The debate over when selfies are socially acceptable has recently been renewed. Many in media have wondered aloud if a selfie at a concentration camp such as Auschwitz or Dachau is appropriate. Others have questioned if taking a selfie at the site of a natural or manmade disaster is responsible or deplorable. For me, the debate is less about what is captured in a selfie, but more about what is missed.

Three years ago I shared an experience I had with two of my children at Arlington National Cemetery. Sarah, McKay and I stood on that hallowed ground in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There is a spirit and strength there that is unique and deeply powerful. If you listen closely and can be still, priceless, life-changing lessons are learned.

I have a profound appreciation for the sentinels who stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They pay honor to all those who have given the last full measure of devotion in defense of freedom. The sentinels’ preparation and exactness in fulfilling their duty represent a master class in devotion, discipline and character.

We stood with a crowd of people from across America and around the world who had gathered to watch the famous changing of the guard. A hush fell over the crowd as the ceremony began, and for a brief moment there was absolute stillness and silence.

Then, unfortunately, the focus changed. My daughter Sarah leaned over and softly said, “Dad, they are missing the meaning of the moment by trying to capture it.” The silence had given way to people shuffling about, jostling and moving. I looked across the crowd as people positioned and repositioned their phones, cameras and video recorders. Others were maneuvering for a “selfie” or the perfect "postable" shot to show their followers on social media. The crowd seemed consumed with their quest to capture the moment — and in the process missed the meaning of what it was really all about.

We all have witnessed the parent who disrupts the music of a concert or distracts from the scene of play by roaming the aisles or standing in front of the stage to get “little Johnnie” or “adorable Jane” perfectly framed for the a post-worthy picture or video.

Now, I am not saying or suggesting we shouldn’t take photos or post pictures — they have their place and can be important. But before we attempt to focus the lens of a camera or phone, we should ask ourselves if our focus and attention should be on something more significant. If our focus is so centered on trying to capture a moment, I am certain that there is little chance we will capture the meaning of it.

If our focus is so centered on trying to capture a moment, I am certain that there is little chance we will capture the meaning of it.

Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, describes the shadow the all-consuming selfie syndrome casts over meaning and moments. He said, “They (selfie-takers) put themselves in the foreground of existence, which inevitably means putting life behind them. It requires you to look away from the thing you wish to capture in order to put your face in the shot, and to do so over and over and over again.” Which way we turn, and how still we can be, will often determine the depth of our experiences. If we wish to maximize the impact of such moments in our lives we should be turning away from self and toward the meaning.

Standing in front of, or even flying across, an ocean always produces awe and wonder within me as I recognize how small and insignificant I am compared to the vastness of the sea. Putting myself in the foreground of such a shot is not only a distraction but can also be a detriment. I often find in such moments of feeling small, that I can actually become better connected to the Divine.

Failing to be present to the moment by trying to capture it often interferes with our ability to feel wonder or experience awe. Those two emotions are part of what make us both human and divine. I am convinced that the selfie society would be greatly blessed by putting the recording devices down and just being still in the moment. G. K. Chesterton observed, “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”

One final perspective on capturing moments versus experiencing them completely is found in one of my favorite sayings I picked up in Japan nearly 35 years ago. It contains three simple words: Be here now! Learning to be present to the moment brings a new dimension to our experiences, a richness to our relationships and more meaning to our memories. It is also worth remembering that the memories we store in our mind are far better and far more satisfying than what any recording device can capture.

Life is filled with a host of moments that can truly matter. What we do with those moments also matters. Our greatest task is to make sure we don’t become so distracted trying to capture the moment that we miss what matters in the moment.