Voices of Faith offers perspectives from religion columnists. This week’s question: What does it mean to look inside ourselves and see nothing?
Navel-gazing isn’t helpful
The Rev. Eugene Curry, Park Hill Baptist Church: It means it’s time to look elsewhere.
We are, in a sense, like vessels that contain things or like mirrors that reflect things.
If, as the Apostle Paul encourages in Philippians 4:8, we focus on good things, noble things, we’ll find ourselves filled with thoughts that reflect their goodness and nobility. But if we focus on vain and worthless things, we’ll find that our thinking ultimately comes to reflect those, too.
It is as when God lamented in Jeremiah 2:5 that His much-beloved people had “walked after emptiness and became empty.”
But “looking inside” is especially tricky. If we focus on ourselves, then we empty vessels will be filled with that focus: more emptiness. Like a mirror reflecting itself in another mirror – nothingness back and forth forever.
C.S. Lewis said “all introspection is in one respect misleading. In introspection we try to look ‘inside ourselves’ and see what is going on. But nearly everything that was going on a moment before is stopped by the very act of our turning to look at it.”
So if you’re filled with “nothing,” change focus. Rather than pseudo-spiritual navel-gazing, turn your attention outward to the wonderful things Paul recommended: the true, the honorable, the right, the pure, the lovely, the excellent – and fill your emptiness with them.
Of course, if I were to recommend some things, Jesus and His unconditional love for you would be at the top of the list.
Reach out to others
The Rev. Duke Tufty, Unity Temple on The Plaza: Imagine for a moment you are at home one night and you begin to feel hungry. Very, very hungry. You go to the kitchen cupboard and it is bare. Nary a crumb.
You discover the refrigerator is empty as well. There is not a bite to eat anywhere in the house. Hunger is the way the body expresses its need for sustenance.
If the need isn’t satisfied, discomfort will continue to mount.
Just as we have physical needs that must be met, we have emotional needs that must be met as well. When these needs aren’t met, an emptiness occurs that can leave one feeling apathetic, despondent and isolated.
Experts in human research have determined that every person has four basic emotional needs that must be met for a sense of well-being. We all need to have a meaningful life. There has to be a purpose and reason for our existence.
Secondly, we all have a need for social interaction. We need to feel connected.
Third, we need to have a healthy level of self-worth, self-esteem and self-acceptance. We need to feel good about ourselves.
And lastly we need to contribute in some fashion to others’ well-being to feel like the world is a better place because of us.
If you look inside yourself and see nothing, do something for somebody else and you will go from empty to full in the blink of an eye.