T-Shirt Theology

Lennon Wall, Prague, Czech Republic

Lennon Wall, Prague, Czech Republic

I'm 22 years old and have social media accounts. 

Which means I have a higher chance of seeing "Tweet and Tee Theologies" than I have of being hit with lightning standing in a storm while wearing a Lady GaGa (circa 2010) fully metal outfit.

“Tweet and Tee Theologies” (as I like to call them) are the short pithy phrases massively retweeted and printed in bold typeface on t-shirts.

You know 'em.

Phrases like “Do What You Love,” “Love is Love," “You Do You,” and “Love Yourself” are preached in Instagram captions, tweets, magazine headlines and t-shirts.

In the secular world they seem to be held like a religious belief.

The simple language suggests a simple truth; basically, since it's straightforward and easy to grasp it must be right.

But honestly, the substance of these feel-good phrases are generally as flimsy as the material of the shirts they’re printed on.

One problem with these buzz phrases is that they don't go deep. The phrases are just met with reaffirming responses in the comment section about how inspiring the whole philosophy is. #PreachGurl! #YAS


They sound good—and the people who are using them genuinely mean well, so what’s the harm in circulating them around social media? Essentially, the harm is that they are being bought into without being thought through. Without taking time to think about what they really mean, when they fittingly apply, and the effects of using them as broad mentalities.

Some of these ideas may apply well in certain situations, but when they aren't contextually confined they begin to be taken universally, and that's a bit of a problem.

For example a “love yourself” quote may fit well in a discussion on overcoming a negative body image or building low self-esteem, but to adopt that mentality across the board means minimizing the importance of humility, ignoring the depth and destructiveness of certain flaws or downplaying the need to self-reflect and critically examine yourself.


“Do What You Love” may work when thinking about areas you want to pursue professionally in life, but if I swallow that mentality broadly it's the perfect defense to start excusing myself from the things that don't sound appealing. There are a lot of things that I don't love doing, but the act of doing them helps me develop, learn and grow. Like waking up early, working an unpaid internship that I don't love, giving up my seat on a crowded train, skipping social gatherings to study, working out, and a host of other things. Enjoyment is great, but it's fleeting and far less cultivating than doing the hard things in life. Being driven solely by enjoyment can lead to frustration, emptiness and stymied growth. 

Maybe you're thinking something like, "well yeah I've seen and said those things, but I can distinguish the areas they do and don't apply to."

And if you can, then thats great for you.

But think about all the people who are reading and listening to the things you say, wear, tweet or caption without putting them in a specific context. Think about how many young girls and boys are on social media today. They are going through changes and have so many questions that need answers.

If you give them feel-good answers like "Practice self-love" or "You do you," that really isn't helping them. They'll start to think that in order to love themselves they have to learn to love everything about themselves—including their flaws, like the magazines say. Meanwhile, there could be a trait about them or an activity they engage in, that is getting in the way of having a loving relationship with themselves. Something that is genuinely hurting them and shouldn't be accepted and definitely not loved, but changed. There are things we all need to strive to change in the way we think or act, that will lead to authentically loving ourselves as a better person. But if these kids are under the impression that it's just a part of who they are and should overlook it, love it, or just "do me", then that is only hurting them.

The saying that goes "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is just not true. Some words can hurt you more deeply and more continuously than wounds to a body. And there is a serious problem when the words we use with the intention of healing, are actually doing the most harm.