I had someone die in my arms today. As her life ended in my embrace, I was reminded of how fragile and sacred human life is. As I watched her life end inches in front of me I couldn’t help but ask myself “was this woman’s life wasted or well spent?” You see, my biggest fear in life is that I will get to the end of it and not be happy with how I lived it. I believe it’s a legitimate fear. There are so many opinions and ideas out there on how to live life to the fullest. Some people will tell you that you need more money to be happy, some will say you need less. Some people will tell you to live for yourself, and some will say to live for others. Some people will tell you to be carefree, but some will say that the key to happiness is to live responsibly. Truth is, there are a million philosophies out there on how to live, and they can’t all be correct. So my question is, “how can anyone know if they are (in the words of John Mayer) “’Living it right?’”
I’m sorry to disappoint, but I don’t expect to answer that question—not in this 850 word blog post. But I hope to shed some light on why certain people have come to the conclusion that religion has an answer worth listening to. Here’s the conclusion: Certain people don’t trust themselves.
I realize that our culture has fed us Disney movies, rock and roll, rap songs, television shows, and positive thinking ads to a point where it is difficult to accept that the answers to life and happiness don’t come from within. However, I have to ask the question: Have you ever been wrong? It’s silly, because of course you have, but I mean really wrong. Have you dated someone and realized that those feelings you had were misguiding? Have you misjudged a person and been deceived by them? Have you believed and stood up for a principle that you knew was important when you were younger just to grow up and realize…it’s not? I have. In fact, a majority of my life has been me making mistakes based on how I feel or what I think. I’m either misguided, misunderstanding, or misinformed, but the end result is always the same: I’m wrong.
I’ve been wrong so many times in my short twenty five years on this earth that it’s impossible for me to think I’m smarter than anyone else. And I know for certain that I’m not smart enough to sift through all the philosophies on living and conclude which ones are right. After all, I’m one person on a planet with over seven billion humans. For me to conclude which philosophies are right, is for me to believe that I know not only better, but that I know best—and that would be arrogance at its finest.
At this point some of you are inclined to think “this one’s easy. Let everyone decide for himself/herself what makes them happy,” but there are several major errors with that thinking:
1.) The first problem is that it’s only your opinion. You are one of seven billion, and not everyone agrees with you. It’s logically irresponsible to accept two things as contradictory and correct at the same time. So why does your opinion get to be the right one?
2.) The second problem is (and we just went over this), but you could be wrong—it’s happened before.
3.) The third problem is that believing people have a right to be happy is to accept that people have inherent value. If they didn’t, this wouldn’t be a discussion worth having, but they do. Therefore, to allow people to reject what you believe is most important for happiness (and maybe even accept what you believe is destructive) is to watch them harm what inherently has value.
4.) Finally, the fourth problem is that if you have a relationship with another person—anyone at all—then your actions do not affect you alone. It’s naive to think that you can do whatever you want to make yourself happy and not positively or negatively affect someone else. The closer you are to a person, the stronger the influence you will have on them. You may be the Captain of your ship, but if you run your ship into another person’s equally valuable ship, you are guilty of destruction.
I believe that from a purely human perspective, it’s impossible to know what’s right and wrong, and I don’t trust myself enough to gamble my life based upon what I think or feel at a given moment in time. Fortunately, religion tells me that there is another perspective—God’s perspective. If there is a God who creates, is all powerful, and knows all, what He says can be trusted. He is not misguided, He never misunderstands, and He most certainly is not misinformed. I don’t have to trust myself. I can trust what He says precisely because it’s not what I say, and that is a reason to listen to religion. What religion? That’s a discussion for another time.