Who do you live for?

I share a particularly close relationship with one of my students. Today, I asked him: “Do you think your life is valuable?” He answered, “Sometimes.” I proceeded to steal 10 minutes from my Geometry lesson plan to discuss this further. We arrived at a common realization we’ve both experienced: you can’t always live for other people. It’s not sustainable.

We have both been at rock bottom for different reasons. In the deepest throes of clinical depression, I’d found myself absolutely abhorring myself, to the point of emotionally abusing myself as long as I’m awake, and being unable to look at myself in the mirror. I tried to keep myself going for the sake of the people who love me: my family, my then-boyfriend, and my close friends. But as my condition got worse, I would often think to myself: “Sure they’d be devastated if I were to take my own life. But realistically, they’d move on at some point. They’re not going to grieve forever.”

My doctor once told me, “You’re right, you can’t live for others. You have to find it within yourself.” But that, too, isn’t a foolproof mentality. Like I said earlier, it was it was impossible to live for myself while severely depressed. I simply wasn’t a fan of me. While I often tell this student about all the ways he is amazing, about the importance of loving himself and seeing his own potential, at the back of my mind I do know he needs more than that. And I hope he finds it someday.

So who am I living for?

Well, I live for my God. The God who breathes meaning and purpose into my existence, my relationships, my career, my joys, and even my suffering. In Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. I could crack or crumble, but the mighty hands that hold me never will. May I allow the recognition of His unfathomable love to fuel my every breath, thought, word, and deed. I pray the same for you, my brothers and sisters.

I know I have readers who don’t share my Christian convictions. Regardless, I would love to hear your answer to the same question I had to ask myself: “Who do you live for?”

(Addendum: I know I wrote about the importance of pouring ourselves out for others in my previous post. I am not negating any of it. But all the reasons I have any desire to serve others are rooted in God: He created us all and He created us all to love Him and love one another. Without God in the picture, living for others eventually became exhausting and “hollow”. But the moment God becomes the source, His goodness animates everything it touches.)

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Related post: My students are helping me recover from depressionHow do you find your “passion”?

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23 thoughts on “Who do you live for?”

  1. As a Christian, I also live for God. When my eyes are on Him, I live to do His will for my life. It is in that context that I often live for others. At the same time, I know God’s love for me, how He cares for me, how He watches over me, how much of Himself He gave for me, and best of all, that He adopted me into His family. Knowing I could not earn all those things, it keeps me from being boastful, and at the same time, I don’t need to do anything to prove myself to Him or anyone else. It is tremendously freeing to know I don’t have to live for myself when I am in such good hands.
    Lois

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  2. What a great reminder. Thank you, Karen. You have proven to be a huge inspiration to me in several ways. Wow, what God can do with your (and my) “yes”. Thank you. I can think of nothing else to say. What a beautiful soul God created when He formed you.

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    1. HAHA! This made me laugh for some reason… WordPress arbitrarily assigns you an avatar if you don’t upload one for yourself, which you can only do if you have a WordPress account.

      Also, Karmyn, you know that you’ve been an inspiration and encouragement to me in many ways too. Would not be here if not for you!

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  3. Amen and Amen and Amen! God has been convicting me of this too as my life has been in transition for a few years now. Thank you for sharing. As I am writing this, “Live like that” by Sidewalk Prophets just came on the radio, how timely, God is good!

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  4. As one of your readers who is not a Christian, I can still absolutely identify with this post. I remember the time when I reached the point of realizing that people would get over my death, and it was actually the point where I started to turn myself around.

    I don’t live for others and I also don’t live for God. When I am at the deepest point in my depressive episodes, I force myself to stop and think about my past, present, and future. Every time I have battled a major episode, it has ended. For every major loss I have suffered, I gained appreciation. Those that love and support me are a huge factor in my ability to help myself, but I know that deep down in the end I am the one that lives in my mind. So, through counseling and spiritual exploration I am finding my way towards a healthier state of mind and being.

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  5. I think you expressed what depressed people go through beautifully: the self abuse, ponderings on what would happen if we die, and eventual improvement. Other commenters also capture this cycle well. While I don’t wish for the darkest moments, they do bring the most poignant realizations: life is precious, good health is precious, loved ones are precious, WE all are precious. I think more dialogues like this one help promote universal understanding about depression, and about what is important in life.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

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  6. I’m at a point in my life wear I’m not living for anyone; not myself, my family, my friends. I’m more living for something. Although 99.9% of the time my life his an awkward cluster of emotional breakdowns that don’t know how to be settled I live for that 00.01% of the time when life evens out. I hope that one day that minority can increase to the majority, and although I don’t believe that is a logical thing to hope for that hope is what Ive spent many years of my life living for.

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  7. While learning about Christianity I gained some great understandings, though my belief in the possibility of the Christian version of God diminished completely. Jesus’ focus on humanitarian actions is what resonated with me, and his self-title “son of man” surprised me greatly as I had previously only heard him referred to as Son of God.

    Now, I had previously focused on living for myself, which resulted in quite the depression in my mid to late 20’s as my goals and ambitions had continued to fall flat. Upon understanding how Jesus’ teachings reflect on a human level when the religious dogma is set aside, and experiencing the community aspect of church, I realized that while people believe they are connecting with God, what they really are connecting with is a greater focus on and connection with humanity. I too experienced that connection and have been making positive steps ever since!

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  8. Hi, I’m certainly trying to live for God at the moment. I have returned to church, often feel a sense of peace when I’m there. I still struggle with loving or even liking myself in the slightest, my self esteem has been shattered. I look in the mirror and see a middle aged failure, who has bored his wife and looks old and tired. I am trying to keep faith, faith that god has a plan for me and it will get better, sometimes I believe this…other times I don’t, these are the dangerous times when I consider ending my pain. At the moment I don’t live for anyone, I am not living at all, merely existing.

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    1. Please hang in there! You are not alone, in many sense of the word. I have been there — a place where I was so absolutely certain I’d reached a dead-end — until God opened doors I didn’t even know existed. You are also not alone in the sense that God is always right there. He’s so close to you that He’s closer to you than you yourself are. We don’t always recognize it, but trust the many saints who are wiser and holier than us who testify to this as an objective truth.

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  9. Thanks for a beautiful and thought-provoking post, Karen. I would build on what you’re saying this way: when we live for God, we live for others, as well as ourselves. God is love. When we live for God, we live for love. And what is love? Love is very much about giving of ourselves to others. You are in my prayers in your very exciting faith journey.

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    1. Dear Tom,

      I absolutely agree! I realized, though, that without God in the picture, living for myself/for others ended up being really hollow and meaningless. But the moment God becomes the source, His beauty and goodness animates everything else. It’s amazing. Thank you so much for your wisdom, encouragement, and prayers, Tom!

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  10. I’m an atheist and I don’t live for anyone or anything. Yet, even in the darkest of days and the most challenging of circumstances, I am excited and inspired to be part of something much greater than myself. We are all starstuff. We are a tiny part of the universe where matter and energy have come together briefly to become alive and aware, and I feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to learn, to experience joy, to overcome pain, to make a positive impact on the only world I know of.

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  11. I’ve been living for God since he stopped me from taking my life. I totally understand the feeling of trying to live for others or yourself but talking yourself out of it because they could live without us, and we obviously think we’d be better off dead. The only person I refuse to let down is God. Sometimes I even try to talk myself into believing He would forgive me, but I can’t do it. I promised God on that night that I would live my life for Him. I am so thankful I was born into Christianity because without God I would not have any hope. God bless you in your struggle with depression.

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  12. Thank you for your thought provoking piece . I just came across your page today and I can tell there is much truth and honesty in your writing. You have a wonderful talent. Continue to bleed beautifully through your words, it’s very inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

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