In his recent Instagram post, Justin Bieber spoke much about his struggle with self-worth and finding his own identity in a lost, empty world of fame. I think many young people can relate to what he posted and shared because what he described seems to be the normal mode of operation and general appeal for life in this day and age. Too many times, our society has told our young people that their self-worth is based on their net worth, attention-seeking motives, outlandish approaches, or false freedom-centered lifestyle. Hence, many spent their times looking for “more” of those things, but always end up more empty and hurt than before.
I think what made his post so relatable to our young people is that he did everything that our society formulated for us! As a matter of fact, when he was living an irresponsible lifestyle, many people defended him because they think that he has the freedom to do whatever he wants. Yet, as he went through his own destructive paths, those who falsely and emptily enabled him on the outside were not there to lift him up. It was the people who were closed to him who lifted and loved him in the hurt. It was not the people who enabled him, telling him that he is his own person and can do whatever he wants, that helped him but the people who saw his worst and cared for him. I think it is important for us, then, to remember that we need people who truly care for us and our greater good to be friends, not just yes-sayers or falsely supportive of whatever we like. True friends love us too much to let us go down the road of perdition, self-hatred, or destructive loathing because they care for us beyond what we might do in reactionary isolation in the hurt.
In my own ministry as a priest, I have encountered many people who are very angry at themselves, hence the world and others around them. Even behind the cloaks of self-righteousness and nice-sounding political correctness as to show that one is “tolerant” or “loving” or “caring,” it is easy for one to simply hide behind the fragile self-centered desire to be manipulative of others and to feel better than the existing pain deep from within. Anger, raw emotions, self-justification, and other typical deflecting actions are just simple, noisy, or scapegoating mechanisms to hide, avoid being seen or understood. It is easier to put down others, make one feels good, or find something or some goals to fight for to ease the pains of self-hatred and destructive loathing of one’s life.
Some people, instead of facing themselves in all honesty, continue to make a series of bad decisions that brought them very dangerous places and situations. Others are able to hide behind the well-liked and or whatever persona they think will make them be accepted by others. Yet, all of those are just exterior deflections and scapegoating mechanisms. No matter how much one tries to hide or run away from the truth, one has to deal with it with full honesty, personal accountability, and mature responsibility in order to overcome the destructive patterns.
Even though our world just think that we need more pseudo-moralistic laws of tolerance, compassion, and respect of individuals for people to be better, they are just band-aid solutions that cover the destructive gangrene that eats our young people deep from within. The problem is that many of us have raised our children based on worldly values of wealth, power, success, or fame that they have identified their happiness and self-worth based on those quantifiable affirmations, matters, or things that will make them happy. Yet, chasing after all these short-lived, temporary, and hedonistic definitions of happiness often leave one more empty and void. When one chases the “high” feelings of being accepted, praised, or happy, one crashes harder in times of “low” valleys of not receiving them. Too many people are trying too hard to be “somebody” and crash hard when they are not content just being ordinary people — “nobody” in the eyes of this world.
In a sad way, we have set up our young people for failures and self-hatred because we tell them that they are not good enough being a “nobody” who are regular, ordinary, or typical like everyone else. We have wired many of our young people from a young age to chase after worldly recognition, success, and achievement and nothing should stop them from achieving those goals. We have taught our children that everything and everyone is instrumental and secondary to their own personal happiness and desire. God has often pushed away, people and relationships get cheapened, and everything is for grab or can be manipulated at all costs. Sadly, but true, we have ignorantly wired our young people for a life of emptiness, codependency, discontentment, and even self-loathing. We have allowed our children to be defined by the things of this world and the voices of this society tell them what they have to be, sell them cheapened versions of freedom and love, objectified and degraded them to be chess pieces or instruments of success. We have told them that it is more important to become what they think they want or what the world wants from them than what the Almighty who created them out of love and desires them to be in love!
Instead of listening and conforming our lives to God who created us, we allow ourselves to drown in the addictive, codependent, and false sense of satisfaction and happiness. We have allowed ourselves to be lifted up high and pushed down low by the things of this world, phased in and out of addictive, abusive, or cheapened behaviors that degraded our dignity made in the image and likeness of God. When we have ignored the voice of Him who loves us, we, in turn, become abusive and hurtful toward others. Since we resent others around us and hate our lives, we begin to treat others with disrespectful and manipulative means. All of these things ultimately take a toll, and we are locked in our own self-hatred and the constant manifestation of anger. Since no one is good enough for us, we begin to treat them with contempt, hence end up pushing people away and further isolating ourselves.
We have to desire to change our destructive behaviors by loving ourselves in the hurt and brokenness, find relationships and be nourished by people who love us more than we like them to say or be for us, and learn to make better, God-centered, prayerful, and discerned decisions. We have to embrace the holistic vision of life that is beyond ourselves and our own personal goods. It challenges us to embrace others as they are, loves them as He loves them, helps them to grow and mature in His will for them. It takes a lot of magnanimity, courage, humility, as well as trust, to truly let go and believe in the Almighty and His love for us and for others! It is hard but so important to love ourselves and others in each of our own brokenness, yet helping each other along the way toward the One who loves us. We love one another too much to leave the other behind to be as our society or the world wants them to be because they are more worth than that these false and cheapened voices say that we are. We pray for one another, lift each other up in hard times, challenge the other become what God wants of them as sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father, disciples of Christ Jesus, and instruments of the Holy Spirit.
We cannot remain as we are in the world and expect to be truly happy and fulfilled. This is not what our hearts were made to be nor where we meant to find our true joy! We cannot follow the world and its shallow standards and expect to be content because its ego-centeredness ways only tell us that we need more without telling us what we really need. Only in the eternal, everlasting, unfailing, genuine love of God can we find our rest and true self-worth as we were created and meant to be! He desires to give His all to us, and only in giving Him our everything can we be at rest with ourselves and content with what is going on around us, seeing others as gifts and treasures in themselves instead as problems to avoid or things to be used. Instead of trying to rebel and run away, we finally recognize that we have to run toward Him. Instead of worrying about losing our freedom in order to do what we like, we understand self-donating love, personal gift of self, and loving responsibility that free us from enslavement to lesser things. To truly be free is to be free to love without fears, reservations, manipulation, or objectification as we are able and grounded in what He calls us to be! When we hear His voice and understand our calling, we are able to serve and give ourselves genuinely and without reservations because love is real and it holds nothing back. True love gives wholeheartedly because it is transparent, genuine, and self-giving just as the One who truly loves us has given us everything of Himself, much more than what we can expect and imagine, without holding anything back.
“Receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given me; I give it all back to You and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.” (St. Ignatius of Loyola, S.J.)