5. Sociocultural Patterns
Every country, and region of a country, has a culture. Those cultures color our interpretations of reality, often in ways subconscious unless we are vigilant and self-aware psychosocioculturally. Here in America, think of macro sociological forces like individualism, exceptionalism, entitlement, hypercompetition, etc. In smaller sections of America, think of subcultures like rural versus urban versus suburban, or coastal versus heartland versus rust belt. Culture is not always unhealthy and ungodly, however, neither is it always right and Biblical. Discretion is needed.
A Culture of Competition
American culture, and other capitalistic free societies, are ferociously competitive. There is competition for jobs, romantic partners, promotions, recognition, attention, money, donors, members, the list goes on and on. Those on the winning end of these footraces tend to swell with pride, while those on the losing end tend to deflate with a cutting not good enough feeling.
Not Good Enough...Existentially or Practically?
The various competitions around us are not necessarily bad. We need to separate not being good enough existentially as a person from not being good enough in an area where practical ability matters. Think existentially versus practically. For example, maybe you are not getting a job promotion because you do not do the job well enough to genuinely deserve it. This does not mean you are a worthless person with no value, it simply means you are not good enough in that specific practical ability. Or, maybe you have little or no romantic options because you have not developed yourself enough so as to be more relevant and interesting to the opposite sex. This does not mean you are a worthless person with no value, it simply means your romantic relevance to the opposite sex is underdeveloped. Here are several insightful scriptures on this.
Scriptures on Practical Development & Work Ethic
Proverbs 12:11 and 28:19 (HCSB): The one who works his land will have plenty of food, but whoever chases fantasies lacks sense...The one who works his land
will have plenty of food, but whoever chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.
Proverbs 16:1 (NKJV): The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
Proverbs 22:29 (NKJV): Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.
1Corinthians 15:10 (ESV): But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
Colossians 3:23,24 (NASB): Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
What we see, then, is how we sometimes confuse and conflate not being good enough practically with not being good enough existentially. The two are not the same. In areas where practical ability matters, competition can be used for good as a motivating force for learning and personal transformation. Competition can oxgoad us into a diligent investment to get good and great and masterful in the practical areas of life.
I have been influenced socioculturally. Now what?
When God's Word says not to be conformed to the sociocultural patterns of this world (Ro 12:2), it is referring to the sinful elements. The competitions in practical areas, on the other hand, can be an oxgoad that forces us to get honest with ourselves to improve in ways we really need to improve. Instead of being jealous or covetous or malicious towards someone more proficient than you, someone experiencing more opportunities and mobility than you, use it as a gentle rebuke to motivate you.
Furthermore, separate in your mind existential value from practical value. Your existential value as a person is anchored in the reality of God's eternal love for you, the fact that you are made in His image, the fact that Jesus died to bring you back to Him, the fact that He wants to meet with you everyday and have a rich experience with you everyday. Your practical value in this physical world is conditional on your level of development and proficiency in whatever area. With the help of the Holy Spirit, if you can separate these different kinds of value, you can maintain an iron center of self-esteem in God and God alone while diligently developing the areas of your life to a high level.