Hungry for Purpose in America

May 19th, 2015

Values, character and purpose are top of mind for many Americans these days, according to David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times and author of four books, including, The Road to Character. In a recent oped he wrote,

Every reflective person sooner or later faces certain questions: What is the purpose of my life? How do I find a moral compass so I can tell right from wrong? What should I do day by day to feel fulfillment and deep joy?

According to Brooks, the sages and institutions where Americans used to turn no longer have a voice on the public stage. Theologians, poets and philosophers have been replaced by neuroscientists, economists, evolutionary biologists and big data analysts, leaving us as a culture drowning with knowledge but suffering from a famine of wisdom for the ultimate questions in life.

As a result, many feel lost or overwhelmed. They feel a hunger to live meaningfully, but they don’t know the right questions to ask, the right vocabulary to use, the right place to look or even if there are ultimate answers at all. … People are ready to talk a little less about how to do things and to talk a little more about why ultimately they are doing them.

Brooks offers a forum for readers to offer answers to ultimate questions at The Road to Character website where you might want to weight in. But the discussion needs to begin up close and personal with people who are ready to talk.

How can we respond?

If people are ready to talk, as Brooks says, one of the most important places for the conversation about ultimate things to begin is in the workplace. It's in the workplace where Christians have the opportunity not only to humbly offer answers to questions of meaning and purpose, but also to demonstrate that our faith is more than a set of religious obligations or even a set of guiding principles. It is a relationship with the Author of meaning and purpose Himself, offered by the Father, made possible by the Son, and enlivened by the Spirit. 

This openness that Brooks has identified begs questions for Christians in the workplace:

  • Is my relationship with Christ just a personal, private matter or does it inform the way I work and how I treat people?
  • Is my faith reflected in the quality of work I do?
  • Does my character resemble Christ's?
  • Do people know I care about them personally?
  • Am I wise about how I speak about my faith -- ready to speak up, but making sure my listeners are truly interested?

 Learn about how to appropriately answer the questions of co-workers and colleagues in Workplace Grace