Most actors would kill for an Oscar. That’s not hyperbole. My bet is that if they wouldn’t get caught, many people would be willing to do some very bad things in order to win the most coveted award in Hollywood. There is no telling the stories which could be told of what has happened behind the scenes regarding the Academy of Motion Pictures and their award show.
Few things are as American as Oscar night in Los Angeles. In our fame-saturated culture, the actors and actresses shown on screen possess everything the average American desires:
- Riches (or at least the appearance thereof)
This is Hollywood’s greatest night. In Los Angeles the top celebrities of our day will gather to honor their own. A few will walk away with the most coveted award in the entertainment industry–the Oscar–while others will pretend that it’s an honor just to be nominated. (See: Why Jagger Can’t Find Sexual Satisfaction)
While I’ve never met an Oscar winner, there is something I know about them which might surprise you. The award will change their obituary, but it will not change their happiness. It won’t influence their sense of meaning or value. It won’t change their life.
We don’t believe this…and neither do they.
We cognitively understand that an award, wealth, or fame won’t satisfy, but our hearts believe they will. Most stars sitting in the Dolby Theater on Oscar night believe the top award will finally give them what they desire. There’s a void within us all which we long to fill. Depending on our upbringing, personality, and belief, we create false stories of what can fill that void. As 21st-century Americans, nearly all of us have believed the false narrative that money, materialism, fame, and acclamation will give us a true sense of meaning, value, and purpose.
In this area, Hollywood could teach us a lesson. Having experienced some wealth and fame, they can testify that their sense of purpose or meaning has not increased. Jim Carrey has said he wished we could all experience wealth and fame so we could understand it’s not the answer. However, most Hollywood elites still fall for the great human deception. Having experienced some wealth and fame without it changing their sense of purpose, they still believe that they need more money or power or acclamation and then they will be complete. Some believe the Oscar will be the ultimate sign they are somebody.
A win will bring euphoria. There will be a great sense of accomplishment. However, with just a little time (sometimes the very next day), whatever sense of meaning, purpose, and value the actor had before winning the Oscar, they will return to after taking the trophy home.
It’s true for all of us regarding whatever we believe will give us happiness.
Marriage. Some believe what’s holding them back is the absence of a spouse or child. But within six months of a wedding or a birth, their happiness is no different than before.
Job. Some believe a promotion will lead to greater career satisfaction, yet moving up the corporate ladder doesn’t change our sense of self. It can create more opportunities or challenges which are enjoyable, but nearly every promotion also ensures added stress and pressure.
Money. Some believe money is the ultimate answer to life’s problems. While a little more money can make life easier, it only does so for the poorest among us. Most of us make enough money so that a raise or sudden lottery win will in no way improve our lives. (See: Money Can Make You Happy)
Acclaim. Some are searching for their identity in the approval of others. Whether it be a boss, friend, spouse, parent, or group of peers, recognition is nice but it’s not life-changing.
Fame. Some believe fame is the ultimate source of joy. If millions of people love us, surely we would love ourselves. Of course, there are plenty of celebrities who cannot look in the mirror. Fame would be fun for a moment, but it wouldn’t positively impact who we were in private.
Most Americans have identified the right problems, but we have assumed the wrong solutions. What our society values are not the answers to our deepest needs.
What Oscar Can’t Do
What society offers as the answers to our most common problems fail. But answers do exist. Oscar can’t provide true meaning, value, or satisfaction, but these things can:
Understanding Ourselves. Knowing our place within creation is a prerequisite for lasting meaning and value. We can’t know ourselves without knowing God. Once we recognize his presence, we are then able to understand where we stand. Knowing God will prevent us from overvaluing ourselves (leading to selfishness) or underestimating our worth (leading to self-pity).
Meaningful Relationships. It’s a subtle difference. While marriage or parenting will not change our lives, meaningful relationships can positively influence who we are. The difference–some expect another person to make them happy, others expect to bring their happiness into a relationship. The former is a recipe for failure; the latter is the key to success. When we are loved, secure, and content, a relationship can multiply those experiences.
Valuable Contributions. Finding a way to make a difference in the lives of others will impact our feeling of worth and meaning. We were not created to only serve ourselves. The task of humanity, in part, is to make the world a better place. Whether we are fighting global issues or trying to make a small difference in the life of our neighbor, making a contribution to others will increase our self-worth. (See: Disability Isn’t About Supply and Demand)
An Oscar is a tremendous honor. Tonight’s winners should be grateful for the recognition and satisfied with their career-changing achievement. But they should not expect Oscar to give them something which riches, fame, and power have failed to provide. Even as they are holding the trophy and giving their acceptance speeches, consider what is your Oscar. What do you think is preventing you from experiencing true meaning and value? Now tell yourself the truth. It might be fun, but it won’t be life-changing. If you want to change your life, focus on those things that can truly produce that transformation.