What Is Your Worldview?
A worldview rests on perceptions and standards by which we 'see' and evaluate life, events, people and ourselves.
Aristotle supposedly said we are the sum of our experiences. Not to be outdone, let’s see what this means these days.
Most experiences quickly fade into forgetfulness. However, some experiences - and some people - have lingering impact on mind and heart. Over time, they shape our opinions, beliefs, attitudes and judgments to form our “worldview.”
Our worldview rests on perceptions and standards by which we “see” and evaluate life, judge people, events and ourselves. So (to update Aristotle), our worldview includes:
our perceptions (or distortions) of reality;
our moral beliefs - our conscience - about right and wrong, good and evil;
social standards we use to evaluate people and events;
our “philosophical” view of how things are … and ought to be;
our assumptions and judgments about people and self.
Our worldview develops for years. By adulthood, our moral character and social personality are well-formed, taken for granted. However, our worldview reveals both our idiosyncrasies and (in ways we may not realize) the nuances of our character, i.e., what we really value, what sort of person we really are.
Here are a few fundamentals:
We are born with moral instincts which serve as bases for our moral standards and conscience.
Our worldview starts to form very early in life, influenced mainly by parents, elders, church, school and friends.
When we’re young, our critical senses are undeveloped; we usually take things “on faith.”
We (ideally) learn to distinguish truth from falsity, good from evil, fact from fiction, history from myth, etc.
We also learn (or should) that truth and facts, not opinions or prejudices, determine if events and people are true or false.
We’re wise to get facts straight and know the context of events before we make judgments.
Ruthless people frequently manipulate ignorance and indifference for personal, political or financial gain.
Therefore, we should trust only reputable sources of truth and facts when we make decisions and form opinions.
Good Intentions Aren’t Sufficient
In time, our worldview becomes entrenched, hard to change, resistant to challenge, stubbornly defended; we get “set in our ways.” Even if our underlying assumptions are wrong and our judgments erroneous; even if our beliefs rest on faulty information and our perceptions are distorted, they’re still part of us, part of our ego, our identity. In our minds, they define us, even when we know we’re wrong. Prejudice is a good example.
Some people refuse to change their opinions or behavior, even when they know they’re wrong. They won’t accept criticism or admit error. We all know people with egos so touchy that we tiptoe around them, lest we rouse their anger by an innocent comment. They resent candor, even lovingly given. Denial is comfy, control a necessity. Facing truth requires humility - and that’s a rare virtue.
It would be reassuring if we all shared the same honest worldview, but we don’t. We’re exposed to many worldviews every day. Some inspire us with their idealism and perspicacity (that is, if we’re open to being inspired). But we also encounter hypnagogic worldviews which bow to inane fads, which reveal breathtaking depths of ignorance or, worst of all, which smother facts with sluggish indifference.
Today our culture is deeply polarized about issues which are actually moral problems, not merely political opinions. In fact, our nation’s moral problems are very often masked in political jargon which is stark and shrill, often violently “weaponized.”
But beneath every politicized issue is a moral issue, a moral challenge which aims to eradicate the stability of our nation.
Some differences - moral differences - threaten the existence of our nation. For example, strident demands for fake “rights” distort Constitutional freedoms to dangerous extremes and contradict Scripture, science, tradition and common sense.
One fact should be evident to every honest person:
We are created beings, entirely dependent on our Creator for our existence. We did not create ourselves, nor are we our own masters. Even the ordinary in life is extraordinary.
Our overriding responsibility is to obey our Creator. Our responsibilities and our rights originate from God and constitute the moral universe into which we are born. We are His creatures, each and all of us. It follows logically that:
We are accountable to mandates not of our own making.
These mandates originate with our Creator and are given to us through His chosen sources of Scripture and revelation.
We’re also created as social beings, so we’re subject to human laws which are just.
Human laws are reflections of God, the origin of all law.
The Christian Worldview
Since we are created, we’re at our best when we attend to God’s mandates, revealed in Scripture and religious tradition.
These Commandments and traditions tell us how to live according to our Creator’s wishes. And nowhere else are God’s wishes more clearly expressed than in the Christian worldview.
However, skeptics say God is a myth and Scripture is folly. Hard-core cynics add that Faith is irrelevant, religion oppressive, morality entirely personal, prayer a useless distraction.
Nonetheless, the Christian Revelation proclaims:
1) we’re created by God,
2) redeemed from our weaknesses by the historic intervention of Christ, and
3) upheld by God’s Holy Spirit in our lives - and all around us.
Our Primary Responsibility
The Virtue of Charity is at the center of the Christian worldview.
Charity is love of God and people. But “love” in this context is not quick and easy, not accompanied by candlelight and soft music. Christian love is a commitment, a stable, benevolent attitude of mind and heart by which we express 1) gratitude to God and 2) concern for all people, including strangers as well as loved ones.
Christian Charity is not - is not - just a feeling or passing emotion, nor merely giving alms to the poor. It is a worldview of forgiveness given and sought, of obeying God’s Commandments, respecting the limits of human nature, gratitude to God for the abundant gifts in Creation - despite our contradictory urges.
Everyone has the obligation of kindness to one another.
When our behavior falls short, we start anew.
Responsibilities and duties are mutual. For example, it’s irresponsible to risk another’s safety by reckless driving or to violate anyone’s dignity by abuse, slander or calumny.
Our rights are the flip-side of our responsibilities, but in the adult world responsibilities come first, not rights.
Our responsibilities are not burdens but benefits, so we are NOT victims to God’s mysterious ways.
Most people know right from wrong, but some people don’t care, and choose to violate other people’s dignity and rights in word and deed.
Therefore, Charity does not exclude vigorous opposition to evil which others may foist upon us.
And ever so much more …..
On a practical level, the Christian worldview offers us specific gifts for our intellectual and emotional needs:
The gift of Wisdom, by which we see the world as God sees it, not from a conceited worldview.
Understanding helps us realize that reality is a source of revelation and insight.
Judgment distinguishes right from wrong even in small ways.
Courage is the gift to speak and act with moral probity.
Knowledge gives us insight into truth amid the intellectual chaos of our culture.
The gift of Reverence recognizes the transcendent presence of God even in life’s smallest details.
Wonder grants us a sense of awe (“fear” of the Lord) by which we value the mysteries of life around and within us.
The Christian worldview - with Charity at the center - reveals that we are responsible to God and one another, including the unborn.
In fact, Christian Charity urges us to see God in every person, even if they ridicule us.
Critics regularly cite horrible examples of Christians who violate these principles, as if such examples invalidate Christian belief. Horrible examples don’t negate the Christian worldview. Rather, they emphasize the necessity of the Christian worldview.
The Christian worldview stresses the value of every human person, including the unborn. Indeed, Catholicism (the original Christian worldview) emphasizes human dignity as evident in 1) its condemnation of abortion, 2) the sanctity of man-woman marriage as a Sacrament, and 3) the indisputable evidence that there are two – and only two – sexes. These, for starters.
So, every horrible example has value by showing us what NOT to do, what NOT to be, how NOT to behave - and the awful weight of duplicity on the soul.
Worldview Of Gratitude
The Christian worldview insists that evil does exist and that human beings long to be rescued from our errant, violent ways. It also proclaims that when we truly repent, God forgives even our repetitive acts of crass disobedience.
Instead of arousing violence or duplicity, the Christian worldview often ignites gratitude in the hearts of persons who live in a state of “Thank you, God” for endless blessings.
What blessings? To name only one, it’s a profound blessing to live in America. Our blessings are many but, above all, Christians are not slaughtered, as happens in cultures where they’re in constant jeopardy. See this link: Gatestone Institute
Our utter dependence on God makes gratitude the natural and befitting response. Indeed, our wisest choices are 1) to gratefully nourish our lives by faith, hope, perseverance and fidelity, and 2) to seek goodness and do what is morally right.
Even when we are given the gift of suffering, we are still assured that our relationship with God abides. Even with loss, we are wise to express our gratitude for the gift of life.
Some people take their blessings for granted and seek God only when they want a favor. They expect God to make things happen on their terms. When they don’t get their way, they blame God. Other people say God plays no part in their lives; their “success” is self-made. But, given the fragility of life, their attitude is neither wise nor gracious.
Granted, it’s sometimes difficult to put ego aside, especially in a culture of conflict and self-centered “rights.” Nonetheless, our choice of gratitude is always available to us. Always.
Humility Makes Sense
The Christian worldview also helps us embrace God as the first and final Truth. Eventually, our quest for truth leads us to the Virtue of Humility. But let’s be clear: Humility is simply dealing with truth. It’s not the “Aw, shucks” stereotype of kicking dirt, eyes downcast, hat in hand, pretending to be inferior and worthless.
Humility simply means we’re rooted in the soil of truth, honesty and prudent candor. We don’t pretend we’re superior to others, nor do we worship ourselves, nor make ourselves look chic at someone’s expense, nor avoid truth for popularity’s sake.
Humility honors human dignity in ourselves and others. Humility keeps us focused on the goal of loving God and our neighbor, not on enhancing our ego’s strutting puffery, especially at the cost of other’s dignity. Humility begets unquenchable kindness.
Finally . . .
The Christian worldview teaches respect for truth tempered with prudence, seasoned with humility. It urges us to accept mistakes and disappointments, and take responsibility for our actions.
In time, our moral acuity deepens, and we gratefully accept even suffering (physical and emotional) which invariably enters every life. Discernment alerts us to the evasions, denials and “games” people play, even in family. Wisdom warns us against deceiving ourselves (as we’re all prone to do) by finding excuses for our own selfishness. Truth matters, and the need for self-restraint is evident.
But enough . . . These insights are only a sample of the Christian worldview. Of course, it’s sometimes costly, but it’s still a bargain - especially when we behold the toxic chaos of worldviews which flippantly demean God, scoff at Christian insights and denigrate our reverence for virtue.
Thank you for reading this. Now, I realize some folks may differ with what I say above, so if you have a better idea, I’d like to hear about it.
Daniel Boland PhD is a psychologist and counselor. See his website here.