It’s Not Authority’s Fault: We’ve Lost Trust In Ourselves

“You don’t know anything!  Listen to me, I’m the authority, or listen to them, they’re also authorities. Just don’t listen to yourself.”

For all the consternation about these silly millennial liberals that only care about themselves and don’t listen to anyone but themselves, there seems to be that voice yelling loudly within almost every millennial, almost every younger-generation American that I’ve ever met.

Our generation has, in fact, been infused with less trust in ourselves than any past generation.  It doesn’t seem like it, but it is.  For those of us who grew up secular, there were the teachers, parents, and authority figures that claimed that this was the right thing to do.  By this I mean the usual tropes of success: good grades, college, a stable work situation.

Then, they were all proven wrong in 2008 when the economy collapsed (caused by the very people we were meant to become), full time jobs became less prevalent and the part-time, remote, freelance, and/or sharing employment models became the norm due to the economic collapse and the rise of tech.

And for those who grew up religious, I can’t speak for them, but I can feel it in their bones: the same voices spoken differently.

“Who are you to question?  Learn every single thing in our religion and then maybe you can speak up.  Until then, hush.”

Meanwhile, their religious communities fall around them.  Scandals, of the economic and sexual variety.  Coverups by the people they trusted.

It’s no wonder then why we often see what is often labeled as the “silly liberal millennial”.  The person who supposedly thinks that all that matters is their own view of the world,.  People, for example, who have decided they don’t trust science anymore, but have simply trusted other authorities like “alternative” medical websites that espouse anti-GMO, anti-vaccine, anti-everything approaches.

Then there are the reactionary religious movements, ones that fight what exists by simply offering the opposite, whether it’s ultra (and I mean ultra here, not hyperbolically, but literally) orthodoxy in place of secularity or new (aka ultra) atheism in place of religiosity.

Reactionary movements, ones that are meant to increase the power of the individual but that are really just examples of more people slipping into new authority structures.

And so they seem like they’re rebelling, and I suppose in a way they are.  But in reality they’re not.  They’re just giving into new authority figures.

“You fool!  Don’t you know that you’re being manipulated by them?!  Listen to me!”

The voices are flowing through air, even if we can’t outright hear them, even if they don’t outright say what they mean to say.

But then there are the others.  The people in the middle, the silent majority.

They stayed where they were, or they left.  They try desperately either to continue trusting their authorities or to find their individuality within a world that wants to swallow it up.

But they try to find that middle path.  They say things like, “I believe in the ideals I come from/adopted, but not the people.  Or the authorities.  Or insert troubling phenomenon here.”

In truth, of course, those people are also simply replacing their old authorities with new ones.  Whether they’re “originalists” in the sense that they prefer to look back at older authorities who, in theory, have more authority than the present ones.  Or whether they follow another authority figure who preaches “progressivism”, which essentially means what he believes infused onto others.

Where our emptiness comes from

Depression, mental illness, and general spiritual emptiness seem to be more prevalent in our country than others.  And even the World Health Organization would agree.

We’re unhappy, unsatisfied, and, increasingly, feeling quite alone.

I suppose it’s the easy thing to blame authority.  Because authority is constantly failing us.  Our parents, our teachers, our religious leaders, our political leaders.  Who’s left to truly trust?

In truth, I would argue that it is our feeling of loss and emptiness that is truly telling.  It is in there that we’ll find the truth, not the blaming of authority figures.

We all experience truth through others.  Whether we like it or not, other people are the filter through which we experience our definitions of reality, of right and wrong, of what matters.  We depend on others no matter what.  Even if we’re originalists, we’re simply putting our trust in older figures instead of new ones.

In other words, at the end of the day, we have no choice but to trust others, and it would seem that we, if anything, have a problem choosing the right people and communities to trust.  Or we live in denial, falsely believing we don’t follow any authority.

So why do we feel this way?  What’s the source?

The source is in the anxiety itself.  The anxiety over our leaders and authority figures.  The anxiety that leads us to jump from one truth to another.  Or to stubbornly stay with our own, no matter how much it hurts.

It’s a lack of confidence in ourselves.  It’s a fear of our own inner truth.

We’ve stopped listening to God

Each of us has God’s voice whispering into our heart and our mind and our gut.

This voice is strong, but soft.  Patient, but insistent.

It’s a voice that we’ve been taught not to listen to anymore.

Remember those voices above?

“You don’t know anything!  Listen to me, I’m the authority, or listen to them, they’re also authorities. Just don’t listen to yourself.”

What do people mean when they say not to trust yourself?  Whether they realize it or not, they’re saying, “Don’t trust God’s voice.  Don’t trust the truth you know deeper than anyone in the world.”

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Each of us has that voice, quietly guiding us.  Us Jews even have a name for it, the yetzer tov, the good voice.  If you want to get mystical, you can also talk about the nefesh elokis, the Godly soul.

Either way, it’s a voice that speaks to us, constantly, always.

William Blake and many other Romantics believed that we often confuse the God with Satan.  I think I finally understand what he meant.

When someone tells you, and you accept, that your inner voice is untrustworthy, you are turning God into Satan.  You are turning the truest truth, the one only you know, and know deeper than anyone around you, into your enemy.

“But how do you know the difference?!” scream the reactionaries, or the scared authorities, or the scared-you-may-force-them-to-challenge-their-beliefs-by-living-differently-people.

You’ll know the difference if you care enough to look for it.  If you challenge yourself to face it.  If you embrace that it exists.  And that it doesn’t come in the voices of your authorities or the holiest person you know or the most ardent follower of whatever group you’re in.

It’s God’s voice, filtered to sound like your voice.  Pure, holy.  Quiet.  Whispering, always whispering.

“Truth.  Truth.  Truth truth truth truth,” it says.

But can you imagine?  An individual truth, coming out as a color never before seen through the prism of your body?

To some people, that voice is dangerous.  They think it means the destruction of (their) authority.  It means a “slippery slope”, the favorite phrase of those living lives of fear.  It means that things have to change, have to evolve, that the world in some way needs to accommodate your existence.

But you know who’s most scared of it?


Not the good you: the Satan you.  Satan dressed as God, a true idol.  He may take on the voice of our authorities or the holy people we know, which is perhaps we’re so quick to blame them for our troubles.  Unlike God, he doesn’t whisper.  He screams.  He wags his finger.  He jumps up and down.  He demands obedience.  To others, but really to him.

“You don’t know anything!  Listen to them (me), they’re (I’m) the authority, or listen to them (me), they’re also authorities. Just don’t listen to yourself (God).”

We’ve been fighting the wrong battles

And so why are we all depressed?  Why do we feel so alone and misunderstood?  Why do we insist on finding new authorities or throwing aside authorities altogether (but actually finding new ones)?  Why does that still make us feel empty?

Because we keep trying to fight a fight that exists outside ourselves when in truth it exists within.  Yes, there are many “out there” who reinforce this voice.  But they’re also caught up in their own internal trap, their own Satan prison.  Yes, even the authorities.  Yes, even some of the older ones.

But they don’t matter.  You do.  The voices at battle within your heart, mind, and gut are what matter.

We, the millennials, and those surrounding our generation as well, of course, are fighting a battle our ancestors never had to fight: a battle for ownership over our very minds, our very hearts.  A battle of trust.  A battle that is raging within.

It doesn’t matter whether we are religious, whether we are secular.  Each one is trying to knock out their internal voices, to give into any authority that will give them momentary reprieve.

And unfortunately, that often means going for the authorities that our inner Satan wants us to follow.  And his work is even easier when we believe we don’t have any authorities.

Is it any wonder that we grow old and cynical, that we hate the people who rule us, that all we want to do is rebel?

But, of course, then we’re just giving the inner Satan what he wants: more external focus, less on him, and ultimately, less on God within.

The truth is that authority itself is not bad.  That perhaps even your authority isn’t bad either.  Or evil.  Or the source of all your problems.

After all, it’s ultimately up to you to decide on what authority you follow.  Even if you grew up with one, and you think by default that puts you at a disadvantage to the rest of the world.

It doesn’t.  Not if you’ve learned to listen to the inner, quiet, whispering voice of God.  The one that will give you confidence to do things you never imagined were possible.  The one that may tell you to do things that seem crazy, or that are openly rebellious against your current authority figures, whether they be your parents, religious leaders, even scientific researchers.

The difference being that this isn’t rebellion for the sake of rebellion.  It’s your inner truth coming out, and it simply has no choice but to guide you in the way of life you’re meant to live.

Ironically, this will often allow you to become more trusting of authority.  But an authority you’ve chosen.  One who your inner Good Voice knows values it, and thus values you as you truly are.

The essence of our problems in this generation is thus this: we don’t trust ourselves.  We keep looking outside for answers.  And the more we look outside for answers, and the less we trust what is going on within, the stronger the voice of Satan becomes.  And the more it starts to sound like the voice of God.

When we have that trust in ourselves, it gives us a core of inner strength.  A beautiful glow of power, a light that allows us to see beyond the farces and the fake voices of the world.  A zen reality in which corrupt authority does not bring us to our knees as much as it used to, where rebellion is suddenly less attractive unless it’s necessary in order to allow the truth of God’s voice within us to live happily, merrily, fulfilling its mission.

We’ll fight when we have to, and otherwise spend our time just doing what we’re meant to do.  We’ll trust the authorities that aid our development, and we’ll brush aside the ones that chatter about our foolishness or weakness or arrogance.

Because when God is speaking through you, suddenly we are simply ourselves.  And that confidence will allow us to overcome any obstacle, whether it be the inner voice of Satan or the outer chatter of the inconsequential masses.