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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Thank you for this article! It was very eye opening.
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!
This was great and the YOLTATSTIF made me laugh 😁😁
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 😀
Great article, Sean!
YOLTATSTIF might be too long for a bracelet anyway…
shoot! there goes my retirement plan…
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.
Good ideas! 🙂
Nice ideas. They might actually work :). I’m being odd today sorry. I just got back from school.
It’s all good. We all have our odd days! 🙂
Probably bumper stickers will be a thing.
Or you could just do YODO
But people might think it was a typo of Yoda…
Or Yoda’s secret son…. BWAHAHA, whom am I kidding!?
Don’t you mean: “Kidding, whom I am?”
Of course, you never know with people on theReb. It could be either one.
Excellent post! –
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! 🙂
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.
For believers, you only die once, and you live twice. Non-believers only live once, and they die twice. Interesting to think about…
Another question: Do nonbelievers really die twice or do they just keep on dying?
Wow…. That’s something to chew on.
What do you mean by just keep on dying? I get how they die twice, but how do they keep on dying?
Well, I guess what I meant is go straight from one death to the other.
Ahh…okay, that makes sense! 🙂
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
I think it’s so important to share the love of Christ with non-Christians. Thank you for bringing attention to this:)
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 ;).
Some of the weirdest things I’ve ever said started with, “When I was younger.”
I think that is true for all of us 🙂
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.
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.
I would as well. I think it would be a great conversation starter because people would want to know what it means.
Lol. Maybe they’ll have to make a necklace to fit it on.
Yes, that would be wonderful! Haha, I would definitely wear that!
This is good stuff Sean Nolan. Thank you for this article 🙂
thanks for reading and the compliments!
thanks! I enjoy your enthusiasm!
You only die once, but where will you live for eternalty?
This will make people think about the Lord and savior Jesus Christ.