An Anti-self-help Self-help Series ~ What Do You Believe In?
This is my third in a series of 'anti-self-help self-help' hubs, so I ought to explain why I count my observations & perceptions of how to live your life to be 'anti-self-help. In my introductory hub for this series, "Why Do We hurt?", I set forth my own understanding of the foundation for what has become a self-help industry, why so many feel the need for help with understanding and controlling their lives, with these words ~
"Whereas questions of self and purpose were the subject of philosophers and poets in generations past, today everyone is provoked to discover their own personal truth and purpose, with the ultimate goal firmly established in the question - personal fulfillment and happiness. But, here is the trouble for modern man; the same historic trend that relocated these grand philosophic questions from the philosophers and poets to the 14 year old teenage girl and the 53 year old retail clerk, at the same time stripped the culture of any sound philosophic foundation . . . people today struggle with 'finding themselves' and 'living their best life now' at a time and in a place that has discarded the significance of truth for an interest in feeling happy, has replaced critical thinking with an appetite for sensation, has abandoned focused authenticity for emotive jargon."
In the second hub of the series, "Believing You can Fly (I mean, accomplish & serve)", I elaborated on the nature of the change our shift toward a self-help culture has presented us with, saying ~
"Actual accomplishment, like acting well or singing beautifully or fixing the plumbing or being kind to neighbors, etc, no longer informs our sense of ourselves - now it's all how you apply pop-culture psychological gobbledygook inside your own head to define your self-worth. It's all form and no substance . . . our culture has turned us in on ourselves for us to define our 'self', not through demonstrable and so observable deeds, but through self-aggrandizing psychological catch phrases. The records that now move us are no longer songs about our love for a girlfriend or boyfriend - now our music is all about 'I believe in me', 'I know I can fly', 'I'm so friggin' special', etc."
I very much believe one of the sound foundational ideas that has been abandoned but once provided us with a healthy apprehension of ourselves and our life, one of the fundamental truths that has been set aside and has left us to try to internally convince ourselves that we are special, that we can overcome, that we can 'fly', etc, is Christian faith. Many, I'm sure, will instantly assert that religion has no place in a modern understanding of our psychological make-up, and that in fact it is religion and it's teaching of sin and our need of forgiveness, etc, that scars and handicaps people from living full and joyous lives . . . and I would agree, if we're talking about religious fairy tales - but what I'm talking about is leaving behind imagined scenarios of self and manufactured notions of purpose and instead owning a legitimate understanding of the truth of our circumstances.
Who could have known that my great grandmother Pansy Maud Essie Burton Wade Edwards' trek across the country to California would result in the circumstance it resulted in . . .
In the previous hub in this series, "Recognizing The Reality Of The Circumstance Of Your Life", I presented my perception of what I believe is the issue that many who struggle with life need to resolve before they can feel joy and purpose, saying ~
"Often the problem is not that we really can't own a direction or purpose, the problem is not that we really don't control our life, the problem is not that our life really is too hard, etc - the problem is that we 'feel' all these miserable perceptions. For many people the trouble they are burdened with is not the actual circumstance of their life, it's their own emotional contrivances, it's their own invented outlook of life that provides them hurt rather than joy. Now, the solution to this dilemma, it seems to me, is to introduce a realistic sense of the true circumstance of their life . . . Too often it's not our factual circumstances that cause us hurt, it's how we perceive our circumstances, it's how we 'feel' about our life not our actual life that hinders joy."
For me, the introduction of Christian faith into the topic of wellbeing and improving your quality of life has very directly and consequentially to do with living in the world as it really is, living your life with a right understanding of things, recognizing the truth of your circumstances. As I said, I believe many people live lives, not that are so difficult that they cannot find joy, but that they feel are so difficult that they cannot find joy. Just about all that we think, just about all the views and perceptions we have, are associated with comparisons; I like Darlene Love not just because I think she sings beautifully, I like her because I think she sings more beautifully than Diana Ross or Tina Turner, etc. If I thought either of them sang better than Darlene love then I would like them instead of her. I think a representative government with a free-market economy works well, not because I think it's objectively and eternally the right way to do things, but because I think it works better than a totalitarian government with a socialist economy.
We like what we like because we like it better than other things which we don't like, we think certain ideas good because we think other ideas not good . . . our perception of certain things is connected to how we perceive other things, how we think and feel about things is informed by how we think and feel about others things. When I consider my life, if I am happy and content or not, I have to think of what I expect my life should be like, I have to consider what other's lives are and have been like - I think many people think of their life as compared to a private dream of theirs . . . as in"I wish I were famous", "I would like to be rich", "I want to be thinner", etc, etc. I believe many people are unhappy, unfulfilled, without joy, because they review their life circumstances compared to their dream life circumstances and not to realistic life circumstances. Many people, I believe, are not living authentically miserable lives - they feel they are living miserable lives (because they're not famous and rich, etc).
Now, I understand not being famous and rich is not specifically everyone's dissatisfaction. Some people are burdened with very legitimate trouble, many suffer from health issues, lost loved ones, all manner of real and very difficult hardships - but I believe the best course is still to rightly recognize your circumstance. If you've lost a limb or have multiple sclerosis would you rather be blind or in a coma, or, would you rather have lost a limb or have multiple sclerosis in 14th century France or in a village in Viet Nam in the 60s? Or if you are blind or in a coma would you prefer to be blind or in a coma and hated by others because of your race? Or if you are hated by others, etc, etc.
I enjoy reasonably good health, and I don't at all want to appear insensitive, I understand these hardships are real and very difficult things to have to deal with, I'm only asking, how is it that we deal with them? We know that there may be one person who is blind and who is resentful and bitter and can find no joy in life because of his blindness - while there is another who is blind and is filled with joy and helps others and even counts his blindness a blessing . . . the circumstances are the same, the difference is in how they feel about their circumstance. The self-help industry, it seems to me, isn't about addressing the reality of the human condition, the factual circumstance of your life - the self-help industry is about manipulating your feelings, cheering you on to 'believe you can fly', to keep yourself convinced that you're special, to persuade you to believe in you.
. . . who would have thought that I would end-up all the way back in Pennsylvania to meet my high school sweetheart, marry her, and enjoy 6 kids and (currently) 12 grandkids with her?
It seems to me the best course to follow in seeking contentment, fulfillment, and joy in life is to rightly understand the reality of your circumstance and to deal with your circumstances in workable and productive manner - not to pump yourself up into feeling good for as long as you can keep yourself pumped-up to feel good. It's not about convincing yourself you are special and 'believing you can fly' - it's about recognizing the reality of your circumstances and believing in the truth of what things are and how they work. And I believe this is where Christian faith comes in and why it is the only genuine path of contentment, fulfillment, and joy. Many will quickly assert that faith is not at all anything other than pumping yourself up into feeling good and convincing yourself of ideas to make you feel good - but I enthusiastically disagree.
We got here somehow, and 'here' came to be here somehow . . . if material reality suddenly and without purpose popped into existence then Christian faith is a fairy tale religious notion no better than the lamest pop psychology self-help silliness, if Islam or Hinduism, or any other religious notion is the truth than Christian faith at best a distraction - but if the God of the Bible is the one true God and if He made us and put us here for a reason and purpose then how could we possibly find mental/emotional health, how could we find contentment, fulfillment, and joy in life without recognizing the truth of that circumstance and living our lives according to that truth? My assertion here is simply and directly this; introducing Christian faith into the topic of wellbeing and improving your quality of life has very directly and consequentially to do with living in the world as it really is, living your life with a right understanding of things, recognizing the truth of your circumstances.
Many are miserable, unhappy and unfulfilled with their life - but what are they thinking their life is? Is their birth into and existence on this planet without design or purpose, is it all and only about if they are feeling happy moment to moment? Is it reasonable for us to feel miserable when things don't go as we would prefer them to go, is this life all about us feeling happy all the time. Believe me, I recognize that this may sound to some like an argument in favor of living a troubled life filled with misery, but of course that is not my point - I am saying we need to start out with a realistic apprehension of who we are and what this life is if we are going to rightly handle hardship and find any contentment, fulfillment, and joy.
The truth is God has created all that is and He put each of us here for a reason - and the good news to understand is, everything is going according to plan. Disease, hurt, hardships, etc, are not mistakes that we we never meant or built to have to content with . . . the Bible doesn't tell us that life is meant to be nothing bu pleasantness, it doesn't assure us that if we are Christians and do good that we will escape difficulties in life - the Bible in fact tells us that in this life we will face hardships and it cautions Christians to expect suffering. Now, if God tells us that in this life we will experience hardship and suffering and we are hoping and expecting nothing but happiness and success, aren't we setting ourselves up to feel unhappy with life?
As I said, it seems to me the best course to follow in seeking contentment, fulfillment, and joy in life is to rightly understand the reality of your circumstance and to deal with your circumstances in workable and productive manner. God tells us what this life is about and what we should expect to experience during it, while the popular self-help industry is telling us to simply convince ourselves that we can overcome, that we are special, that we 'can fly', etc . . . I, personally, don't want to use psychological manipulation to make myself merely feel better about myself and my life - I want to know and live as the 'me' that I actually am in my life as it actually is. God has made me an eternal soul, this life, my material & mortal life, is in fact the very initial moments of my existence . . . it is crucial and is filled with significance, but if I take to all be about me and my happiness I am missing what I could and should be learning for my eternal life.
I think of this; a child sees no sound reason to agree to and endure a vaccination - what he sees is a big stinging needle, and he is unhappy with his life. But we know the beginning from the end, we know that this pain will be but a moment and the benefit will continue on forever. We are supervising this child's course because we understand the design and purpose of this momentary pain while all the child sees is the pain . . . God is supervising our course and He knows the design and purpose of our momentary pain while all we see is the pain. The point here, in a wellness hub, is that if we resist the truth and remain seeing only the pain and use the latest self-help book to try to convince ourselves to feel happy, we will find ourselves on an endless course of new techniques and new 'secrets' to feel good about ourselves and our lives but never knowing that real contentment, fulfillment, and joy that is based in the truth.
I'm not happy because I didn't get a flat tire, I'm happy even though I did get a flat tire . . . not because the latest self-help guru or a fanciful religious notion cheers me on to simply convince myself 'I can fly' - I'm happy (and more than that, (contented, fulfilled, and joyful) because I know this life is not all about everything continually going well for me, it's not all about me feeling happy all the time and sometimes I need an inoculation, and it stings, but I know I would prefer it to polio and I know God is supervising my care and education for a purpose. Self-help tells me to believe in me - I want to know and understand and believe it the truth.
An Anti-self-help Self-help Series ~
- Regular, Normal Christianity
I believe many folks are turned off, not by authentic Christianity, but by the too often ugly, discordant, and silly religion some have concocted and falsely labeled "Christianity"
- The Christian & Private Study - A 'How To' Guide
You don't have to be a scholar to study Scripture effectively and you don't have to be intimidated because of unfamiliar terms and references - there are essential things you can know and aids to use that will make your own private study fruitful.