Over the course of Oprah’s TV career, I’ve watched her show only a handful of times, and I didn’t see her final episode. But according to Dr. Rackner and reports I’ve heard from others, Oprah offered spiritual inspiration to her viewers, ending the program with a choir singing “To God be the Glory.”
But a distinction exists between sharing “inspiration” and embracing unchanging truth — the belief that God revealed Himself to mankind through the Bible. While much of Oprah says is often true (and inspirational), what she fails to say is often the most troubling.
According to Dr. Rackner, Oprah offered three lessons that can be applied to family caregivers:
“You are worthy because you were born. It’s your birthright.”
I’m forced to differ with Oprah and Dr. Rackner because the Bible presents a radically different message. Although we’re created in the image of God Himself, we’re unworthy because we were born sinners, and this is the birthright we share with everyone ever born into the world. Romans 3:23 tells us “…all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” In one sense, Oprah is right. As humans we are worthy because we’re created in the image of God and endowed with dignity and purpose, but we’re also flawed and sinful. All of us. We’re sinners not simply because of what we do but because of who we are by birthright. But the good news is that God loved us so much, He provided a solution for humanity’s sin problem through the sacrifice of His own Son Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” The simple truth of the Bible is that apart from Jesus, we have no hope for reconciliation with God or one another. And we see that reality played out in a world torn by conflict driven by our hearts’ innate selfishness.
In her blog, Dr. Rackner defines shame as “the condition of feeling unworthy” and explains that shame-free people believe they are worthy of love. She states that guilt is healthy pain that announces our bad choices but that shame tells us we are “bad people.” Her implication is that shame is negative. However, shame often plays a healthy role in society. Webster’s Dictionary defines shame as “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.” Guilt is a predecessor to shame, and shame should be a natural response to our God-created consciousness of good and bad. I hope that the serial rapist who attacked me and more than forty other women and children felt shame for his actions. I pray that his sense of guilt produced an emotional response that lowered a hammer of integrity on his conscience and his character and — hopefully — helped reshape his life. Shame can be a compelling and positive force.
“Everyone wants the same thing.”
All 30,000 people Oprah interviewed want to know, “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say matter to you? It’s what everyone wants.” We all long to be seen and heard — to know we matter. Cultures and societies throughout history have been structured around the need for community and relationships because of an innate human characteristic. We were created in the image of a loving God who shares an intimate relationship with His Son, Jesus. John 5:17-21 talks about Jesus’ intimate relationship with a loving Father who knows Him. “…whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all He does.” We all long to be seen, heard, and unconditionally accepted and loved because — as God’s children and image-bearers — we were created for relationships. God provided the solution for our heart need to be known and loved. Zephaniah 3:17 states, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Dr. Rackner recognizes the critical role of relationships. “Your ability to see and hear and validate your aging parents or sick friend may be the biggest gift you offer them. You may not be able to fix their problem, take away the source of pain or reverse aging; still you can make a difference by saying with your words and actions, ‘I see you. I hear you. I value you.'” And while approval and validation from others will always fall short of fulfilling our true spiritual need, listening, respect, and affirmation do bring healing, hope, and comfort — gifts caregivers should generously seek to give in all they do.
“Use your light in the service of others.”
Matthew 5:16 states that we’re to let our light shine in the world. But why? So God will be glorified. It’s not about us. Our service for others is always about bringing glory to God, who’s deserving of our gratitude. He poured out Himself sacrificially on our behalf, and we’re to do the same as we live lives of service to Him. As we do, we reflect the goodness of the loving Father who created us. And we’re never more like Jesus Christ than when we’re pouring ourselves out for the hopeless, the helpless, or those in pain.
Dr. Rackner concludes her blog by encouraging her readers to honor Oprah. I would encourage you, instead, to honor the God who created and gifted Oprah and to say as she did, “to God be the glory.”