My coffee wasn’t even finished brewing this morning before I heard two news stories that had me preaching at the TV, literally sick over the state of young women. My mini-sermonettes tend to target shows like The Bachelor, (that show’s insanity can send me into quite a twitter frenzy) but today it was simply the morning news that had me going.
First up was the story of some high school students who decided to get their kicks by posting vicious gossip and hateful comments about other girls in their school on a Facebook group. This act of bullying became national news due to the fact that a different girl in Massachusetts recently committed suicide because of her own dealings with “mean” girls. News anchors, parents, psychologists and school principles are scratching their heads…confused as to why young women would act so cruelly and behave so meanly towards one another.*
By this point I was saddened for the young women, but was moving on with my day. Just then another news story flickered onto the screen. This was the oh-so-news-worthy drama that surrounds the cast of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Can we say catfight? These women are bickering, backbiting and passing around petty jabs over silly issues, making high school drama seem tame… each one fighting to outdo and outshine the other. Not too different from the jealousy and insecurity going down in middle school cafeterias across the country.
As I contemplated the morning news it dawned on me that the same core issue spans multiple generations: our culture promotes insecure women desperate for attention. The world sends a message that we should focus on self and fight hard to make ourselves #1. What upsets me is that we’ve turned this into entertainment and the next generation is lapping it up like water…hoping to quench the thirst of their souls for attention and love by emulating the seek-me-first attitudes that fuels reality TV.
Is there any wonder that in our fame-obsessed-me-first culture, high school students blatantly publicize their bullying acts on sites like Facebook and YouTube when networks like Bravo give grown women their own reality shows rewarding them with expense accounts, salaries, and a wardrobe that they can keep for the exact same cruel behavior? The problem with this message is that it makes for miserable people. Why? We weren’t meant to be #1.
The quarrels, fights, gossip, back-stabbing and drama are all the result of the human heart seeking to find love, life, identity, security and affirmation apart from God. These women (young and old – yes, Housewives, I called you old) have simply believed the lie that they will feel better about themselves if they can make others feel inferior. Or they will feel good if they make others feel small. The problem is that this twisted thinking doesn’t work. The “me-first” agenda, which is the air our culture breathes, actually backfires, producing miserable and hurting people. In my book, The List, I address this issue directly:
Why are so many of us obsessed with fame? Why do we clamor for the spotlight? Why do we desire our name in lights? For one thing, we live in a culture that screams at us to make much of ourselves. To crave attention, to fight for the limelight, to be the one that is watched, applauded, and praised. And the other factor is the desire “to be someone.” And clearly, our culture tells us, “you aren’t ‘someone’ unless you are famous.”
But is this right? Is fighting for our share of the spotlight why we were made?
To understand why we were made, we first must recognize the fact that we are, indeed, “made.” Created. Formed. Designed. Planned. Fashioned. We are not self-existent creatures. We did not create ourselves. We are the purposeful design of one who is the Creator of All Things. The Author of Life. The Holy, Awesome, and Majestic God of the Universe. The Bible says, “God made man in His own likeness. He made both male and female. He breathed into the nose the breath of life. (And) Man became a living being." (Genesis 1:27; 2:7 New Life Version)
This awesome Being who revealed Himself to be God made each one of us. Mindboggling, I know. It is incredible to think about the fact that the one who spoke solar systems into orbit and who holds the universe together by his power, chose to create you and me…uniquely.
Why did He create us? The Bible is very clear on this point. Every person throughout history was created for the sole purpose of bringing glory to our Creator. Yes girls, we were created to shine! In Isaiah 43:6-7, the Lord says, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by name, whom I created for my glory.”
Did you notice the last part of that verse? God says that we were created for his glory, not our own. We are designed to make his name known, to lift high his praise, to turn the spotlight on his face. Like stars that light up the night sky, we are designed to shine—to reflect to the world that our God is incredibly glorious. Author and speaker John Piper in his book, Don’t Waste Your Life explains this purpose by stating, “God created me—and you—to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion—namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.”
We are created to make God’s glory known, yet we live in and struggle against a culture that claims that we (the created ones) are the center of the universe—not God (The Creator). Shining for God’s glory is a radical shift from the cry of the world that says, “make much of yourself!” Our education, marketing, and, sadly, even our parents have spent years programming our thinking to believe that we (the individual) are the most important person on earth. Self-esteem is the highest virtue. Love of self is the utmost concern. It is not only common, but expected for people to place their needs and priorities above all else This begs the question, can we truly be “happy” or feel “content” if we aren’t doing the very thing we were created to do in the first place? I would argue that it is absolutely impossible. This is the fish out of water syndrome. Pursuing our own fame and glory turns the purpose of life upside down and ultimately leaves us completely empty and questioning what life is really all about.
Rick Warren in his best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life hit the nail on the head with his opening sentence, “It’s not about you.” Ouch! But, as tough as that is to hear, I love his straight-shooting and matter-of-fact approach. He doesn’t break the news to us gently. Instead, Warren confronts our celebrity-seeking, me-first Generation with the hard truth—life is not about us. To know the purpose of life, we must begin with God and with the purpose for which we he created us—to bring him glory.
Here’s the incredible truth: when our lives are centered on God and His glory, an incredible transformation occurs…we become men and women who are secure, whole, and confident in Him. The old adage is so true…bullies and mean girls are just insecure people looking for love.
When we center our lives on glorifying God, we are free. Free from the unrelenting competition, insecurity, jealousy, strivings, and drama that comes from fighting to be first. When we love God and are secure in His love for us, the compulsive need to be #1 is eclipsed by the reality of Who He is and His undeserved grace. The beauty of this right ordering of life is the gift of joy and peace. The happiest people in the world are those who humbly seek to put God first, others second and themselves last. Maybe that’s why Jesus said the “Greatest Commandment” is to simply “Love God and Love Others.”
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*For more on this story, see Katie McCall’s piece on ABC 13 http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/video?id=7371811)