Purpose. No, not the Justin Bieber album. The type of purpose I’m referring to is the type that wakes you up in the morning or gives you an endless supply of grit because you feel that you have a belonging in this world. The word purpose comes from the old french word purposer and was eventually adopted into the English language sometime in the early 1800s (history buffs, whaddup?). It’s a seven letter word that encompasses the search most people embark on during their lives. Some find their purpose in being a parent or having a thriving career (or balancing both!). Some, like myself, have searched for their purpose for years and thinking one thing was it to only realize that I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I was put on this earth for. I find it both terrifying and exciting to realize that there is much more to discover and many more people to help.

Mission: Possible

See, my life hasn’t been the cookie-cutter life I had imagined as a young girl growing up as a military child. My timeline of finishing college at 22, marrying at 25, and having my kids before I’m 30 just didn’t pan out. I graduated college at 23, worked odd jobs, experienced devastating heartbreak, graduated graduate school at 28, and I’m single at 29 with no children or prospects for a husband. It’s taken me a couple of years to accept that my life didn’t go according to ‘my plan’. I hit a dark part of my life where I felt like a failure and I felt like I had let everyone down because I couldn’t live up to society’s expectations to find a husband and have the 2.5 kids before I’m “old”. In my own mind, I had failed to find purpose according to the serving size of the American recipe.

What’s the name of the recipe? Asking for a friend

    Sigh. I don’t know how many people feel this same way or have before, but there seems to be this unbridled pressure to acquire the perfect career, perfect family, and to never, ever get old. You’ll be happy if you have the facebook-perfect marriage and you’re the Pinterest-perfect spouse, have an amazing career, and your child is instafamous all before they’ve even said their first word. I often wonder what social media has done to our purpose as human beings and what exactly we are teaching the younger generation. It elicits concern due to the overwhelming data of depression and anxiety rates throughout the U.S. Are we better to be virtually ‘connected’ all the time? 

The particular unchecked box of purpose in my life and yours may look differently and leave us questioning our questions and sometimes, the answers. I think sometimes the idea that we have to have one purpose is a product of what is preached to us from a young age. We strive to find a single denominator in this world that can bring us happiness, joy, and an endless supply of excitement everyday. Looking at the Bible, we see the lives of so many who are highlighted to show their purpose that Jesus assigned them. However, it often crosses my mind that Noah’s purpose was to build the ark, but also to be a father and a husband, a carpenter, and an example of who God is. Mary found her ultimate purpose through giving birth to Jesus but she was more than a mother; she was a wife, a Christ-follower, a homemaker, a woman. A woman who made dinner for her family and had multiple children to raise into functional human beings and a woman who fought with her husband and didn’t have a Target or farmhouse decor.

Before (and after) google maps

Look at Rahab, one of the most (in my opinion) surprising characters we see throughout the Bible. She was a prostitute and someone that everyone in society looked down upon given her profession. She, however, was a survivor and her heart was kept soft and vulnerable. Her single most exemplary deed in the Bible was being a good liar. Yes, a good liar. I’ll try to sum it up, but basically there were spies that were sent by Joshua to examine the fighting force of Jericho (cue veggies tales) in order to gauge what they needed to prepare for. The spies were found out and Rahab hid them in her house. When the Jericho authorities came to her house to get them, Rahab hid the spies under bunches of flax on the roof which protected them from capture. She lied to the Jericho authorities in order to keep them safe. Later, she begged that the spies show her and her family mercy due to her unbridled kindness; she knew who was going to win. They instructed her to place a red cord out the window when the city was conquered to spare her and her family. When Jericho fell, her whole family survived. However, let’s dive into history for a bit. Why was this so unusual? Back then women didn’t have many rights and were expected to marry from a young age, but the reason she was a perfect candidate for the task? She was a harlot, people were used to seeing men come and go from her house so it was business as usual for her neighbors. So what was so good about her? She had faith. She had a soft heart and she knew who God was. She had faith that she had a purpose and that she was a daughter of the King.

We never hear anything else about Rahab until we get to the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, yes, God included Rahab in Jesus’ ancestral line. That means, Jesus and Rahab became humanly related. God included her into his ultimate plan, just as he includes all his children. Wow. What hope that gives to us today when we think we’ve messed up our purpose or somehow think we aren’t good enough to be used for the glory of his plan. Jesus called himself the ‘friend of sinners’ and his 33 years on this earth was marked with leading that example. I’m never going to have it all together nor will I ever be the perfect Christian, but I want to strive to change my response to my purpose. I want to try and change how I view the world and make it better align with what Jesus’ was. How he saw people and how he loved people. How he viewed his purpose. I want that. Maybe you’ve never heard that story or maybe you’re not a Christian, I would encourage you to just read about who Jesus was (check out the New Testament first) and dive into who He is. I sometimes wish I could have conversations with these influential women in the Bible to hear their faith, to feel their passion, and to learn from their experiences. I’m thankful I have the ability to at least read the stories of their lives and impact.

Purpose. Purpose isn’t found in materialistic things scattered throughout a huge house or rather or not your life (er, my life) goes according to plan. Purpose can be many different things in your life that may or may not be that exciting. Maybe purpose is making dinner for your family or being there for your coworkers during a stressful day. Maybe your purpose includes the small moments in life that we overlook as mundane but that is all God’s plan to lead you to that “a ha okay, I see you God” moment. Maybe he’s planted you in those moments to lead you to become more reliant on him. Maybe the reasons we feel we have no purpose is because we want to skip the mundane parts and get to our big “aha okay, I see you God” moment a bit too quickly. Maybe we need to be faithful in the mundane to be given the responsibility of those big moments. Maybe we need to be more like Rahab and strive to have faith despite our circumstances, or Noah and have faith despite our friends and family telling us we’re crazy every day. Maybe we need to stop seeking validation from everyone else or trying to perform for the audience that lies behind screens and start seeking Jesus. Yeah, let’s unplan our plans and revel in what Jesus has for us.



What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or connect with us at bethinkgrowco@gmail.com


They’ve taken our generation by storm and have filled our feeds with “me too” “omg this is so us”, and  “can this be anymore accurate?” among other agreeable mentions.  

But why?
(trigger warning, just be cautious when reading and looking at memes) 

I enjoy memes just as much as everyone else. They’re funny, they’re lighthearted and they help portray what I’m going through or have experienced in life. Plus, some are just plain cute (anything with Baby Yoda Grogu please). Recently, I’ve come across the ‘dark meme’ section of the internet that pertains to mental health (yes, there’s a whole subculture for dark memes). This section of memes offers to provide humor to otherwise taboo subjects. Depression? There’s a meme for that. Anxiety got you running ragged? There’s a meme. Need validation for a toxic trait you have? There’s plenty. 

Image result for memes mental health"

It comes across as light-hearted, but memes can also be very telling about what someone may be going through or have experienced in their life. The problem? There’s been very few studies done on memes and their influence. However, from what I have read is that memes are powerful in solidifying someone’s life experience through the eyes of validation. You see, you may feel bad about having too many drinks last night, running late or being disengaged at work or school, or even hooking up with that coworker, but there’s a meme for that. Instantly you’ll feel validated and an excuse was freely given to you so that you no longer feel bad about your risky behavior and choices. Is this correct thinking though? Should we give ourselves excuses to participate in behaviors just because there’s a meme for it?  Or just because we’ve seen a posting about it so therefore it is okay for us to do? I can hear my mom’s voice now, “If everyone jumped off the cliff, would you?”
In today’s society, it seems as though memes are replacing that ever annoying helpful parental lesson. Even subconsciously the meme has a way of affecting how you view your problems or how you view your own behavior. I challenge you to answer, what’s the validation behind the meme? Are you simply following a crowd that may or may not have your best interests? Why do we care so much to be validated by others? Social validation can be classified as a basic human need. We need to feel validated in order to accept ourselves or admit that we’re doing alright in this thing called life.
Robert Chialdini is a social proof theorist (theory of social validation) that stated:

“When we are uncertain about what to do, we will look to other people to guide us. And we do this automatically and unconsciously.”

Robert Chialdini

If we are so uncertain about what we do then we look to the next person who is uncertain about what they do. Suddenly we are a drove of sheep standing at a cliff’s edge not making any progress as a society, we’ve halted our development of self-awareness, and we simply avoid working on our toxic traits. We end up self-sabotaging our progress because we refused to accept that we failed in one way or another and we don’t care to go apologize or fix our behavior. We become stuck….but full of shallow social validation. Man, there’s a lot to unpack in that quote.
Furthermore, my question lies, does that mean that memes are replacing the human need for social validation so much that we’re actually starving for it? We’ve become a society that mostly lives on our phones, computers, or video game consoles to fulfill our social and human connection needs. But are we really fulfilling our needs via technologies?
Does socializing via keyboards, memes, or headsets fulfill that need for conversation, connection, and support? I fear the day that a generation does not know how to converse or connect with another human in person without an aiding device such as a phone, computer, or internet meme. It truly is an art form to learn and adapt our social skills to better understand our environment and those around us. In our interconnected world, it is more pertinent than ever to acknowledge how we converse to others in person and, yes, through the internet. Sometimes, we do mess up and get embarrassed about what we said or what we did in an in-person conversation. As a counselor, I see this often especially in younger adolescents as they navigate their world and are continuing to learn social skills. However, it is important to process those feelings with a trusted adult, friend, or counselor. Typically, we talk it out and laugh then learn what not to do next time. We process those not-so-great feelings and allow it to be another human learning experience. I fear that ‘dark’ memes can be validating in such a way that we no longer allow ourselves to feel shame, guilt, embarrassment, or any other ugly negative emotion–making everything we do or say perfectly acceptable into society. Although those emotions are not fun to process, we must process them in order to grow and become better for ourselves and for the generation behind us. After all, if we chase validation in such a way that is harmful to our own emotional and mental well-being, then we’re only sabotaging our potential; a potential that has the capability to leave lasting effects and become our legacy.

Image result for memes mental health"
Meme depicting mental health

Could mental health memes be a coping strategy? Does it help to alleviate some of the struggles we face everyday?

Sound off below of your interpretation of memes and how they make you and others feel. Do you feel that dark memes are a reinforcement and validation of negative behavior? 

Check this out: Bakari Akil II, Ph.D. The Theory of Social Validation, Why you’re not great until someone says you are.

Hannah Smith, M.S.

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