Out of SolitudeReading through Henri Nouwen’s short work Out of Solitude the other day, I came across this wonderful quote that describes the constant temptation to define our worth in terms of what we’ve accomplished and the feedback we receive:

When we start being too impressed by the results of our work, we slowly come to the erroneous conviction that life is one large scoreboard where someone is listing the points to measure our worth. And before we are fully aware of it, we have sold our soul to the many grade-givers. That means we are not only in the world, but also of the world. Then we become what the world makes us. We are intelligent because someone gives us a high grade. We are helpful because someone says thanks. We are likable because someone likes us. And we are important because someone considers us indispensable. In short, we are worthwhile because we have successes. And the more we allow our accomplishments — the results of our actions — to become the criteria of our self-esteem, the more we are going to walk on our mental and spiritual toes, never sure if we will be able to live up to the expectations which we created by our last successes. In many people’s lives, there is a nearly diabolic chain in which their anxieties grow according to their successes. This dark power has driven many of the greatest artists into self-destruction.

This spiral gets can worsen as we age because unlike when we were 18 and everything was open to us, every passing year means that we have fewer and fewer options. But it also seems to worsen as we age because many of us have experienced the elation of success and then find ourselves doing everything we can to recreate that feeling.

I think a similar phenomenon can happen with social media and internet “success.” Just as we learn to crave the kind of evaluation we get from high grades, thank yous, and so forth in our everyday life, the immediate feedback of likes, retweets, and hits leaves the distinct impression that hitting certain numbers determines the value of not only what we do online, but who we are.

It’s easy to mock silly metrics like Klout scores, but even the best of us check our numbers sometimes. And in those moments we must remember that those numbers might in fact be useful as measurements of our job or a task we’ve been given, but they don’t measure anything eternal – like the value of your personhood and the eternal soul that God made and is redeeming through his son Jesus.

But now, by all means, please like this post.