Morality, the American Dream, & the Life You’ve Always Wanted

American dream

Photo Credit: By Marcel Douwe Dekker via Wikimedia Commons

It’s ok to have multiple sexual partners as long as you’re using protection. It’s ok to lie to your boss as long as it’s good for your long-term career. It’s her problem if she gets attached, just have fun. It’s your body, do whatever you want with it. You’re committed so what the Bible says about sex doesn’t really apply. You aren’t hurting anyone, so do what you want. 

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

We are surrounded by relative morality. In college, there seemed to be endless statements like this surrounding sex and general weekend behavior. There wasn’t right or wrong. Instead, there were many shades of grey, acceptable behavior. Having casual sex was considered ok, but where do you draw the line? Is it still ‘casual’ when it’s with a committed man? What about when you can’t seem to shake the connection you felt?

Andy Stanley has this incredible series called Right in the Eye discussing what happens when people act according to what is right in their own eyes. He says this relative morality has become commonplace and has become the unstated part of the American Dream. The mantra of this “American Dream” sounds like this:

“It’s my life. I can do what I want, when I want, with whoever I want . . . as long as long as no one gets hurt.”

The clause at the end is present to make us feel better about our decisions, ones that are based on our own moral compass. But, as Stanley points out, people who live on the consequence side of that American Dream will tell you that following your own sense of right and wrong is far from a dream. Ask the man addicted to pornography. Ask the women whose husband had an affair. Ask the woman who starts each day with a promise, yet finishes each day drunk.

After listening to Stanley, I tried to take note of places where this “American Dream” surfaced. Cosmopolitan recently introduced readers to the concept of feminist pornography.

When criticized for posting an interview about feminist pornography, Cosmo responded with explaining its mission statement.

“ is presenting a full-service guide on how young women can their lives in any way they want. We’re all about presenting options, not limiting them.”

Live your life in any way you want? But what if that doesn’t actually work in real life? As Stanley points out, when men do what is right in their own eyes, women always suffer. When we all do what we want, when we want with whoever we want, women become possessions and profit centers.

The truth is, we can’t do what is right in our own eyes and come out unscathed, because eventually we will hurt someone. We hurt our families. We hurt people who care about us. We hurt those coming along after us.

One of the motivators behind my passion for relationships is our relational decisions impact generations to come. We cannot operate in a vacuum because our interconnectedness makes it necessary to have a governing sense of morality. Consider this: If your parents decided “I’m going to do what I want to do” and didn’t factor you in, you’re probably still hurting.

I’ll let you in on the ending of this undercurrent of the American Dream. It ends with confusion. It ends in panic. It ends in disillusionment. It ends with pain for both you and your future children. But if we surrender to a better way, a higher way, one leads to more freedom and more joy, this is the true path to find the life you’ve always wanted.

When you look at the cultural landscape what sort of consequences do you see of people doing whatever they want?

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3 Responses to “Morality, the American Dream, & the Life You’ve Always Wanted”
  1. Greg says:

    Thank you for speaking up about this! As DC Talk so aptly reiterates what you shared: “I am the King of excuses; I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do.”

    Despite knowing it was wrong, one or more of these excuses were my response every time I came under conviction of sin for viewing pornography–I was always trying to “justify” it:

    * “I’m curious/fascinated about anatomy and sexuality.” (true; but that doesn’t excuse sin)

    * “God (and everyone else) could care less about my singleness, so why should I? Since I’ve failed hopelessly to find a wife, I’ll get what I can via porn.” (frustration at being single, blame and anger at God, and blatant disobedience)

    * “I just want to see what God made to be so beautiful and desirable.” (true; women are beautiful and desirable, but this was impatience and anger towards God, and envy of married couples)

    * I was angry and jealous of women, that—or at least so I thought—weren’t susceptible to porn and never had to struggle with lust. After all, who ever heard of purity conferences for women? (again, still no excuse for sin)

    * “I’m not looking at the really raunchy stuff; only what’s ‘tasteful, artistic, and respectful’ toward women.” (not good enough, and the one ‘tasteful’ website I was frequenting soon showed its true colors by adding ‘less-than-artistic’ imagery through a spinoff website)

    Thankfully, through various ways, God woke me up to what I was doing, graciously grabbed hold of me and began dragging me out of it. There has to be a change of heart about our sin, and we need to be earnestly praying to be free of it, or we’ll never get there. I pray that God will awaken and rescue others from their sin as He so mercifully did for me.

  2. Wonderful. If our free wheeling, no boundaries morality is so great, why are we so sick?

  3. Trish says:

    One consequence I see is the amount of problems people have in their personal lives. What’s worse, many believe that this “drama” of life is normal! It’s not. This often encourages me to be more open with my life, not in a prideful way, to show that human beings can experience good things without leaving life with (unnecessary) scars. Of course, that witness comes with consequences as well. When people see how the Lord has shielded His people from certain things, unbelievers (used by the Devil) will do EVERYTHING to bring us down.

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