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Published on April 25th, 2016 | by Sean Nolan

You Only Die Once

We’ve all heard it; we’ve all cringed. “You only live once.”

In addition to being unoriginal, overused, and ambiguous in intent, it’s an insulting reminder of a self-evident truth. Yes, time and time again it has been proven that our birth is a surefire ticket to death, but do we really need to be reminded of it all the time?

Jack Black has notoriously pointed out that YOLO is just “carpe diem for stupid people.” He’s right. It’s not a new sentiment. It’s not even a clever observation; anyone with half a brain knows life’s only guarantee is death.

However, the ambiguity of the statement is problematic.

Does YOLO mean we should think through our decisions carefully, choosing only the best and most well thought out options? After all, if I only live once, what is worse than living a life filled with regret? Or does it mean we should live spontaneously, maybe even recklessly, because we might not get another chance?

It would seem the echoes of those living out the motto would favor the latter option.

The Glamorization of Regret

The Red Hot Chili Peppers had a line in their 1995 song, “Deep Kick,” that cried, “it’s better to regret something you did, than something you didn’t do.” The lyrics leading up to the line depict a bunch of mischievous and even criminal acts committed by a couple of teenagers. The theme isn’t much different from Drake’s 2011 hit “The Motto” which popularized the YOLO slogan.

One can admire the philosophy that we should live life to the fullest as we only get one shot at it, but are we really to buy into the idea that reckless living should be celebrated because we only live once?

It would appear that many popular musicians would want us to believe that.

They glamorize a life in which one takes advantage of all of life’s “opportunities” regardless of who will pick up the tab or who will suffer the consequences.

On the one hand, there is truth to the thought that regretting an action is better than regretting a lack of action. To use an example that almost everyone can relate to, the teenager who asks a girl to a dance only to be rejected may have his share of humiliation and looking back upon the event may regret “putting himself out there.”

Nonetheless, in hindsight he may have great peace about the event rather than being a single thirty year old who always wonders, “What if she said yes? I could be married to her now…”

However, the other hand inflates this truth to a non-negotiable way of life.

One can imagine a day in the life of a teenager who wakes up and says “yes” to every opportunity that comes his way only to end up overdosing, flunking out of school, getting venereal disease or driving his car into a telephone pole.

Exaggerated? Probably, but these are the logical consequences of the YOLO philosophy if we indulge ourselves at every opportunity.

There’s a better alternative.

You Only Live Twice and the Second Time It’s Forever

At the heart of the gospel message is the death and resurrection of Jesus.

He promises eternal life to those who trust in Him. If you’re a Christian, in the most simple of terms, you don’t live once: you live twice and the second time, it’s forever.

To quote the 1831 hymn by Thomas Hastings, “you die in Christ to live again.” Unfortunately (fortunately?), YOLTATSTIF is a mouthful and the last thing Christendom needs is another WWJD fad bracelet with the YOLTATSTIF slogan on it.

However, the truth remains.

We are not doomed to a fate of eighty years of regrettable decisions that we can look back and laugh at and scream, “YOLO!” Instead we have a future hope for an eternal legacy.

The alternative that God offers us in Jesus is one in which we are made strong through our weakness. Will we have regrets? Most certainly. Should we live boldly? Absolutely.

Both of these things are evidenced in the life of the apostle Paul.

Surely he had great regret about the time he spent violently persecuting the church before his conversion. He didn’t look back at it and say, “YOLO” and sweep it under the rug. He evidenced regret about those actions. He lived in repentance for them.

But he also lived boldly, “making the best use of the time because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16). He “seized the day,” not for himself but for the gospel, for Jesus’ sake and the sake of others.

The Guarantee of Regret

Given that sin is the universal calamity of humanity, you are going to have regrets in this life. The culture screams for you to laugh at them. It says, “bad decisions make good stories, so you might as well indulge and the consequences will be either pleasure or hilarity.”

But Jesus offers us an alternative.

You want to embrace the truth that life is short? Live selflessly, sacrificially, and intentionally; that’s the redeemed version of YOLO.

If you believe Jesus has purchased heaven for you, do everything you can to live that reality out on earth. Fight the gates of hell that you see closing in on those around you. Pour yourself out in love for your friends and neighbors. They might reject you, you might regret it, but at the end of the day you’ve made the best use of the time and invested in eternity.

You never know when those that you love will be taken from you, so what will you do to make the best of those relationships God has given you?

After all, you only die once.

Share Your Thoughts in the Comment Section!

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Photo courtesy of Tyrone Daryl and Flickr Creative Commons.


About the Author

is a pastor to families and youth in the Baltimore area. He is a staff writer for Gospel-Centered Discipleship and has contributed to a number of publications in both print and web form. He is the author of the upcoming children's picture book "Farewell Planet Earth" (2017). He is retired from playing in punk bands and has since made it a life goal to expose everyone he knows to Humble Beast rappers. He's married with two kids and loves burritos.

  • Olivia R.

    Thank you for this article! It was very eye opening.

  • ZeePt3

    This was a great inspirational article that revealed some really interesting things! Thanks for writing Sean! I just watched one of my favorite movies with Jack Black, so perfect timing!

    • thanks for the feedback, love Jack Black!

  • Celestria

    This was great and the YOLTATSTIF made me laugh 😁😁

  • Fighting_Falcon

    You’ve got something I neeeedd
    And in this world full of people, there’s one killing me

    And if you only die once
    I wanna die with youuuu

  • “You Only Live Twice and the Second Time It’s Forever”

    I love this heading! I might use this in jest the next time someone pulls out YOLO, haha 😀

  • Sarah A.

    Great article, Sean!
    YOLTATSTIF might be too long for a bracelet anyway…

    • shoot! there goes my retirement plan…

      • Sarah A.

        You could always make posters. Or it could work for bracelets, if you use small enough letters. But it is too big for certain other spin-off products. I don’t think it’d fit on a guitar pic. Oh, you could print it on pencils, those are long enough! Or bookmarks.

        • Anne

          Good ideas! :)

          • Feeling Bookish

            Nice ideas. They might actually work :). I’m being odd today sorry. I just got back from school.

          • Anne

            It’s all good. We all have our odd days! :)

        • John Oxide

          Probably bumper stickers will be a thing.

      • John Oxide

        Or you could just do YODO

        • Sarah A.

          But people might think it was a typo of Yoda…

          • ZeePt3

            Or Yoda’s secret son…. BWAHAHA, whom am I kidding!?

          • Sarah A.

            Don’t you mean: “Kidding, whom I am?”

          • John Oxide

            Of course, you never know with people on theReb. It could be either one.

  • Joel Orr

    Excellent post! –

  • Anne

    Thank you so much for writing this! This really reminded me to live my life to the fullest, because I might not be here tomorrow. By the way, I liked the YOLTATSTIF thing! :) But, I do agree with @Sarah A. Too long for a bracelet, but I liked her ideas after that! :)

  • John Oxide

    YODO “You only die once” makes sense from a Christian worldview, but your article brought to my attention that for non-believers YOLO is actually true, so it makes sense that secular songwriters would feel like this. Without the hope of the gospel, we do only live once. . .And we actually die twice, once eternally.

    • Aaron C.

      For believers, you only die once, and you live twice. Non-believers only live once, and they die twice. Interesting to think about…

      • John Oxide

        Another question: Do nonbelievers really die twice or do they just keep on dying?

        • ZeePt3

          Wow…. That’s something to chew on.

        • Anne

          What do you mean by just keep on dying? I get how they die twice, but how do they keep on dying?

          • John Oxide

            Well, I guess what I meant is go straight from one death to the other.

          • Anne

            Ahh…okay, that makes sense! :)

        • Aaron C.

          The Bible says that the nonbelievers will suffer in the lake of fire forever, after judgement day, and that this will be the second death. So they do die twice. (Revelation 21:8, Revelation 20:14, Matthew 25:41-46, 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10)
          They die and pass away from this earth, and then they are judged and punished forever in the lake of fire, which is the second death.
          But, if they are able to suffer in the lake of fire, I guess they are still in a state of “survival”, so they do (in a sense) keep on dying (suffering, really). I’m pretty sure that these people will be suffering so much that they will wish they were dead.

    • good point, for those without the Gospel

    • Violin with Feet

      I think it’s so important to share the love of Christ with non-Christians. Thank you for bringing attention to this:)

  • Feeling Bookish

    I really like what you wrote. It’s completely true. When I was younger I used to think that when it said “You only live once,” it meant that you should do stuff that is stupid and might kill you just because you only live once. I don’t believe that any more in case anyone thought I was going crazy ;).

    • Sarah A.

      Some of the weirdest things I’ve ever said started with, “When I was younger.”

      • I think that is true for all of us :)

      • Feeling Bookish

        It’s true. One of the sixth graders at my school asked what I was like when I was younger and that started the longest and weirdest conversation/story I have ever told. Because I was telling the truth.

  • Alathia Grace

    My slogan used to be, “You only live once, so don’t mess it up!” Anyway, this was a great post! I would probably wear YOLTATSTIF on a bracelet, though.

    • Olivia R.

      I would as well. I think it would be a great conversation starter because people would want to know what it means.

    • John Oxide

      Lol. Maybe they’ll have to make a necklace to fit it on.

      • Olivia R.

        Yes, that would be wonderful! Haha, I would definitely wear that!

  • @SeanANolan:disqus yayyy!!!! It’s Summit University!!!! *throws huge party* Please escuse my enthusiasm for my favorite college. (Or don’t– that’s cool too.)

    Anyway…this is a great article! I haven’t personally been under the influence of YOLO very much, but I think that we should make the best use of the time because we only live once. This was thought-provoking for me. Thanks man!

  • Haylie

    This is good stuff Sean Nolan. Thank you for this article :)

    • thanks for reading and the compliments!

  • thanks!

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