Nihilism is the philosophy in which traditional values and beliefs are often viewed as useless, existence is senseless, and truth and morals is a necessary, I would argue that there’s a bit of nihilism within all of us.
More seriously, it can be a insidious infection that can bring us to condemn the values and traditions we’ve all come to believe in and hold sacred. Fortunately, most of us are capable of countering those dark feelings by trusting in our faith, family, and friends to help us through dark times. There is however, a form of nihilism that I see growing unchecked. I see it. Many of the young people I encounter in a juvenile correctional institutions of San Diego County. Some of them, many of them I’m afraid to say, deny the validity of any higher principle in themselves. Their view of life, can be summed up by the philosophy, quote,
“Whatever it gives me pleasure is right. Would it give or whatever gives me pain is wrong.”
Armed with this hedonistic doctrine, they enter adult life primed for self destruction. For those, the rightness and wrongness of a act is determined by the degree of pleasure or pain associated with it. If money can bring me pleasure, then it’s proper to take it, and hurt anyone I need to in the process. If someone’s body can bring me pleasure, then I will take it, and use it for my own pleasure. If they don’t cooperate willingly, then I will pleasure myself forcefully. Self-control, hard work, and discipline are wrong because they bring pain. They are the roadblocks in pursuit of my own pleasures. In the philosophy of nihilism, the individual sets him or herself up as God, and defines the values, ethics, and morals by which he or her will live. For those who hold this belief, Christianity is the greatest enemy of all, and not only demand self-control, hard work, and discipline, but it goes far beyond all other philosophical and ethical systems by demanding self-denial.
What a terrifying experience it must be to be faced with an alternative that strips me of my only reality, myself. What can I turn to? The answers come screaming back. Nothing. There is no other reality but me. Working with the young people I do in the juvenile correctional institutions for San Diego County is difficult. Many of them, for a wide variety of reasons, are not susceptible to logic or rational argument. Their world is in a box and allows for no deviation. Many of those never change. Some go on to make headlines as the young lies come to a shattering halt, destroying themselves and innocent bystanders in the process. There are few, and through the decades I can say there are many that I’ve seen, who go through that painful experience of self-denial, and reemerge as new creations.
Awhile back, I received a long distance phone call from a young man that I’d spent much time with several decades ago. For all of my efforts back in the day, there had been no response, change of behavior, interest in faith. He was the classic nihilist. His probation officer at the time described his lifestyle as that of one heading 80 miles an hour down the freeway into oncoming traffic. He predicted that that young man would not live to see the age of 20. At the time he called me, he was in his forties. He had been off drugs and alcohol for some 20 years. He’s been married for a decade, owns his own construction company, owns his own home, and has been a lay leader in his church for a good 20 years. The purpose of his call was simply to thank me for all the time and effort I put into him back when he’d been a teenager. I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I’d given up on him back in the day as well, and there are so many others I work with back then that I gave up on as well.
Fortunately for all of us, God never gives up on any of us. I believe that the Lord has a very special place in His heart for nihilists. Please keep me in your prayers. Please keep these young people in your prayers, because the young people need it for their survival, and I personally need it to maintain my stability. Close just with an un-referenced quote. If the Lord wants to do a good thing, He starts with a tragedy. If He wants to do a great thing, He starts with an impossibility.