Have you noticed the trend toward superficiality in our world today? We’re easily bored, our attention spans keep shrinking, and we have a steady stream of superficial input from media. It’s a mile wide and an inch deep. We’re more apt to react to what we see on social media and type off a quick response, or click a thumbs up button and move on to the next video flashing at us. Before we know it, an hour, or two, or more, has passed, and all we’ve been doing is wading in the shallows.
Why is superficiality a problem? For one thing, it creates isolation (we talked about that in episode #50, The Danger of Isolation). We’ve been made in the image of God. He gave us a brain with the ability to think, to enjoy beauty, to appreciate the wonder of God. He created us for relationship, for fellowship. We’re selling ourselves short of what God intends us to be and what He intends for His body.
Why is superficiality so common?
1. It takes time to go deep – time we don’t feel we have
- We live busy lives with many expectations. We’re constantly in a rush
- We live in an increasingly instant society where there is no patience for delay
- We’re constantly forced to multitask, which weakens our ability to process deeply
- We increasingly engage and depend on online relationships, which promotes weak ties rather than strong ties that better foster support and emotional development
2. Our digital world is changing our brains
- The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr says, “A search engine often draws our attention to a particular snippet of text, a few words or sentences that have strong relevance to whatever we are searching for at the moment, while providing little incentive for taking in the work as a whole. We don’t see the forest when we search the web. We don’t even see the trees. We see twigs and leaves.”
- Reading a book uses visual processing, memory, and language. Internet surfing uses those, but adds decision-making and problem-solving areas. You’re always faced with hyperlinks that make it easy to flit from one topic to the next. It forces you to multitask, and Carr says that impedes comprehension and retention. Bottom line: You have to work really hard to read and retain something on the Internet. When we don’t have time to process what we’re reading, it doesn’t stick.
- Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on our Brains by Susan Greenfield says about the effects of digital technology, “…our attention spans shrink, deeper thinking declines and interpersonal bonds wither.” She also says, “The digital revolution exploits our biological propensity for mindlessness.”
3. We don’t go deep because there is a cost
- Dropping masks is counter cultural in our world where appearances count, where you’re supposed to act like you have all the answers. But we’re not meant to hide our true selves in the dark. God’s Word tells us in 1 John 1:5-8 “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
- Going deep requires vulnerability. It makes us uncomfortable and opens us up to rejection.
- Going deep can be extremely painful, not just because of rejection but because we may need to go deep into our own pain in order to heal from wounds we’ve concealed rather than healed from.
4. Going deep forces us to ask some hard questions of ourselves
- What if I don’t like who I am deep down? What if I’m really a lousy person?
- What if I discover I don’t truly care about things I SHOULD care about?
- What if, deep down, I start to wonder if I really even believe in God? Or don’t trust Him, or don’t know Him?
- These things ARE true in our flesh, but God is in the business of transforming us through His Spirit, not in our own power. It’s a transformation from the inside out.
- Jesus had some harsh words for those who ignore the deep down issues, or pretend they’re something they’re not when He was addressing the Pharisees. Matthew 23:27 “…Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” But God wants us to explore what’s deep inside us so He can clean us from the inside out.
- Pray for a willingness and ability to get out of the shallows, to escape the trivial. Pray that we can set our minds on deeper things, on things that please God, on how He sees us and the people around us.
- Schedule distraction-free time to go deep, both with God and with people. Commit to that time. Make it intentional.
- Evaluate your friendships. Which ones can you cultivate to be deep? Which ones lead you into superficiality?
- Evaluate your activities. Which ones cultivate deeper thinking, deeper relationships?
- Schedule time with yourself. Time for reflection. Time to evaluate your day, your life. Time to reflect on the sermon at church, or your Bible study, or the Scripture you’re memorizing. Don’t skim the surface.
- Be the one to take the risk. To drop the mask. To be vulnerable. It’s so freeing. Don’t miss out on that freedom!
- Brave the pain of going deeper yourself. We want to avoid that pain, but often true healing is found at the other end.
- Brave the pain of others’. Be with them. You don’t have to have all the answers. You have to be willing to listen. To give them a safe place to be real and vulnerable.
We Want to hear from you!
What helps you fight against superficiality in your life?