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Searching for Self Fulfillment

New Rules created quite a stir in the early ‘80s. In the book, professor Daniel Yankelovich of New York University documented a shift in social values in the ‘70s, a shift more massive and more rapid than any of the recent past.

The book was subtitled, “Searching for Self-Fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down.” The old rules, Yankelovich said, stressed duty to others, particularly to one’s family. If someone were selfish and got caught, it was embarrassing and looked ugly. But no longer. In what Yankelovich calls “the duty to self ethic,” our primary responsibility is for our own needs and interests. All other relationships and values must fit into that order of priority.

Yankelovich feels that the movement may be liberating, but he is an honest scientist. After tracking 3,000 people in personal, in-depth interviews, and analyzing hundreds of thousands of questionnaires, he admits that so far the search for self-fulfillment has been futile. It has resulted in insecurity and confusion. “What is self-fulfillment?” he asks. And “When you find yourself, what will you do with yourself.?”

The frightening thing is that 83 percent of Americans buy into the “new rules,” either in whole or in part. But those foolish people are not evangelical Christians, right? Wrong! James Davison Hunter, in his examination of students and faculty in 16 leading evangelical colleges and seminaries, used Yankelovich’s earlier questionnaire and concluded that evangelicals are more committed to self-fulfillment than their secular counterparts.

“The percentage of evangelical students agreeing with these statements far exceeded the corresponding percentage of the general population,” Hunter wrote. “Self-fulfillment is no longer a natural by-product of a life committed to higher ideals, but rather is a goal, pursued rationally and with calculation as an end in itself. The quest for emotional psychological and social maturity, therefore, becomes normative. Self-expression and self-realization compete for self-sacrifice as a guiding life ethic.”

Moody, May, 1993, p. 34