Paradoxes in American Society

I’ve noticed some paradoxes in American society and in the popular culture around the world. There are catch phrases that are used ad nauseam like “be yourself”, which are employed by psychologists, fashion experts, business advisers, sociologists and all the rest, to encourage people to have a “positive self image” and to find their “niche”. But these concepts/slogans are increasingly used in many churches today. Christians are not supposed to follow the trends or “wise words” of the world. 

I will address some of these slogans and explain why/when I find them paradoxical, and how we should look at them in a Biblical way. 

“Be Yourself”

It basically means someone can wear, act or do whatever they feel comfortable with, or what fits their style, even if it looks ugly, weird or eccentric- because that defines who they are. This is especially applied to fashion. People are encouraged to act however they want and not be inhibited by other people.

The paradox: 

  • Most people actually do their best to fit into the crowd- even in church! They feel embarrassed to stand out. 
  • They say “be yourself” but most people actually go along with the trends in clothing, fashion, diets, shopping choices.
  • And if someone is actually “being his/herself” in a positive way- like a Christian girl who wants to dress modestly or wears skirts most of the time, she is frowned upon or given quizzical stares because she is not dressing or acting like the crowd. 
  • Anyone who wants to live a godly lifestyle, listen to godly music instead of mainstream Christian rock, doesn’t watch certain movies, doesn’t read certain books, or does certain activities like everyone else, will immediately be labeled as odd.
  • What happened to the great concept of “being yourself”? Only certain people can “be themselves”? Only those who are approved by society or by a certain church?

    What the Bible says:
     Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (Eph. 5:1-2). Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20).

“Speak Your Mind”

This usually means telling people straight to their face what you think. It’s especially used to encourage individuals to express themselves, and to challenge someone when that person is wrong or mistaken.

The paradox:

  • Most people never challenge a person who is in authority even if what that person is saying is false or wrong. People get intimidated and they overlook bad mistakes or lies done by famous, rich, educated or powerful men, instead of confronting those men. 
  • Even if the professor, or scientist, or the man with a PhD or the pastor in church says something that is biased or wrong, most people swallow what they say and no one confronts their sin or wrong. Why? What happened to being free to speak your mind without regard to status? What happened to speaking truth?
  • Yet on the other hand, when a brother or sister in church confronts someone about a problem or sin, that Christian is “being judgmental” and that Christian is not allowed to “speak their mind”.

What the Bible says: Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Ephesians 4:15).
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

“Get out of Your Comfort Zone”

This usually implies being flexible to schedule changes, new places, uncomfortable accommodations. It also implies being friendly with new people, taking the initiative to welcome others, etc. In other instances, it means to step up to the challenge and work in difficult circumstances or do something you’ve never done before. 

The paradox:

  • Many people quote this catch phrase get out of your comfort zone only when it is convenient for them in reference to something “adventurous” and exciting they would enjoy doing. But when it comes to really getting out of their comfort zone most people prefer to stay in their comfortable bubble, stay in their clique of friends, never make an effort to find out details about a new person in church, or the lonely old lady, or busy mother with children who never really get to talk to anybody.
  • Most people do not want to be made uncomfortable.
  • Most people get upset when plans change.
  • Most people don’t like initiating conversations with someone who looks lonely, do not enjoy serving others unless it brings them some recognition or benefit.
  • Most people do not enjoy digging deeper in Scripture to be challenged by God’s Word, instead they prefer devotionals. 
  • And yet, all of these things in this list are ways to “get out of your comfort zone”, which most people avoid 

What the Bible says: Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).

 

Have you noticed any of these things in churches today? Or among your peers? 

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