Some call it fulfillment, others say value, but the most common term for what we’re all looking for in the day to day is the illusive “happiness”.
It’s what most every decision you make boils down to—the pursuit of happiness. And while Hollywood shows us Will Smith winning it with the solving of a Rubik’s Cube and a mad dash through the city, the rest of us are left wondering why it’s just out of our reach.
There’s a prying question within us all that we constantly search to answer so we can be happy, and that is, “Why do I matter?” We believe that if we can figure out why we exist—what gives us our value—then happiness will follow.
The problem is, we continue to run to sources of validation that are the equivalent of filling up a bucket of water with a hole in the bottom. No matter how much value you find in that particular place, it was never designed to sustain the load—the hole in the bottom requires you to keep running back to fill up the bucket until you reach exhaustion and burn out.
Of course how this plays out in each individuals life can look a variety of different ways, but at the heart of the issue we’re all dealing with one or several of the same root issues that’s been misleading everyone since the very beginning.
1. Trying to Gain the Approval of Others
We all fall victim to it every day—promises of how the right shoes and the right way to act will give us the social status we need, so we can make people like us and finally be happy. This one’s easy to brush off, but don’t be so quick to write it off as something you don’t fall victim to. It’s not about materialism, it’s about pursuing anything that you believe will elevate how people view you.
So just because you refuse to buy the new “cool” car and instead drive your grandpa’s two-decade-old Taurus doesn’t mean you’re above seeking the approval of others. It could mean you take finances seriously, but you could also just be placing value in the approval you get from people who admire your frugality. If you find self-worth in the opinion others have of you, save yourself the trouble and step off that hamster wheel. It’s an exhausting, constant race that gets you nowhere in the end. You can never make everyone like you, and you’ll hate who you become in the process of trying.
2. Chasing the New and Improved “You”
It’s seductive, and it’s making lots of people in the self-help book market very rich, but it’s the lie of a better version of yourself. Desiring to grow and improve as an individual is healthy, and setting goals to do so is something that should be encouraged. It becomes a problem when you envision an improved you, all flaws and weaknesses ironed out, and set that as the standard to achieve that will finally be good enough.
It’s an illusion we all chase, but the same you that you’re discontent with now will be the same you 10 years from now, discontentment and all. Perfection isn’t possible, and a better version of you will never make you happy for very long.
So avoid chasing the skinnier you, the “you” that doesn’t lose your temper, the version of yourself who finally doesn’t make mistakes; because if you place your value in these things, you’re setting yourself up for a very anxious, restless life that never completely seems at peace.
3. Pursuing Pleasure
A great cup of coffee, a hug from someone you love, the smell of Fall are all incredible gifts from God. Go enjoy them, appreciate them, and let them ignite sense of gratitude in you that you didn’t know was possible.
But these gifts cannot work if disconnected from who gave them. Without God in the equation, just enjoying these pleasures leads to a desperate pursuit of every and all experiences in the hope that one will bring a lasting happiness. But you’re filling up the bucket with a hole again; these pleasures alone can’t bring a lasting value to your life. But hey, party it up if you don’t believe me. And when you eventually feel just as empty as before come finish reading this article.
You thought you were home safe, but I saved the best for last. For those of you working day and night to prove to God you’re “good” enough to save, to prove to Him that you’ve earned your share among the greats in heaven, well, sorry, that’s not how it works. Your self-worth will never be safe when placed in the constant comparison of how you measure up against the standard of other religious people and their actions. You’re not valuable because you perfectly follow the rules, and you’re once again headed down a black hole that has sucked many straight out the church doors because of the crushing pressure to perform and seek happiness in doing so.
So Why Do You Matter?
What you do is not who you are. What you experience is not what gives life value. What others think of you does not determine what you’re worth or not worth. And who you think you could become will never be what makes you happy. God created you. And much like an artist who stands back to admire his painting, his artwork has value because he created it, and it comes from him. Others can offer up their opinion, they can dislike the painting or think it doesn’t compare to other artwork. But that doesn’t matter, the artist sees the worth in his work, and loves it because it belongs to him.
It’s for this very same reason you have value in God’s eyes. You matter because you belong to Him. If it doesn’t seem fair, that’s because it isn’t. But trying to be fair and earn your value will leave you emptier than before.
Despite all your failures and successes in life, your value stays the same as it’s always been. God says that you are His, and that you are loved.
Brian Lawes is the television filmmaker for LifeChurch.tv, specializing in strategic communication and visual storytelling. He works as a writer, director, and cinematographer with the mission of awakening individuals to recognize their God-given value and potential. Follow his day-to-day adventures on Instagram via @brianlawes.