What is the Meaning of Life
The Need for Direction in our Lives
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 198 The Need for Direction in our Lives by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? Under that general topic, we’ve come to the point in our conversation where we’re discussing the whole question of how to find yourself. And I remember someone, who was teaching on the same grammar school staff as me years ago, saying about a younger member of staff, “Well, he just hasn’t found himself yet. He needs to find himself.” And that’s the question that we’re talking about. How do you find yourself? What I believe that older person meant was that this young man had not discovered his own individuality yet.
In other words, he was like so many of us. He was encouraged by getting a star in Junior Infants school for reading. To read well — but not only to read well but to please the teacher of Junior Infants. Similarly, when he got onto the football team and his father praised him, and took him out for a treat, he not only realized that getting onto the football team was a good thing, but also pleasing his father was a good thing. And then, of course, he went to school and perhaps eventually to university or to technical school.
And there he found that it was a very good thing to receive the approval of your peers, the other people in your class. And if you did some clever things or told funny jokes or could hold your mouth up in a special way, or were very good at simultaneous equations or at Latin or at Greek — then you might gain their approval. Or perhaps you were just very good at gambling or very good at smoking and you’d gain their approval that way but somehow many of us gradually got the idea that it was good to get the approval of as many people as possible.
And in our desire to receive the praise and approval of other people, we gradually developed into a strange conglomeration of the things that other people wanted us to be. We didn’t develop into what we were made to be necessarily, or what we even wanted to be. We became a chameleon that often changed its color to suit its environment. And many of us turned into robots, trying to be what everybody else wanted us to be, so that we would have some sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Which was, admittedly, utterly dependent on them because if they withdrew their approval, suddenly we’d have no self-esteem or self-worth.
And so, we eventually found ourselves in the position where we had lost ourselves. That is, we had lost the sense of who we were. We had lost any consciousness of what we really were ourselves, or what we wanted to be or what we thought. We had become so much what everybody else wanted us to be or what they thought. And I think that’s what people mean when they say that, “Oh, he just has to find himself.” The tragedy is that today few people ever say that. We have all lost ourselves, but often to such an extent that we don’t think that there’s any way of finding ourselves.
We have become such little robots and such little preprogrammed monkeys. We doubt if there’s any way to find ourselves. And you probably feel some of that, however individualistic you are. You probably have some sense that you’re not what you really are. You’re not being what you really are. You’re often being what your boss wants you to be, what your secretary wants you to be, what your mum wants you to be, what your brothers want you to be, what your friends want you to be. But, so often, you’ve lost the sense of what you are or who you are. And you hardly know how to find yourself again.
That’s the subject that we’re discussing in these present weeks, and, of course, the only answer that has any reasoning or intelligence to it is the answer that is given by that remarkable man, Jesus of Nazareth. You remember how we examined His life and established that He had to be the Son of the Maker of the universe,
because of his power over death and his remarkable ethical behavior and his power over sickness and disease. And because the words on His lips did not sound like those of a madman or a lunatic when He said that He was the son of the Maker of the universe. And we’ve concluded that He is that, in fact.
And He gives the explanation that the reason we lose ourselves is because we die inside as we begin to try to please everybody from the Junior Infants teacher up to the coach of the football team. We die inside. We don’t live the way we were meant to live from the inside out. That is, from what we really believe we should do. But we live according to everybody else’s idea of what we should do. And so, we actually die inside. There’s part of us that dies.
He explained, “You know you have a body that has five senses by which you relate to the outside world of people and circumstances and things. Inside that you have a soul, or a psychological nature or personality — made up of mind, emotions and will — by which you relate to yourself. It’s the self-conscious part of you. But inside that again, you have a spirit and that’s the real you. That’s you as you really are. And that’s the bit that goes dead as the years pass. And you keep on pleasing everybody else and not doing what that part really directs you to do.
And He explained that that part is the part that connects up with His Father, the Maker of the universe. And the Maker of the universe has put you in the world to do something that only you can do. And the only way He can let you know that is by Him having a real relationship with you. The tragedy is that you’ve died inside and there’s no you any longer to have a relationship with. And so it’s impossible for Him to share with you what He has put you here to do. And that’s why we’re so lost and why we have such trouble finding ourselves.
And of course, Jesus explained that the only way to find yourself is if the Maker of the universe is able to do another creation inside you. That is, if He is able to do, as we say in the computer world, a data retrieval exercise; if He is able to retrieve the data that has been lost once the disc crashed; if He is able to retrieve what you used to be and recreate it. And it’s incredible the way we’re able to do that even on a one hundred and thirty megabyte hard disc. We’re able to recreate and retrieve, by a great deal of care and trouble, data that is sometimes lost, when our file allocation table is destroyed or when something happens mechanically to the disc.
And the amazing thing that Jesus said is that the Maker of the universe is able to do that with you. He’s able to put you together again inside the way you used to be. He’s able to bring you together again and recreate your personality so that you begin to have an “I” again that can relate to Him and can begin to share from Him what you were meant to do and to be. And if you say, well how, how, how? This way: Jesus said, first of all you have to believe what He has said. Believe that Good News. Believe the Good News that you can find yourself again, that you can come alive again inside. That you can begin to be a person again, inside. Believe that Good News.
That’s the first thing. And by all means you know, read His life, read it in that old book, the Bible. Read it in John — the gospel of John for instance. Or in Mark. Read what He says and believe what He says. And believe that what He says is true. That’s the first step. The second step is: change your mind. He uses a Greek word “metanoia” which means change your mind. Change your mind about the way you’re living. Stop depending on everybody else for their opinion. Stop trying to establish your self-worth in everybody’s else’s eyes. After all, it won’t last beyond when they die. Start trying to please your Maker. Start living to please Him.
Start trying to gain His approval. Why? Because He has a vested interest in you being who you are. He will not make a monkey out of you. He will not make a puppet of you. The whole reason He gave us free will was to
preserve us as He made us to be in His image. And He Himself is a self-existent and a self-willing individual and He wants to preserve you as He made you. So, begin to start trying to please Him, and not pleasing everybody else. Begin to live your life to please Him.
And then, He will start working inside in your spirit, and you’ll gradually commence to sense that there is a “you” inside that has come alive. And that there are new directions coming from deeper than you can even understand. And you’re starting to receive some kind of signals from outer space. But really, signals from the Maker of the world. And then, you begin life — really.