Pop quiz, class! Don’t worry though—just one task. Complete the sentence: “Life is…”
A) …a journey.
B) …a slog.
C) …a gift.
D) …a punishment.
E) Other: _______.
My quiz may be simple, but I never said it would be easy. After all, the life metaphor you selected reveals so very much of your outlook on life.
Your worldview (or what I’ve just called an “outlook on life”) is perhaps the single most powerful factor in deciding how you’ll spend time, money, energy, and affection during your stretch of life. That worldview helps you to interpret your neighbor’s frown as she gets home from work; news of the Dow trading higher; reports of amazing scientific advance in genetic modification therapy; or the barrage of presidential candidates’ latest rhetoric. You need some sort of mental framework for processing all the information you encounter each day, and your worldview fits the bill. Like this:
Something happens -> Your worldview kicks in -> You feel -> You think -> You act
Think of your worldview like a pair of old, familiar glasses that you wear in front of your eyes. In the beginning, those prescription lenses compensated perfectly for the flaws of your eyes. They made the world look sharp again. You were grateful. But over time, your eyes have aged and changed, and the text on those traffic signs begins to blur a bit. The scratch along the left lens makes you annoyed, and even unwilling to look at anything through that eye. Oh, and the frames are out of style. Just wearing the glasses now puts you in a bad mood.
If only changing your worldview were as simple as ordering a new pair of Warby Parkers! You see, you’re the lenscrafter who pieces together your worldview over millions of life experiences—experiences that will never unhappen. In that sense, changing your own lenses, your worldview, is like rewriting history. Simple, right?
Take hospitals, for example. Hospitals are vital, necessary pillars of the community to the child whose life was saved via a skillful heart transplant in a hospital. To another child who lost his mother because due to a doctor’s negligence, hospitals are fearful, deathtraps filled with quacks. The first child will gladly visit the hospital at the first sign of sickness. The second may avoid hospitals altogether, choosing instead to rely upon alternative medicine. All the facts and figures in the world would likely do nothing change those deep-rooted views. And just imagine the sort of new experiences that would have to happen for either of these individuals to change their view on hospitals!
My own worldview comes from plenty of moments from the movie of my life. Meeting children my own age living at a Tijuana dump caused me to believe that where you’re born impacts the opportunities open to you. Pulling my dad’s old guitar out of the closet that first time caused me to value music, rather than ignore it. Demonstrating no rhythm at my first high school dance brought me to see dancing as a wonderful activity…for other people. Buying a simple camera for a Scotland road trip launched me down a new professional career path. Choosing to live life following in the footsteps of Jesus caused me to value other people, getting to know them rather continuing my old habit of keeping my distance. Each of these mundane or life-changing experiences are the building blocks of my worldview.
You’ve got a story yourself, as it turns out. That story is rich with experiences that have formed your beliefs, values, habits, talents, and vices. Perhaps you love the worldview you’ve been working on all these years. Then again, maybe you’re struggling with the worldview you’ve crafted. Maybe you can’t even stand it, and wish you were living someone else’s life.
There’s good news: Old dogs can learn new tricks. Your brain can form new neural synapses. Your story isn’t finished yet. People can change.
Nothing has made this clearer to me than what I’ve experienced in my Christian faith, which prods me constantly to “not be conformed by the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. I watch as actively rebuilding life around God makes people more important than things. In other words, my worldview is under construction, so check back with me in a few years to see what I’m becoming. Or better still, work on yourself!
So, what do you do with an old worldview? Trade it in for something new. Your new experiences are the pathways to a refreshed worldview. The more willing you are to embrace new experiences, the more your worldview can change, the more you grow. If you work to avoid new experiences, you’ll entrench yourself to defend what you’ve put together, and the growth will stop. This has big implications on who you hang out with, where you work, what radio station listen to, and where you get your news. Change like this isn’t easy, and it is worthwhile.
Clearly, my words hereabout worldview aren’t exhaustive or even all that prescriptive. If nothing else, perhaps they can help you to realize that it may be time for a vision check.
Okay, so my pop quiz actually has a final question: Are you who you want to be for the rest of your life?
(By the way, all this sprang to mind from a simple photo I took of an old coin-operated telescope above Kona, Hawaii, displayed at the top of this post.)
What experiences have made the biggest impact in your worldview?