I’ve been reading reports that you’re feeling adrift, alone, joyless, dissatisfied, insecure, depressed*, meaningless, and/or empty. You’re doing everything you’re supposed to do, but you still feel as though something critically important is missing from your life.
I want you to know, first of all, that these feelings are common. There’s nothing wrong with you. And it’s not your fault.
From the moment we are born into our often superficial and money-oriented society, our culture goes to work carving out a big hole inside us. It conditions us to believe that we are incomplete and lacking so that it can then offer us two main ways to fix that problem. One way is to try to fill the hole. Our society — its media, institutions, entertainment industry, social relations, and so on — all recommend, for one thing, that we seek wholeness in romantic relationships. We should find our soul mates, and then we’ll be complete. The world we inhabit also suggests that we pursue accomplishments such as college degrees and job promotions. Once we land that powerful, high-paying job, then we’ll feel whole. In addition, our culture encourages us to pursue wealth and material possessions. After we have lots of money and stuff, then we’ll feel complete.
The second main way to deal with that unsettling feeling of incompleteness is simply to escape from it. We can distract ourselves with non-productive time-fillers (e.g., television or shopping), and/or we can use mind-altering substances (e.g., alcohol or drugs) to make unpleasant feelings go away for a while.
You know by now that these prescribed methods are not working. That’s because our society has ulterior motives — especially profit, conformity, and control — that require the peddling of these false paths to wholeness**. We know they’re false because we’re going down them, and we’re still feeling restless, bored, unhappy, and unfulfilled.
Are there any true paths to wholeness? In my opinion, there are three: an authentic life, creative self-expression, and relationship with God.
Creative self-expression — whether it takes the form of art, crafts, cooking, gardening, or the like — is a satisfying way to learn about the most meaningful parts of ourselves and share them with others. To learn more about this subject, read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
The most effective path to wholeness, though, is realizing who we are to God and striving to become ever closer to Him. As Saint Paul wrote, “…through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). Many more Bible verses reinforce Paul’s assertion and remind us of God’s everlasting love for us. I interpret all this to mean that we are not incomplete at all. As God’s beloved children, we can’t be! We’re not perfect, of course, but it is God — nothing and no one else — who heals us. Any message to the contrary is made up by people who want our money and/or compliance. We need only go to the true source of all Wholeness for the strength to reject their nonsense.
I’ve found that attending Mass, experiencing God’s love through worship and prayer, and loving Him by serving others are the best ways to fill the hole inside and feel Whole. According to Eve Fairbanks in “Behold, the Millennial Nuns,” some young women are so swept away by the wholeness they find in the Catholic faith that they are making the ultimate commitment and becoming nuns.
But we don’t have to go that far. Simply bringing our faith to the forefront of our lives is all it takes. Not surprisingly, the word Catholic comes from the Greek kath’holou. Kata means “about,” and holos means “whole.” So, to be Catholic means to be “about becoming whole.”
*Depression, which can be serious and life-threatening, often requires medical intervention. If you have lost interest in life or experience the symptoms described in NIMH’s Depression in Women brochure, please see your doctor right away.
**I should add here that, although the relentless pursuit of achievements is one of the false paths to wholeness, we should definitely develop and use our God-given talents for the betterment of this life on Earth.