I’m speaking with you. I will humbly confess before you all right now that there have been times when I have posted something on my Facebook or Twitter or Instagram feed for no other reason than because it made me feel important or special. And that was rooted in my own pride and insecurity.
But I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to be different. I want to be better.
Part of Pastor Pete’s message on Sunday talked about how Jesus, arguably the most powerful figure in all of history, came to earth not as a king or a ruler or a god but as a HUMAN. And the center of Jesus’ message was all about the last becoming first, the weak becoming strong, the least of these becoming the greatest of these and so on and so forth. And though Jesus might be controversial and might not be mutually agreed upon by all humans to be the messiah, or even God’s son at all, he was still so important, his birth split time IN HALF. So whether you think (like I do) that Jesus IS and WAS God’s son, and is our Lord and Savior, or not…you still have to admit that he is pretty VIP when it comes to historical figures. And yet…yet…he humbled himself to be born human. A human who sweat and smelled and had to go to the bathroom and had to blow his nose and got sick and got sleepy and got frustrated and got food stuck in his teeth. So if JESUS could humble himself in all of the many ways that he did in order to reach mankind…who are we to think that we are too good or too important or too “VIP” to humble ourselves? Who are we to think we deserve first place, or top billing, or accolades, or pats on the back, or recognition? What if, as a culture, we stopped pursuing recognition and started pursuing greatness instead? What if we stopped seeking happiness and started seeking to make others happy instead? What if we stopped chasing love and attention and started recklessly giving love and attention to others instead? What if, instead of always trying to claim the #1 spot and the bestseller and the front row seat in church, we helped others find the bestseller inside THEM? And stepped outta the way and let others have the front row seat and the #1 spot and their moment in the spotlight to shine? I’d venture to say we might just shake this planet to its very core.
Pete’s message made me want to do better. It challenged me like I haven’t been challenged in a long time. So what are some practical ways I’m going to take what I learned from the message and put them to work in my own life?
- For the month of September, I’m only praying for other people, not myself. Obviously this doesn’t mean I’m not praising God for what he’s doing in my life and asking him for forgiveness when I mess up – but instead of driving him crazy with endless requests for my own life, I’m interceding for other people instead. My friends, family, pastors, Twitter followers, readers, the nation, the planet – it’s amazing how many people you can pray for when you take the focus off YOU. (As a side note, I have to mention that literally as I sit here writing this, I stopped for a moment to check my Twitter mentions to find one of my followers asking me out of the blue if there is anything she could pray about for me. How amazing is that? What you do for others is what God will do for you!)
- I’m checking my motivations when it comes to social media posts. Am I posting anything out of pride and vain conceit? If so, I’m not posting it. I want to edify and build up…not endlessly brag and make people feel like their lives don’t measure up to mine. I think you’ll find that if you start checking your motives before everything you put out there into the social media universe, you’ll probably decide not to post it at least half the time.
- I want to put others ahead of me. I don’t want to race to the Starbucks counter before the girl beside me can beat me to it (Yes, I’ve actually done this.) I don’t want to knock people out of my way to claim the front pew at church (Not that I’ve ever done this, but you get the point.) I don’t want to do anything to call attention to me or how “great” I am. I want to simply go about my life as a writer who inspires single women and make THAT my focus, not the accolades that come as a result of the work that I do.
Whether your spiritual beliefs are the same as mine or not, I urge you to consider turning the camera lens off your life for awhile and focusing it back on other people. The beautiful color and light and messiness of the world around you is where your REAL purpose will be found. Not in the mirror. Not in the reflection of your perfect appearance, with every hair in place…but in the trenches of life: Loving and hugging and crying and living and hurting and trying and winning and failing.
Because here’s what I’m learning: Nothing but selfies makes for a very boring photo album. And nothing but selfishness makes for a very static, mediocre, meaningless life.
Do you think we’re in a “selfie” culture? In what ways you like to make some changes in your own life to be more focused on other people and less focused on you? Comment below!