The Blind Leading the Blind // A Look at the Self-Help Industry
The modern self-help industry is huge. Every year Americans spend millions of dollars on books, videos, and audio recordings in the hope of fixing their broken selves. There are websites and television and radio shows that promise to cure what ails you.
In some cases self-help can be, as the name implies, helpful. For example, a how-to book on drywall was very helpful when I was building a rec room in our basement. But the self-help I’m referring to isn’t about fixing things, it’s about fixing people. Check out the titles of some of the books available: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Get Out of Your Own Way, Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing, and Essential Spirituality.
The immenseness of the self-help industry says something about the society in which we live. Many people feel broken and hope to become whole by finding happiness, security, love, health, self-esteem, purpose, fulfillment, or all of the above. They want to fill a void in their lives. They are searching.
No doubt some of the self-help offerings are constructive, but there is something very deadly and sinister lurking in the vast sea of self-help information. That is because a lot of the help being offered is spiritual in nature, even though those offering the help haven’t the foggiest idea of what that means. People really don’t know what it is they should be looking for and frankly, neither do the supposed gurus who are serving up all the advice. The blind are leading the blind and the results can be deadly.
Case in point: A column in a local newspaper attempted to address the issue of spiritual weariness [“Weariness Responds to the Refilling of Our Spirit”]. The psychotherapist who authored the piece identified weariness of the spirit (as opposed to physical or mental weariness) as a very real malady. I think we can agree with him on that, but listen to his advice. He instructs his readers to go back to the creator (with a small “c”). He describes this creator as a “wondrous enigma,” and you can tap into its power by experiencing “nature, beauty, and other creative expressions of the cosmos.” Pure poppycock! I give the columnist credit for directing the weary of spirit to the creator, but it’s a shame he doesn’t know who the Creator (capital “C”) is, let alone what He has done for us!
Part of the problem comes from the inability of the “experts” to identify the cause of the problem. Some of them talk about “victimization.” You are a victim, and your problems are not your fault. Others talk about “empowerment.” You are responsible for your own problems but you can find the power within yourself to deal with them. Both views are wrong.
Christians know that their problems are of their own making. We confess with the Apostle Paul: I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. (Romans 7:18a). Paul follows that up with the depressing reality that we have neither the power nor the means to correct the fatal problem of sin: For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing (Romans 7:18b-19).
Sin and its damning effect are responsible for weariness of spirit, loneliness, self-loathing, fear, guilt, and every other kind of suffering that has people searching for relief. Finding relief starts with recognizing that we are miserable and condemned sinners. After the Law has revealed to us the utter hopelessness of our condition, we are ready to hear the Gospel. Broken people can only be made whole when they are led to the Cross and experience the love of a Savior who died for the sins that burden them.
The author of the newspaper column I cited described our Creator as a “wondrous enigma.” That vagueness is typical of the empty and useless spiritualism that permeates society. Our God is wonderful, and there are many mysteries surrounding Him that we will never comprehend in this life, but His is no enigma. He is no enigma to the preschooler singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” He was no enigma to Job of the Old Testament who in spite of all his woes could say, I know that my Redeemer lives (Job 19:25). And He is no enigma to us as, by faith, we acknowledge that in all things God works for the good of those who loveh him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
I’m not implying that psychologists and psychiatrists have nothing to offer, but just be sure you aren’t being slipped spiritual advice from someone who doesn’t have the Spirit. The unbeliever does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).
The problem of pseudo-spiritual advice disguised as self-help may not seem as urgent a concern as all of the other carnal and lurid content that is found in the electronic media, but it is just as dangerous and has the same potential to lead souls away from God. Don’t allow yourself to be led by a blind person. Open your eyes of faith and make judgments based on the spiritual truths that have been made known to you by the Spirit of God.
But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
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