“We live in dark times. We can choose. We can be a shinning light. It is possible”
I was recently asked to speak at an event for young ladies between ages 13 and 25 on the following topic : “Rising Above Societal Narratives.” While preparing for the topic, I knew I had to share with the readers of my blog albeit with some tweaks. So, here we go!
So what is a narrative? Simply put, a narrative is “the way a story is told”. A good way to explain what a narrative is, are the synoptic gospels in the Bible, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke John. Each disciple told the story of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus from their own perspective. Each disciple had his own narrative. So simply put, a narrative is the way a story is told. One principal factor that impacts upon narratives are perspectives (a perspective is the way you view a situation). So, a societal narrative would then simply mean the way society tells a story based on its perspective.
Societal narratives can only engender societal norms which are usually opposed to God’s standard and methods.
There are many societal narratives about young people and how they should live and it is very easy to be caught in that flow. You might want to ask if that is necessarily a bad thing. For someone who wants to leave a lasting and worthy legacy, it may be a dangerous thing to live your life according to the dictates of the society. Before outlining how to rise above societal narratives, I have listed below, some other reasons why you should aim to rise above societal narratives:
“They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.”
1 John 4:5
The society’s perspective on you as a young person is different from the way God sees and defines you. Living your life in accordance to societal narratives can hinder you from attaining your God given ambitions, desires and goals. And in the times we live in, society is becoming increasingly immoral in thought and perspective. Societal culture is becoming more anti-God and tailoring your life to suit societal narratives will automatically mean living outside God’s plans and purposes.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4
The way a story is told determines the behaviors and attitudes that are termed as norm. It then follows that societal narratives can only engender societal norms which are usually opposed to God’s standard and methods. For example, when society makes young women believe that their value is determined by size of their hips and waistline, it would become normal for ladies to do almost anything from plastic surgery to harmful body mutations to achieve the kind of body that society says in vogue.
It is true that one cannot evolve without any form of societal influence or interaction with the society but societal narratives must not inform your decisions and life progression if you desire to live in the plan of God for your life. Hence, the need to rise above those narratives.
It is also true that dependent on our ethnic groups, geographical locations, and sex, there are different unspoken rules in the society that have become norms. Everyone sees them as the normal way to do things and if you are not doing those things you are labelled as anti-social or given demeaning names. So how do we rise above all this?
Vision has constraining power. Your vision creates your focus, it directs your energy daily and it restricts your passions and wants.
To know your creator is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have on earth. It is impossible to live by God’s standard if you do not know Him for yourself. Knowing your creator, helps you stand firmly on His Word and promises because you will no longer be a child, “carried by waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error”.
The Bible says in Daniel 11:32b, “but the people who do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits”. An encounter with God will never leave your life the same way it was. Apostle Paul went in strength of the one encounter that he had for several years and even when he met several discouragements and hurdles, he did not give up on his commitment to God because he knew God for himself.
So, knowing your God is the most essential step to rising above Societal Narratives.
“Whatever you’ve been told, you are worth more than gold”
Self-knowledge is a game changer. One of the most fundamental questions every young person should answer is “Who Am I?” Are you self-aware? How do you perceive yourself? Have you ever undertaken a honest self-evaluation. Do you know who God says you are? Do you know your purpose? Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Do you know what you want from life? When you know who you are and what you want from life, you will be put at a point of advantage from which you can rise above societal narratives and norms. When you know who you are, you will know without question that your worth is not determined by externals. Lack of self-knowledge is one of the reasons why the society can make you live according to its narratives.
Consciously undertake the task of knowing yourself.
“Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.” Habbakuk 2:2
Vision has constraining power. When you know where you are headed, it will be easy to rise above societal narratives. Your vision creates your focus, it directs your energy daily and it restricts your passions and wants. According to societal standards, it is okay to have premarital sex but according to God’s standard it is a sin. Your knowledge of God and vision for your life will help you exercise self-control. One of my favorite self-formulated quotes says: “Those who live in glass houses, don’t throw stones. When you have a great destiny to protect, you don’t toy with sin”. So, acquire vision for your life and be committed to your vision.
I hope this has been an enlightening read.