Disagreeing with Oprah

Thanks, Oprah, but my clothes are beginning to fit a bit too tightly as it is.
Thanks, Oprah, but my clothes are beginning to fit a bit too tightly as it is.

Some may believe the title is blasphemous, but, wow, I really do disagree with Oprah. She talks with me frequently, though briefly, every few days, and I generally just sit and shake my head in disagreement. Still, she prattles on, as if my opinion means nothing.

We meet at Starbucks.

OK, we don’t really meet at Starbucks, but I do hear from her there. Starbucks has been pushing the Teavana/Oprah effort to sell some sort of tea, and all of their “don’t burn your fingers” coffee cup sleeves have, for some time, featured little “inspirational” quotes from Ms. Winfrey.

For instance, my current cup (a saltless-salted caramel mocha, if you must know) sleeve tells me, “You are not hear to shrink down to less, but to blossom unto more of who you really are.”

Other nuggets from other cup sleeves:

  • “Know what sparks the light in you. Then use that light to illuminate the world.”
  • “Your life is big. Keep reaching.”
  • “Live from the heart of yourself. Seek to be whole, not perfect.”
  • “Be more splendid. Be more extraordinary. Use every moment to fill yourself up.”
  • “The only courage you ever need is the courage to live the life you want.”
  • “Follow your passion. It will lead you to your purpose.”
  • “No experience is ever wasted. Everything has meaning.”

Ugh. I have to be frank. I hate these things.

Allow me to rant just a bit…

It is fake spirituality. It sounds good, but it is vacuous and meaningless enough to be filled up with anything you want.

I imagine Hitler coming in for a latte, looking at his cup and seeing, “The only courage you ever need is the courage to live the life you want,” and feeling “inspired.” Or perhaps, “Know what sparks the light in you. Then use that light to illuminate the world.” Worse, yet — what if his cup said, “Follow your passion. It will lead you to your purpose”? Das ist eine gute Idee!

I know a lot of people who do not need to be encouraged to “live from the heart of yourself” — me included. “Use every moment to fill yourself up.” That just sounds weird. Families have been destroyed by some of the things that “spark the light” in some individuals.

Re: Ugh.

True spirituality is that which takes you closer to the true God. Period. Anything else is a substitute and a fake. Worse, it can be anti-spirituality: Carnality and mere human vanity in disguise. These quotes aim to have a spiritual feel, but they are generally hollow and empty, finding their only “substance” in their commitment to unapologetic narcissism. And the last thing our civilization seems to need is more encouragement to be a bunch of narcissists.

I’m thankful John the Baptist didn’t wash down one of his honey & locust sandwiches with a Teavana Peach Green Tea Lemonade while reading Ms. Winfrey’s advice, “You are not here to shrink down to less.”

Rather, he understood, “He [Jesus Christ] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Perhaps one day his wisdom will be recorded on a cup sleeve. Until then, I will just hold my nose a little while getting my mocha.

UPDATE: Apparently, I am not the only person to find this irritating. Just came across this at the Houston Chronicle and, from there, this British review of the tea (ouch) where the quotes are called “vacuous waffle” and the tea, itself, is called “this absurdly precious, unerringly pretentious, wholly underwhelming ambergris spewed from the belly of a corporate leviathan.” Ah, the British. 🙂

16 thoughts on “Disagreeing with Oprah

  1. Please allow me to point out what the statement in the photograph is really saying. It is not meant to be filled up with just anything one wants. It is meant to point out that we have a potential we can grow into and that we ought to grow into it. This is the main aim of Jungian psychology, the only branch of psychology which acknowledges “character is what you do about your personality” as the Bible does, and that is what Oprah paraphrases (whether she knows it or not). Put another way, it is – again unknowingly – the exercise of the last eight Beatitudes. Note that: the last eight Beatitudes.

    The problem is that the quotation, and the psychology behind it, is self-sufficient, working apart from God. It is missing the first Beatitude, which involves the surrender of the spirit of man to the Spirit of God and depending on God for everything – including why we exercise the last eight Beatitudes and the cognitive processes of the brain which stand behind those virtues.

    When John the Baptist said “He must increase, but I must decrease”, he was pointing toward the first Beatitude, or else all nine of them – not the last eight apart from the first. Any normal person can aim for the last eight. Jungians do it. Buddhists do it. Those in AA do it, even given their acknowledgement of a Higher Power. Communists did it, or tried – some of them at least. The Church of Oprah 😉 does it. But none of these approaches have what the first Beatitude demands of us as the starting place: humility in the fear of the Eternal.

    If that’s what you’re really saying, using other words, then we are on the same page (not that it’s you who has to agree with my book but I who should strive to agree with your Book). 😀

  2. Actually, Mr. Wheeler, we agree in our disagreement. 🙂 You illustrate the point by filling up the comment with the meaning your own thoughts. (Not invalidating the thoughts, necessarily, just pointing out what you have done.) I realized I could do the same with John the Baptist: Well, he “blossomed” into a greater child of God (who he “really is”) by humbling himself. But others could take a completely different tone and still not violate the words at hand (literally, in this case: “at hand” on the cup sleeve). Thus, in presenting your case about what “the statement…is really saying” you illustrate exactly the point I was making. It is, taken in isolation on its little cup sleeve, vacuous and able to be filled with anything one wants. Muchos gracias. 🙂

  3. obeirne

    Those who cannot see will not see, Mr. Smith! 😦 I thank God for calling me and opening my eyes. In terms of philosophy these are spiritual selfies. They focus on the self! Promote the self! Praise the self! Oprah is spiritually blind and is unable to recognize the reality of the self. ” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? ” The heart – in reality, the ” self ” is exactly that! But who can know it? It is those who seek God with all their heart, surrender to Him unconditionally and go to Him with broken hearts and contrite spirits. I thank God that He called Me to His Son, Jesus Christ. He opened up my mind to recognize the real me and not how I perceived my self to be – that selfish, self-centred, self-serving sinner. But, as with all sinners, I continue to struggle against myself! Thank you sharing this and sharing your thoughts on the matter.

  4. What about this then (and here I will stop): which is more important, the literal platitude, or the meaningful and helpful context from which it is taken? I do certainly agree that the literal platitude is easily misconstrued. But then, so are the words of the apostle Paul, often because his background context isn’t understood. How much more something taken so very, very out of its meaningful context?

    I’m not filling up the saying with my own meaning. I’m pointing out where I know it comes from and aims toward, because I’ve been taught, by those in the best possible position to know, where it comes from and how it is meant to be applied – and also, how it can be and is misapplied. And, what I know about what it leaves out even at its contextual source. That knowledge I owe to the Eternal and to God’s Church.

    Oprah does us all a great disservice, to be sure, by not understanding (in the classic words of Linus Van Pelt of PEANUTS) the difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker. We agree, the bumper sticker does no one any good. The context is missing and is incomplete besides – that is what I mean to “exegete”, not “eisegete”, here. 😀

  5. obeirne: “Spiritual selfie” — love it! Will try to remember that one.

    John Wheeler: Howdy, again, Mr. Wheeler. Here, IMO, it is the literal platitude that matters, because (1) there is no context given, and (2) the words, themselves, do not demand that the context you presume is the intended context. You certainly haven’t proven that this was Oprah’s source, and the words, by themselves, do not demand such an association. In fact, their more immediately imaginable context is the attachment (twice on the sleeve) of Oprah’s own name, which, in the closest thing pretending to be exegesis, would then demand that we look into Oprah’s other personal declarations to see what she means by this. Yes, the context is missing, but by presuming it amongst alternatives, unless it is the meaning Oprah (or her PR machine) intended, it is best described as eisegesis. Still believe you are filling the comment with your own meaning — meaning valid in its own context, perhaps, but meaning that cannot be claimed as intended by the author and, thus, laid upon it as an additional layer of information by the reader. The “meaning” will differ from person to person based on the layer they choose to add. This may read like Jung. But it is intended like Hallmark. And, staring at me contextless on my coffee up, it is vacuous.

  6. Robert Petry

    I neither agree with nor disagree with the person quoted. I just ignore her since watching her famous TV episode asking Mr. Purdue what it was like to look like a chicken. He responded, What’s it like to be told one looks like a monkey? She got up and walked off the set in the middle of her show and never returned. She next showed up in Chicago. It is denied that this episode ever happened, and the video of it has “never been found.” Funny, I watched that show and was negatively impressed by her from that moment in time. Besides, she picked on a man that may have been a relative of mine. My mother’s maiden name was Purdue.
    Anyway, her pseudo-spiritual postulations are quite popular in a worldly setting. On the other hand, Biblical postulations are not very popular in a worldly setting.
    Her postulations are a form of “positive thinking” or what is called “bootstrap pschology.” I.e. “you’re so good you can make yourself great, etc. etc.”
    On the other hand, the Bible standard, in a sense is a form of “negative thinking.” But, negative thinking that always gives a real positive result when applied. For instance, how are software programs always improved? By looking for the “bugs” or mistakes, or errors, etc. When found, change them. One can’t do that with “positive” thinking, because the tendancy is to ignore the bugs and tell one’s self he/she can and will be better because inside he/she deserves it.
    We are the “software program” and the Scriptures are the instructions on how to get rid of the “bugs.” The statements you quoted from Starbucks do not get rid of them. Just cover them over with whitewash.

  7. Norbert

    I could only guess that the ad men who convinced Starbucks to do this not only understood there would be some negative response but also the kind that generates some free publicity. The kind that generates a greater public awareness of the companies “brand” name and burns it into people’s minds.

    In my view those quotes aren’t solid enough to lead people to do something positive with their lives. The idea you mentioned, ‘what would Hitler think if he had read them’, should make some people think a little deeper about how meaningful these slogan’s really are.

    There is an incompleteness about those sayings, it would be comparable to using coffee cups with the scripture, “because you are not under law but under grace”. (Ro 6:14)

  8. Mr Smith wrote: “Some may believe the title is blasphemous…”

    Actually, I consider her blasphemous, and I’d be seriously worried about you if you did agree with her. She constantly spews out New Age poison and puts guests on like Deepok Chopra who espouse lunacy in place of spirituality.

    I never watch more than a couple of episodes of her show (if that much), but I think the most over the top was Mary whats-her-name who spewed out, literally, “My holiness is in the chair.” Now that is “vacuous and meaningless”!

  9. Agreed! I knew she was into all of that Course in Miracles and Eckhart Tolle garbage but didn’t open that can of worms for the sake of time (was trying to beat my Pomodoro timer!). You are right. My comment about the title was tongue-in-cheek, but her approach to “spirituality” is, indeed, blasphemous. Those little quotes are just hints of a deeper spiritual infection.

  10. Bryan

    Enjoyed reading this post and conversation. I think Oprah has promoted a mainstream “spirituality” that will be tapped by the end time religious “leaders.”

    There is a very notable difference between New Age concepts of human potential and our own concept of the incredible human potential.

    We teach we need God to reach our potential. We will become sons of God, but it is only through the gateway of Christ.

    New Age/New Thought people like Oprah and her Eckhart Tolle teach you are already divine apart from any purported God. They teach you are already immortal and you are already all-knowing. (Partly Catholic and Protestant dogma as well). Mankind is simply “awakening” to this higher being he is on the journey of becoming. As one New Thought teacher said “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Savvy deception.

    I agree with it falling in the category blasphemous.

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