Meme Therapy

“You hear what you want to hear.”

According to, a meme is:

“… a self-propagating unit of cultural evolution having some resemblance to the gene… Memes can represent parts of ideas, languages, elemental particles, tunes, designs, skills, moral and aesthetic values and anything else that is commonly learned and passed on to others as a unit.”

a smattering of smilies

From pet rocks of old to internet “smileys” in the now, memes are a new way of looking at an old phenomenon: fad psychology against the subtext of cultural anthropology.

But memes are also about hearing what you want to hear, which can be both good and bad. Bad, if it results in obstinately rejecting challenging ideas if those ideas threaten a pre-established way of living. Good, it it only means that, given our predispositions, it is harder to learn new ideas even if we hear them. In other words, only when we are ready can we truly internalize new concepts.

Case in point: Lately, like a weird sense of deja vue, I keep reading, hearing, and seeing this little meme set pop up in various media:

You are unique.
It’s not your job to be accepted.
You are responsible for your actions.
Someone loves you.
You will be missed.
A burden shared is a burden supported.
Community needs people.
Your life has significance.

Perhaps this particular message is merely expected with the current zeitgeist of pop-psychology. Perhaps not. All I know is that right now, the words do not ring hollow to me anymore, where before they would have.

In any other context, I’d say (and maybe you’re saying) the meme is trite, cliched, or old news. But somehow, I’m finally hearing the meme. As the adage goes… “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” How true. The meme has taken root in me. So deeply has it run, that sometimes the thoughts make me emotional at the sheer gravity of their meaning. “Am I really loved?” “Am I really unique?” They are so deceptively profound, I’m amazed at their mystery.

The most recent sighting of this meme was last night at AWANA clubs at church. I’m one of the boys’ leaders, and our speaker was talking to them about finding pure acceptance only in Christ. The message was to children, but it had deep implications for me. Perhaps this idea is too deep even for kids, though it’s delivered with the most basic of terms. Perhaps those kids will have to grow up, live through pain, and establish their individuality first to truly accept the truth like I am still learning to do. Maybe some of them are more than ready to understand the meme now. I hope so. They would be way ahead of the game.

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  1. I find the same thing happening as I get older and have more moments of introspection. There are alot of sayings that seem trite and cliched but are no less ‘true’ because of that. Let’s be honest, there are times when hearing the same scripture or passage again and again can cause it to lose some of the awe that it maybe inspired in you the first time you heard it. That doesn’t make it any less true or powerful.

    I think that this is where the Holy Spirit comes into play as the reminder to us of the things we need to hear, when we need to hear them. That, I believe, is where the importance comes in to the idea of hiding scripture in your heart. There are times when we really need to *get* a certain message and that is when these sayings, or memes as it were, can come alive to us and have a deeper meaning.

    I hope that deep down you always know that you are loved and don’t doubt your uniqueness. Blogging has pointed out to me even more that I am my own person. There are people who share similar interests and who also dislike some of the things that I like. We all have our differing views, opinions, things that inspire us, things that lay us low. We all have our own unique way of looking at things…even when we agree there are still shades of difference. We all have our secret vices and private dreams. And ultimately we each have a very unique relationship with our Creator.

    Good post, lots of provoking of the synapses with this one! 🙂

  2. Its not only true that we should have childlike faith, but we should endeavor to open ourselves to that childlike awe of God and all the wonders of his creation. Not always easy to do in the hustle and bustle of the world. That’s why I really love Spring and Autumn…for me those are the 2 times of year that, without conscious thought, my spirit and mind open up to all the wonder that is around me and consequently I am much more thoughtful about the things of God. Wish I could capture that openess and have it all the time.

  3. Rob, your post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Carl and Julie, for sharing too. It is a message that God has been trying to plant in my heart but in my insecurity, I keep ripping it out. Thanks, my friends.

  4. That’s cool that I made some sense, Julie. That post came pouring out late last night and sometimes that’s a “dangerous” way for me to write.

    Thanks for your very thoughtful reply. I like that reference of yours. Is it a study Bible?

    Carl, I completely agree about how reading the same passages over and over can sometimes dull the meaning. However, when I work with small kids who have that clean slate of a mind, it’s amazing how the fundamentals come back so quickly.

  5. Rob, great post. I think what you are describing is the Holy Spirit at work in you! Very exciting! I can relate very well to the memes you listed. I, too, have struggled my whole life with feelings of love and acceptance. It’s wonderful when the Holy Spirit makes the truth of God’s love and acceptance become very real and relevant in our lives. He is revealing deep truths about Himself to you. This seems to be a time of healing and growth for you. He is preparing you for great stuff. Remember, His plans are to prosper you and give you a hope and future!

    “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63

    I found this definition from The Quickened Word.

    “All the Lord’s Words, no matter what form we hear them, must be quickened by His Holy Spirit. The Bible says, only what is quickened by His Spirit will give life. Quickened is an obscure Biblical word, but without its power, our relationship with Him is limited to a dead language. The literal Greek meaning of the word quicken is to “make alive, or give vitality.”

    “All words are just words until they are quickened and we finally realize they apply to us. Quickening happens when you hear a story, etc. and all of a sudden it connects with your personal life. His quickening power says, “Listen to this, I’m talking to you!”

    Great stuff, Rob! I truly was excited by this post. God is so awesome!!!

  6. Mary, the scripture ‘His banner over me is love’ has been on my mind all morning. It’s one of my favorites. I believe it’s found in Song of Songs. I’ve also been hearing, in my head, the children’s song ‘His Banner Over Me Is Love”. I wish I could remember all the words. It’s such a basic concept, yet it is so deep and life changing.

    Mary, His banner over you is love!!

  7. Rob, how come bloggie says there’s five comments when there’s really six?

    I’m curious if it will say seven now or six or just stay at five.

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