Rethink Your Self

follow your heart

Want to improve your life? The solution is simple: find yourself by looking within yourself. Follow your heart. Chase your dreams. Live your truth. You are enough. Be true to yourself.

This way of thinking dominates our culture. It’s our default way of thinking. It’s so embedded within us that we can’t even imagine an alternative. It’s in Disney movies, self-help books, and schools. It’s even in the church. We can use spirituality as part of our quest to look within ourselves.

But evidence suggests that it’s not working. Anxiety and depression are on the rise despite having more freedom, autonomy, and resources than generations before us.

What if this path to happiness is a dead end? In Rethink Your Self (affiliate link), Trevin Wax encourages us to rethink society’s assumptions about happiness, and suggests a better way.

Looking Up Before Looking In

Rethink Your Self

Wax describes the way we tend to pursue happiness in our culture. He follow three steps in order:

  • We look in to our desires
  • We look around to express our uniqueness
  • We sometimes look up to add a spiritual dimension to our lives

This approach promises much but often leaves us feeling dissatisfied. We blame others (feeling bitterness and resentment), or ourselves (feeling guilt and anxiety). We assume this is the only way to live our lives, even though most of the world — past and present — have never seen the world this way.

“The world needs more people who ask questions no one else things about, who doubt the ideas everyone else assumes to be true, and who are courageous enough to be unsettled and uncomfortable in challenging their once-cherished beliefs,” writes Wax.

Wax describes some of the strengths of the “look in” approach to life, but argues that it doesn’t lead to the happiness that it promises. He then describes the counterintuitive Scriptural way of thinking: to look up first to a God who has designed us. We start by discovering our purpose rather than defining it. “You don’t define yourself; you discover the self that God has already defined. You receive a definition; you don’t invent it.”

He then helps us understand ourselves as people who are drawn to independence, turning us inward away from God, which the Bible calls sin. It’s this selfish impulse that robs us of true and lasting joy. Our feelings of guilt and unworthiness aren’t the problem, but symptoms revealing a deeper disease that must be cured. He helps us understand the Bible’s story, helping us see Jesus’ call to repent as moving from looking in as the starting point of life to looking up, and he helps us understand Jesus’ sacrificial death as the solution to the problem of sin and selfishness. He concludes by describing the new life we get to enjoy, along with the practical steps we need to take to live it.

We don’t find happiness by looking in. We find happiness by looking up, and finding our identity in who God says we are and who he calls us to be.

Easy to Understand, With Profound Philosophical Implications

Wax has written a book for a general audience. It deals with one of the most important issues today — expressive individualism — and its effects on individuals and society. But Wax writes with a keen understanding of the issues underlying this worldview. Rethink Your Self is easy to understand, but it has depth.

I see the “look in” approach everywhere I look, including in the church. I plan on sharing this book to help people identify the problem with this approach, and to show a better way. But I also recommend this book to pastors. Wax helps us understand and speak to the most common worldview of the West, and provides a model of constructive engagement.

Rethink Your Self is an important book for our time.

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Rethink Your Self
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Liberty Grace Church in Toronto. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada