By: Pastor Jarren Rogers
At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States experienced a cultural change that would affect how we live forever. According to cultural historian, Warren Susman, America moved away from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality.
The Culture of Character, Susman explains, maintains that the ideal man or woman was serious, disciplined, and honorable. The outside world did not look so much at the impression you made in public, but rather how you behaved in private. The focus was on your virtues and your integrity.
You can see how much has changed since we adopted a Culture of Personality. Now, we focus so much on how others perceive us. We see the ideal self as being one who can speak well and entertain. We wear ourselves out attempting to “sell ourselves” to everyone we encounter as an attempt to show them that we are bold and compelling.
Presently, it’s believed that good leaders are not those who maintain a virtuous character outside of the spotlight. Instead, it’s the good speakers and captivating personalities that we believe will lead our companies and businesses in the right direction. Do you want to be successful? The world says you have to be interesting and charming.
This shift in our country, from the Culture of Character to the Culture of Personality, can drive us to exhaustion in an attempt to please and interest those that we meet. We spend so much energy to satisfy the public that we come to the belief that our private life doesn’t seem to matter. No one cares what I do when I’m alone, they only care about how I appear when I socialize. What’s the point of doing good or being virtuous if no one can see it?
But what does God value?
We see in Scripture that God doesn’t care about outward appearance. God isn’t pleased if we have a captive audience or if we are charismatic.
“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Much of the anxiety we experience results from the Culture of Personality. If I cannot please the public and “sell” myself effectively then I will never be successful. In fact, according to the book Quiet, in 1955 Carter-Wallace, a drug company, released an anti-anxiety medication called Milltown and it quickly became one of the fastest-selling pharmaceuticals in American history. By 1956 one of every twenty Americans had tried it and by 1960 a third of all the prescriptions written in the U.S. were for Milltown or a similar drug called Equanil. The tagline for one such anxiety drug read, “FOR THE ANXIETY THAT COMES FROM NOT FITTING IN.”
The desperation that we feel to meet the impossibly high standards of the Culture of Personality has been with us since the 50s and will continue into the future if do not allow God to change our perspective.
Do not define your life solely upon how you act in public. You do not need to be charismatic or interesting or charming. What really matters is that God is looking at your heart. But more than that, he wants to renew and cleanse your heart, refining and restoring your character. Where the Culture of Personality may bring us anxiety, God simply wants to give us peace and assurance that we can never fall out of His grace and love.
The only opinion that matters is God’s.