In his book Kingdom Triangle, Dr. J.P. Moreland warns that our culture continues to slide towards immaturity through an increasingly "thin" view of the world and the aggrandizement of pleasure over other pursuits. While we have more free time and more entertainment choices than ever before, happiness seems to be more elusive than in previous generations. J.P. blames part of this on the empty self. He writes:
My observations about happiness are not ivory-tower ruminations. I speak here with real gravity. For the first time in history a culture-ours-is filled with what psychologists refer to as the "empty self". The empty self (also called "the false self") is so widespread in Western culture that it is sometimes referred to as a cultural plague. According to psychologist Phillip Cushman:J.P.'s seven characteristics of the empty self are outlined in this brief article. Even though one who desires to be a disciple of Jesus should strive to avoid all of these traits, they are far too prevalent in the church today, let alone the larger world.
the empty self is filled up with consumer goods, calories, experiences, 'politicians, romantic partners, and empathetic therapists .... [The empty self] experiences a significant absence of community, tradition, and shared meaning ... a lack of personal conviction and worth, and it embodies the absences as a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger.Most of us would recognize characteristics of the empty self among adolescents, and it would be wonderful if the problem left when teenagers became old enough to vote. Unfortunately, that is not the case. People continue to manifest features of the empty self well into middle age. It does not take a rocket scientist to observe that the features of the empty self simply make spiritual growth impossible. The path of discipleship and the life of an empty self mix like oil and water.1