“YOLO”: False Anxiety Relief or a Commitment to Courageous Leadership?

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“YOLO!” Tweens, teens and young adults across America have ecstatically uttered this word lately. The trendy acronyms stands for “You Only Live Once” and constitutes a suggestion to relinquish the cautious and careful approach to life in order to gain a perceived sense of unrestrained freedom. What do we make of this generational paradigm shift?

In her recent conversation with me, a young lady expressed her concern with the latest “advice” that she had received from her boss: “I regret not being able to have fun with any other guys but my husband. If I had known when I was your age that the first and only person I dated would be my husband, I would have experimented with other guys. You only live once, Sweetheart, so have fun!”

Why would a grown woman express this sort of regret to a teenage girl? Her YOLO statement implies an unspoken fear- a fear that grips the minds of all humanity: the fear of losing life without fulfilling one’s full potential. The awareness of the deficit that exists between one’s physical existence and one’s essence (what one could be in his or her complete, God-ordained state) causes an extreme sense of anxiety.

Each individual is subject to feelings of anxiety to some extent simply because he or she constantly experiences entropy (order to disorder) and is moving toward physical death. Man’s feeble attempt to remedy the order of entropy is abstractly displayed in desperate theories of evolution and reincarnation, and concretely displayed in humanity’s effort to make up its image and distort the visible. With all of these efforts, humanity seems to be concerned with the loss of physical life (separation of one’s spirit and soul from one’s body). “You Only Live Once!” This amusing expression suggests temporary pleasurable anxiety relief methods: mind-altering drugs and substances, impulsive sex, glamorous parties, impetuous shopping, splurging, among other “feel-good” therapies. While it is inevitable that we will all die, we must acknowledge the ultimate loss: separation of the human spirit from God’s Spirit. Those who are only concerned with the physical loss of life will never meet their potential and will thus be separated from God for eternity. With courage, however, it is possible to escape the second death and be made alive (I Corinthians 15:22).

But is it that easy? Once somebody is caught up in carnal and unhealthy anxiety-relief methods, what is the solution to aiding them out of this cycle and into the engagement of courage? I Peter 2:9 guides us on this journey of revelation: disclosing the invisible reality that brings glory to God (this is the purpose for the visible). Courage requires a high degree of integrity and recognizes its duty to act in the visible while disclosing the invisible through dependence on the Creator (Wilson, 2012). Man was originally intended to be the visible manifestation of the invisible God. Though Adam fell, Christ came to perfect the purpose of the visible. A minister’s job is to guide people to reconciliation with Christ through manifesting the invisible with courage and integrity. When one is able to discover this purpose and bring others to understand this purpose, the second death (separation of God’s Spirit from the human spirit) can be evaded. Though the first death is inevitable and some degree of anxiety is experienced in maintaining constant tension in life, one that is reconciled by grace and truth can obtain a great deal of anxiety relief. The purpose of the visible is captured so divinely in the salvation plan.

So, if anxiety relief is experienced upon following the plan of salvation, why are there still anxiety-ridden saints in the church? When one receives the Holy Ghost, the residual need for tending to mental illness should diminish, right? In an ideal world, yes! A fragmented society, however, breeds the need for individual remediation on a continuous basis. It can be difficult for a hurting person to be honest and truthful with their broken experience, as the gut reaction to pain is oftentimes to put on a mask of security in order to appear independent and invincible. Courage- that is, the dependence on God and His order- continues to be the key ingredient to healing- even after receiving the Holy Ghost. Once one embraces courage and understands order from a godly perspective, he or she might be ready to embrace a spiritual “YOLO” philosophy as a route to further reducing anxiety.  By this, I mean, encourage that person to take risks and determine a specific purpose for his or her visible self while developing a support system of other courageous believers. This requires a relentless leap into a cavernous realm of possibilities. If one can face the initial anxiety of taking this leap, long-term anxiety will unquestionably be evaded. The following list of both practically and spiritually beneficial resources can assist pastors, youth workers and parents in addressing anxiety and fear through risk and courageous leadership:

  • Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life, Cashman, K.
  • Facing Your Giants: A David and Goliath Story for Everyday People, Lucado, M.
  • Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear, Lucado, M.
  • The Defining Moment (Ultimate Leadership, Volume 1), Wilson, N.J.

Therapy that favors a false liberty to express oneself freely in the visible without regard to divine order (“wear what I want, do what I want, go where I want”) surely causes an increased amount of anxiety. If one can grasp and embrace the purpose of the visible and take action toward fulfilling that purpose, one’s spirit can be released with genuine freedom to actualize the reality of the invisible. So go ahead; make a courageous splash into the deep waters. After all, “You Only Live Once…”

By Karissa J. King

King James Version of the Bible (2011). Colorado Springs: Biblica. Retrieved from
Wilson, N.J. (2012). The Framework of Being, Unpublished, 1-24.

Author: IASC