I came across a Bible verse today that really struck me hard this morning. It wasn’t even the biblical context that really made me question things, but rather in relation to life itself.
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? – Mark 8:36
For those of you who do not believe in God, I’ll translate it into what it meant to me that may relate to you more.
If you gain all the riches of the world, fame, fortune, all sorts of pleasure, any material possession, anything you can basically imagine achieving that is defined as success by the world, but then have nothing truly meaningful in your life like love, family, relationships, any sort of impact on other’s lives, or any kind of desire for creating eternal change, then what is the point of it all?
This made me think. It made me think of the world we live in. How literally everyone is focused on achieving their own instant gratification rather than creating deeper connections or greater impact. We have become such a selfish society. And I am not afraid to say that, even towards myself because we all fall into the same trap. It makes us feel good to fulfill our own desires. It is human instinct to be selfish. And the times we live in now, not only encourage it more so than ever before, but it has become the social norm to be this way, when in generations before, it was not.
Our image has become our God. We worship our image. We do everything we can to create this outward appeal. We go to great lengths, even if it means hurting others who get in the way. We sacrifice our families, our friends, our careers, our relationship. We seek more and more and more, and yet during our life time we have become the most depressed generation.
Why is this? Because we have turned inward. We have forgotten what it’s like to experience real connection. Loving others has become less of a priority and giving to ourselves has raised to the top. It’s not even about self-love, because we don’t even love ourselves. In fact, we hate ourselves more than ever because we are constantly so focused on outdoing everyone else’s image with our own. But we can never feel like we are enough.
I see how the widening popularity of social media has impacted the way we see our own identity. We base our worth on who “likes” our stuff or who we are friends with or how many followers we have.
It’s not only affecting our lives online, but also offline. Our culture has made it so that it has become so acceptable to overshare our opinions of literally everything that everyone believes that they must conform to what is popular in order to be deemed as a “worthy individual.” It is ruining relationships. Friendships. Careers. Causing identity crisis. Depression. Anxiety. Fear. Jealousy. Rage.
It is creating so much hatred in the world as well. Look at the recent shootings. We are spreading news and opinions so quickly that people don’t even get a moment to digest it but rather are overwhelmed with the opinions of everyone else in a matter of seconds. Then before you know it, all of this promoting causes them to feel entitled enough to go out and fix the problem themselves – resulting in even more destruction. There is so much animosity. So much judgment. So much entitlement. So many opinions of what is right and wrong. And all it does is create chaos and produce more confusion.
I’m not blaming it all on social media. This isn’t a post about social media at all and how I am advocating against it (I’m not, I know now it can be used for good). It’s rather a post about the way our culture has evolved just in the last 10 years. How much importance it is placing on the wrong things. And as a result, we have lost the true meaning and purpose of life. It was never about us.
What is the meaning and purpose of life?
A friend of mine is doing a project on this very question. I responded to her question, and I wanted to share an expanded version of my response with you. I am not saying that even my own opinion is right, but what I can tell you is that the meaning of life is not to glorify ourselves and create a world of competition, lost identity, and hatred.
The meaning of life. Wow. Such a complicated yet simple question. I think the meaning of life is several things. The first purpose is to love. I believe we were created (by God) to love and to receive love in return. I think love was created for a good reason. It is obviously important because it is truly the basis for every purpose and motivation in life. We do things out of love. We experience things out of love. We pursue things out of love. We create things out of love. We are inspired because of love. Love is the one universal thing that connects us all. It is understood in every language.
It doesn’t even have to be romantic love, it can be any kind of relational connection from strangers to friends to family to significant others. Love is meant to be shared. It is meant to be given freely and received freely. It is not meant to be judged. It is not meant to create competition. It is not meant to spread division. Rather it is used to unite. Anything that is not love is based off fear and fear is what causes disconnection. Fear is what drives our need for competition. Fear is what creates hatred among each other. Fear is what causes entitlement. Fear is what tells us to focus on ourselves and not others. Fear is what kills. Love does none of this. Love is pure. It’s only motivation is for good. Love others. Love ourselves.
The second purpose of life is to connect. We all learn from each other, whether growing up as children and learning from our parents to learning from our peers. Each of these relationships create a connection. Without connection humans would cease to exist. It is that vital.
There was a scientific study in the 1950s called the “Monkey Love Experiments” conducted by psychologist Harry Harlow. Through the use of baby monkeys and robots, he conducted a theory to prove how critical it is to have emotional attachment and connection in our lives and when we cease to have this, we literally go insane. In his experiments he separated baby monkeys from their mothers and placed them in two separate groups – one with a surrogate robot mother that was made a plain electronics and wires but had provided nourishment (milk) and a second surrogate robot mother that did not provide nourishment but was covered in soft terry cloth to resemble the comforting presence of a real mother. He found that the monkeys that were placed with the plain robot showed signs of emotional deprivation and depression even though they were adequately nourished. The other monkeys seemed happier and more secure because they were able to form an emotional attachment and connection to the terry cloth covered robot. (Link)
What this proves is our significant need for emotional attachment and connection. Without it, we are empty. Purposeless. It is the same for human beings. Without adequate connections to others, our lives feel meaningless. I believe that one of our deepest human needs is to feel understood and we can only find that understanding when we connect to others. We connect by being vulnerable with each other and once we can break that barrier, we find understanding. We create the emotional attachment. Understanding allows us to feel loved and a sense of belonging.
In today’s world, I feel like we have less of that sense of belonging now more than ever. We are all trying so desperately to connect, and yet we have become so far from it because our attempts are directed in the wrong way. Instead of seeking to understand, we are seeking to compete. Instead of seeking to love, we are seeking to judge. Instead of being vulnerable, we are only revealing ourselves as a carefully put together façade of what we want people to see. Connection cannot blossom through this way of being.
The third and final meaning of life, I believe is to create. And not necessarily to create artwork, although it can be, but in essence to create anything. We can create life by reproduction , children. We can create beauty – through outward expression, through human connection, through love. We can create friendships. We can create whatever it is that inspires us to grow and learn, and most importantly to steer mankind into a worthy direction.
God created creation by creating us. He created love. He created nature. He created the Earth and all of the universe. Creating was His gift to us and we must also follow His lead by creating good things as well. We must create out of love, not out of fear.
This is what I believe the true meaning to life is. To love. To connect. And to create. When we lack these things, our life becomes empty – purposeless. Without love, we are nothing. Without connection we feel isolated and misunderstood. And when we have no creativity, we have no form of outward expression, no motivation to keep us going, so life becomes boring.
Three simple things originally based in love, and yet we have evolved into turning them all into things based on fear. Instead of loving, we now hate. Instead of connecting, we have now become selfish. Instead of creating, we destroy.
The self love daily challenge: Let’s work together to originate ourselves back to the true and worthy meanings of life. Let’s love again. Love yourself. Love your neighbor. Let’s connect again. Talk to someone. Understand them. Relate to them. And lastly, let’s inspire each other to create good things. To express ourself in positive, healthy ways.