"Believe in yourself... Speak your truth... You know what's best… You do you."
These are the slogans of our hyper-individualized secular culture. It is me-centered and self-focused. And why not, right? I mean, if I don’t look out for myself, who will? If I don’t love myself, how can I love others? If I don’t trust myself and follow my heart, then how am I ever to live a truly authentic and fulfilled life?
Every generation and culture has certain “truths’ or axioms that it sees as self-evident. For us today, it would seem like we hold these truths to be self-evident. From fitness ads to life coaches to cereal boxes, self-actualization, self-promotion and self-esteem rule the self-help airwaves and messaging. Our culture believes that what we really need to do is to listen to that voice deep within us and that what we really need is already inside us. We just have to let it out and be our authentic self. Just look at any modern Disney film! The way the hero or heroine overcomes is by asserting their true self and triumphing over all those nay-sayers and baddies who would get in their way - whether villains or even family.
An Exercise in Folly
It is interesting that the very things our secular culture encourages is exactly what the Bible calls folly.
"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." (Proverbs 18:2)
Contrary to our contemporary slogans of speaking "your truth”, those who only like to express their own opinion without truly understanding are what the Bible calls fools.
More than name calling
Now, it is important to note that when the Bible calls someone a fool - it is not just engaging in name calling. Rather it is describing a way of life that is antithetical to true wisdom.
"Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered." (Proverbs 28:26)
According to God’s Word, trusting in yourself is a sure sign of folly. Wisdom is seldom found within. This verse is not advocating against using our intellect and reason. Only that the way of true wisdom is something objective and outside of just your own thoughts and intuitions. To trust solely in your own mind will not lead you to walk in wisdom. Thus, the solution is not to give up on thinking, but rather to find help in thinking rightly through other advisors, reading books of reputable authors, checking sources and seeking out counterfactuals to your own presuppositions to test your own point of view.
Seeking Biblical Wisdom & Advice
"The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”(Proverbs 18:17)
Arguments can be convincing until they have been scrutinized. We should be cautious to believe any narrative or presentation of facts uncritically without cross-examination. We should be weary of "cancel culture" that shuts down debate and dialogue leaving us in our echo chambers and never able to critically engage with opposing views. There have been many issues over this past year which it seems like expressing any concern or critical questioning is frowned upon and suppressed. We should be weary of those who never want to entertain debate or dialogue. Oftentimes, it is in the debate and weighing of arguments that we come to a better understanding of truth. We should be willing to consider the counter-factuals to our point, look for the best opposing arguments and weigh them critically against our own assumptions. This takes humility.
"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." (Proverbs 12:15)
Only a fool thinks he/she is always right without listening to anyone else. How can we know that what we believe is true if we never subject our beliefs to scrutiny or engage with the other side? Moreover, seeking advice is the way of wisdom and humility. Pride says "I know it all”. Humility says “maybe he/she knows something I don’t. Let me listen and see."
Our Culture's Narcissism
However, today’s slogans encourage a sort of narcissistic trust of our instincts and intellect. We live out our inner Frank Sinatra and brazenly sing, "I did it my way”... or perhaps it’s more like Christina Aguilera’s song, The Voice Within:
"Like your oldest friend, just trust the voice within Then you'll find the strength that will guide your way You'll learn to begin to trust the voice within…"
However, these catchy tunes encapsulate the spirit of our age and its folly. Often, those who are too proud to be corrected are agitated and offended when it is even suggested they may be wrong. Is it any surprise then that as our secular culture reaps the fruit of its folly it turns increasingly antagonistic against the One True God?
"When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord." (Proverbs 19:3)
As people reap the consequences of their foolish choices, it is ironic that they will often rebel even harder against the source of all truth. This is because coming to a knowledge of the truth is not only an issue of the intellect, but also an issue of the heart. We must love the truth to know the truth. The heart in opposition to the Lord is also in opposition to truth, because all truth is God’s truth. This is why the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10) - it’s this starting point and disposition of the heart that inclines us to His ways.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)
Wisdom in Biblical Community
Fear the Lord and seek His wisdom through His Word and His body. Our world tells us to look inside to find what we need, but the Bible tells us we're to look outside ourselves. It pushes us to look to God through His Word and to the shepherds and spiritual leaders He has put in your life. It encourages us to test all things (1 Thess. 5:21), to weigh the evidence and to establish something on the basis of multiple lines of independent testimony (cf. Deut. 19:15; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19). It is folly to think we're self-sufficient to know it all.
Furthermore, seek to engage brothers and sisters in the Lord who disagree with you graciously - listening to their points of view and reasoning. Ask clarifying questions and attempt to restate their position in a way that they would agree with so that you know you've correctly understood them. Only then can we start to move forward in our dialogue - otherwise, we're just talking past each other.
So, although it may sometimes sting to have someone push back on you or correct you, it is a gracious thing to have godly counselors in your life. Seek them out.