ROLE MODELS AND ACTION CHOICES
What does it mean to change the world? Many a matured mind understands the importance of being a positive influence for others as a role model, acting with what many would describe as compassion and altruism. One of the biggest differences between people who try to be this kind of positive influence and those who don’t is that not all of them believe in God, and therefore not all people give the credit of their inspiring action choices to faith in something greater than themselves. Why does this matter? you might ask. That is what I will be writing about in this article.
POSITIVE VIBES & KARMA
One of the most commonplace phrases I hear nowadays is “Send positive vibes out and good things will happen.” This reminds me of a couple things. First, a boomerang. Another is karma. Now, if you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you already know I don’t believe in karma because I believe in a God who loves us all so much as to not only know what we need and when we need it, but to also know where our heart is and where it will go (belief or disbelief). If this is true, then God is in control, which means karma—a belief derived of Hinduism and Buddhism in which the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence are viewed as deciding their fate in future existences—is not in control. This is point number one.
Secondly, what is a vibe? A vibe is “a person’s emotional state, or the atmosphere of a place as communicated to and felt by others.” This is not a doctrine or a belief system, nor is this about faith, religion, or even philosophy. Therefore, the general effect these words have is tantamount to someone saying “Good luck!” on our way out the door. When people say it, they may mean well and they may even say it genuinely. They may be sincerely hoping for the best possible occurrence to happen to us. But that type of hope is derived from their belief that what happens to us is based on what we do and say and feel and think. That is a lot of control in our hands. In fact, that is so much control it is overwhelming. Let me draw you a picture of what I mean by overwhelming.
During my most vulnerable years following my parents’ divorce at 11 years old, I grew up very anxiously around a mother unable to fully embrace her feelings, expressing herself in unhealthy ways when she was upset. One of the most rueful truths about my relationship with my mom is how I came to know feelings of anxiousness, worry, and depression much more than that of feeling carefree, cheerful, or hopeful. Honestly, I would cry to myself sometimes when my mom appeared happy because for me, it meant I didn’t need to stay in my room quietly vacillating between what I expected I may or may not have done wrong. Nor did it mean I would have to figure out how to respond to her mood when she finally decided to talk to me. When she was in a good mood, I felt I needed to try to help keep her there, even if that meant holding back my tears of anxiety at the thought of her mood changing again if I triggered something.
THE BOUNDS OF ANXIETY
By the time I was 15-16 years old, I was much more sensitive to people based on the exposure to my mom’s frequently erratic emotive states during a time when I felt I had nothing firm, safe, or comforting to fall back on. Many years would pass by before I would learn that my assumption of others’ distressful emotional reactions was miscalculated—before I was able to relax my mind and enjoy the differences and nuances of people’s personalities—rather than being anxious at the thought of potentially overwhelming mood swings.
Here’s the point: Because of those consistent traumatic familial experiences, I learned how much control I felt I needed to have in order to feel emotionally safe with my mom. But it wasn’t until I found Jesus and declared Him as Lord that I realized my mom’s emotional responses were not healthy nor common. Put differently, faith in Christ promised that God loved me enough to let Him take care of everything fearlessly—even my anxiety towards others’ reactions. It was then where I realized needing so much control had required the me to trust myself more than my mom, and at the time, I didn’t trust myself with hardly any emotional control. How could I without a solid foundation for my feelings as good or bad? This dichotomy also revealed how powerless positive vibes really were: When I had walked into my mom’s house smiling and trying to be positive, it had never changed anything—in fact, the opposite would happen—my mom’s negative emotions would impact me.
THE POWERLESSNESS OF ‘VIBES’
All along, in retrospect, the most underlying message of these stressful experiences was that no matter how much positivity I tried to bring my mom, that wasn’t what she needed. Following closely behind was the message how no matter what others told me about being positive (and being positive around me), it wasn’t enough for me, either. My family was falling apart from the divorce and clearly, positivity wasn’t the cure. So, ultimately, what do positive vibes do for other people like my mom with good intentions and a hurting heart? They’re in need of more than a merely positive emotional atmosphere. When I hear others speak about positive vibes now, I shake my head to myself and sigh. Thinking of my mom as a poignant example among so many, this reaction is not meant to be disrespectful—it is simply my response to understanding the difference between vibes and a changed heart.
A MORAL TEACHER, GOLIATH, & PRAYER
See, my mom believes Jesus was a moral teacher just like many others do, that He isn’t Lord or God Incarnate. My mom, God bless her (I love her dearly), only means well. She is highly respected, admired, and loved by several hundreds of people because she works in education and has changed people’s lives as a result of her intentions. But her faith system is and never has been inspiring to me. While an atheist in my teens, she would encourage me to believe in something higher than myself, all the while reacting the way she did to life, herself—counting on her own fallible strength and the faithlessness in a loving, personal God. When I took the time, several years ago now, to reminisce on those memories, I understood that I had been a witness and a constituent (as one of her four children) to a painful part of her journey. Understanding that gave me empathy for her, and a piece of myself I had never discovered before.
If there was a message to be taken from my experience of her emotions alone, it would be that positive vibes are powerless in the face of a heart that doesn’t believe in a personal God, particularly one who wants to be our best friend in place of the world. Why do I say that? Jesus doesn’t want us to pray to Him as if He’s hiding in the clouds. When we do pray like that, we forfeit the intimacy of a life-altering faith-based relationship that He wants to share with us. My mom didn’t understand that, and Jesus has remained a man in a book whose message and purpose she doesn’t agree with entirely, even to this day. I pray for her daily, and I will continue to do so because I believe in a God who can soften hearts, and I believe in His ability to help people see His love as transforming, renewing, and empowering. He loved me so deeply and ultimately captured my heart away from disbelief, and I believe He can and will do the same for someone like my mom.
ULTIMATUMS AND PURPOSE
From one place in my life to another, my atheistic heart was changed when suicide became more purposeful than the prospect of living in a world without Jesus. Faithlessness taught me that without something higher and personal to believe in, life not only appears meaningless, but it doesn’t ask for anything of us (“survive and indulge“, it seems to say). What follows is the meaninglessness of life transmutes into purposelessness (what do we do when we believe there’s nothing to be done?), where we are exposed to the fallacy of purpose without faith; that is, we are finally made aware that life cannot be complete without a purpose, but we are unaware of how to define purpose and allocate it without a loving God to reveal such a personal calling to us. Transcendence (or enlightenment, as a tool, if you will) takes the bird’s-eye view, witnessing life as worthless without a personal God to inspire us beyond ourselves (narcissism) and into selflessness (altruism), in the name of a man who was crucified in our place as a sacrifice so we would not have to suffer for indulging ourselves with our closed-minded selfishness, rather than worshipping the One who already takes care of us (and who shields us from what He knows we don’t need).
When we are Christ-like with people, those people we interact with do not simply receive positive vibes from us, they experience a hope and joy unlike anything else, and our reason isn’t described as “just because”; we direct their curiosity and desire for our hope and joy back to Jesus, who loves them in such a way that they need to know and feel deeply and personally for themselves. “Just because” takes all the credit and places it on our head like a plastic crown from Burger King. Giving the credit back to Christ shines a light in a place others will be galvanized from—their heart—because only God can reach them in that spot in the way He does.
Rather than encouraging positive vibes, we could do ourselves a higher justice by simply encouraging others to smile because a smile makes anyone beautiful. There is no need to say “send out positive vibes” because what matters is not our emotional state; what matters is the state of our soul. We lead others from where our soul is, and whether or not we have good intentions doesn’t change whether we have Jesus.
SUBJECTIVITY OF GOODNESS
What I want you to take from this article is that being good to people is a subjective argument when the reason why we do what we do does not point to something more significant than ourselves. Sending positive vibes in “the name of love,” for example, does not carry any meaning since love without a source is unfounded and therefore powerless. If God isn’t the source of love, what is? Without a response with a firm foundation, acting in the name of anything other than God only provokes the question: “What power does that have?” With God, we point straight to the Bible and the power of our testimony (which is as much empirical evidence as anyone can search for in recent years when 2,000 seems too far away), and we no longer need the power of anything other than faith in a God capable of living up to His own word.
When we don’t point back to God, and we point to ourselves instead, how promising are the actions we take for others? How sure can we be that our motivations are good if they are rooted in something we cannot explain (i.e. “I did it just because”)? I would like to let these questions sit with you as you process the message of this article, which is that rather than vibes, what we can offer the world is how faith in Christ is personal, emotional, relational, and eternal—that nothing else in this life promises so much, and nothing else has quite such a bold history to back it up.
If you would like to read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please share this with anyone and feel free to write in the comments below, I would love to hear from you! God bless!!