Last night my husband and I watched the final installment on ESPN of the fascinating, at least to us, Michael Jordan story, The Last Dance. Then, this morning, waiting for online church to begin, I watched a videoclip of a young woman on America’s Got Talent. Her testimony of how she’d been bullied as a Middle School student, was even more impactful than her singing talent. In both instances, there were numerous times that the camera turned to the audience, the coaches, or the judges, and revealed them all to be deeply enthralled and invested – emotional about the performances and the stories of the character’s lives. I was, too.
We love to see athletes reach the pinnacle of their potential.
We love to see others using their talents, whether singing or playing an instrument or acting on a stage.
We are inspired by these things. We cheer. We cry. We are moved.
Do you ever wonder why?
Why is it that humans typically enjoy seeing other humans succeeding, overcoming, striving, achieving?
Why are we at other times envious, jealous, or insecure as we see others advancing?
The wide range of emotions within our human nature can reveal our deepest thoughts as we observe the world around us. The joy we feel, celebrating with others as they succeed, or envy, wanting for ourselves what we see others achieve, are both reactions that can exist in every person. But what determines which response will surface? The Bible tells us in the book of Proverbs that, “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” So, how is our thinking?
How we answer this is the crux, the defining point, that enables us to live meaningful lives of wide open purpose, or to remain like small packages of emptiness, constantly looking for affirmation and success, but never finding lasting fulfillment. “Come, let us reason together,” God issues an invitation to us in the book of Isaiah.
I teach Middle School Bible. We are currently working through a unit defining what a Biblical worldview is and how we acquire it. Put simply, we don’t sit down one day, or several days in a row, to learn what our worldview is. It is formed subconsciously, over time, as we live and observe the world around us. Certainly, formal teaching has a place in this, but largely, our strongest and deepest held beliefs are formed when we are young, and they are based on our experiences and the conclusions we draw from what we observe.
Everyone has a worldview – a way that they look at life and make sense of the world around them. Our worldview is simply our basic beliefs about God, the world, people, truth, and issues of right and wrong. Most of us never stop to consider what our beliefs are and how they came to be. I believe it was Socrates who said that an “unexamined life is not worth living.” There is a point in that, but I’m not talking about incessant navel-gazing or constant dwelling on internals. I am talking about the choices we make and the attitude of our minds; these should be examined to determine if the conclusions we formed in our younger years are still accurate, based on what we’ve learned as we’ve grown and matured. The apostle Paul admonishes us in his first letter to the Corinthians, “when I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
Particularly in our current cultural climate, when we are being asked by specific groups to accept their beliefs and give voice to them, and asked by our own government, to adopt new practices and approve them as our own, it is time to evaluate our own worldview.
As we think about these things, there are hard questions that are always asked:
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why is there evil in the world?
What is truth?
What happens after I die?
Why am I here?
I am not even remotely suggesting I have the answers to those questions! But I have thought about the answers to those questions for myself, and I encourage everyone to do the same after reading and thinking through the evidence. But, I would like to look at just one of those questions: What is truth?
How you answer this is most significant, since your answer will dictate how you answer every other question after it. So, if you’ll permit me for a moment to be teacher-y…To start – we should define our term: truth – just to make sure that we are talking about the same thing. My dictionary defines truth as: the body of real things, events, and facts: actuality.
Based on that definition, if you were to say, “I believe everyone has their own truth,” I would want to know more about that. If truth is defined as real things, events, facts – how can there be more than one reality? The response might be, “well, different people see the facts differently.” I would like to respectfully say, that is impossible. And the reason is in the very definition for truth – if truth is how things ACTUALLY are – factual – then we might see things differently, but that does not mean there are different truths. It means there are different views.
For instance, in an optical illusion, some people see one thing, some another; that is how illusions are designed, to trick the eye. But, with truth, take a simple object, say, an oak tree. An oak tree is an oak tree. Someone might say it is a truck. Someone might look at it without their glasses and see a large, blurry object. Some who see colors differently might not be able to say it has green leaves. But no one can dispute that it is a tree, unless they are being intentionally disingenuous. The truth of the issue is not in the factual existence of the tree, but in the observer’s ability or willingness to identify it correctly.
So, as I thought about my emotional reactions to the stories I saw portrayed on the screen, I felt sadness at what had happened to them, but also joy that they had risen above it. They had passed through their struggles in life and come out on top! I felt hopeful and inspired as I listened to their stories. What does that reveal about my deeply held beliefs (my worldview)?
- I rejoice when I see humans excelling, because one of my deepest held beliefs is that we were created to do so. Philippians 3:13-14 describes this lifelong process as “forgetting what lies behind and striving forward to what is ahead.”
- Our deepest fulfillment in life will come when we spend our lives not in pursuit of our own endeavors, but in service to others. Psalm 145 reminds us that God satisfies the desire of every living thing, and also that He fulfills the desire of those who fear (respect) him. When I witnessed others moving in their own areas of giftedness, it was a great blessing and encouragement to me – an inspiration even – for me to do the same.
So, I leave you with a few things to think about as we navigate these strange days. As we continue to follow local and national government mandates for social distancing and mask-wearing, many of us are experiencing anxiety, sadness, fearfulness, loneliness, frustration, etc. Perhaps, due to COVID, your circumstances have changed drastically in a short period of time. This naturally causes us all to question many things.
Now, more than ever, it is time to solidify in your mind, what it is you believe about the world and life in general. Our beliefs are often revealed most clearly by our responses to situations we face in our lives. To think about:
- Have you ever considered that your responses reveal your deeply held beliefs (your worldview)?
- Can you name a strong emotion that you recently experienced and the situation that prompted it?
- Can you identify the underlying belief that prompted your reaction?
- Is it true? (based on actual fact?)
- Do you think it is possible to know truth? Why or why not?
I would love to hear your answers to these questions. And, if these questions prompted other questions – I’d love to hear those, too. Starting an honest conversation is one of the best ways to learn and continue growing! If you’d rather not post a public comment, feel free to connect with me by email.
Peace and Grace,
Scripture references for this post: Proverbs 23:7, Isaiah 1:18, 1 Corinthians 13:11, Psalm 145:16, 19