From where do we derive our personal value? One Italian woman had derived her sense of worth from her good looks:
- A healthy Italian woman paid a Swiss right-to-die clinic to take her life because she was ‘unhappy about losing her looks.’ Oriella Cazzanello, 85, travelled to a clinic in Basel, Switzerland, where she paid €10,000 for an assisted suicide. The elderly woman, who was in good mental and physical health, disappeared from her home in Arzignano, near Vicenza in northern Italy, without telling her relatives where she was going. Her family, who had reported her to the police as missing, only learnt of her death after they received her ashes and death certificate from the clinic.
I don’t mean to criticize this tragic figure. However, her worldview reflects the dangerous way that many see and value themselves. Whether this valuation is based upon our looks, our performance, or another socially derived criterion, we rest our lives on an unstable, tenuous foundation. If our performance, appearance, or popularity slips, we slip along with it, either into depression or death.
In a sense, we are what we value. With so much depending on these external standards of worth, these “treasures” will control our thinking. If our worth depends on our appearance, appearance will absorb us, condemning us into the psychological rut of self.
What are the consequences of this self-absorption? The price is not merely required when we decline. It is also exacted when we are at the top of our game. Theologian David F. Wells writes:
- Though they grew up in good homes, had all they wanted, went on to college, (perhaps) entered the workplace, they are nevertheless baffled by the emptiness they feel. Their self-esteem is high but their self is empty. They grew up being told they could be anything that they wanted to be, but they do not know what they want to be. They are unhappy, but there seems to be no cause for their unhappiness. They are more connected to more people through the Internet, and yet they have never felt more lonely. They want to be accepted, and yet they often feel alienated. Never have we had so much; never have we had so little. That is our paradox. (God in the Whirlwind)
Why we do feel alienated from others and disappointed by them? We have become dependent on them, expecting from them what they cannot give – validation for who we are! And when they fail to deliver, we resent them.
Nor can we elevate ourselves through self-absorption - looking within to self-centered standards of value – but instead through looking outside ourselves to something greater and ultimately validating!
It has only been this external focus on an all-defining Reality greater than me that has made a difference. I had seen numerous highly recommended psychologists. They assured me that I was a good person, but the glow would fad by the next day. Only the assurance of Christ’s undying love has been able to lift me from my rut.