A lot of people seem to think that who you are is more important than what you do. “Just be yourself” has become a slogan in the self-esteem movement.
Being yourself is touted as some kind of aspiration worth achieving–a sort of goal that, once fulfilled, equates to happiness and wholeness.(Doesn’t Oprah tell people to “be themselves” along with telling them they are their own gods?)
When life throws you trouble, people tell you to be yourself. When conflict arises, people tell you to be yourself. When you question your purpose in life, we often remind ourselves to, well, just be ourselves.
But what if being yourself is what got you into trouble in the first place? What if being yourself ain’t so great? I propose that you actually shouldn’t be yourself.
There is a popular quote floating around the web, appearing on magnets and gift cards that reads:
Always be yourself, because the people that matter don’t mind, and the people that mind don’t matter.
At first reading, a person might nod their head in agreement with this little sentiment. However, upon second reading, hopefully you’ll see what I see. Which is, in fact, the opposite of what everyone else says. Being yourself is not a guarantee that people will like you.
In fact, the more you act like yourself the more people might begin to dislike you. Okay, so what is it I’m saying–that people should walk around acting phony and pretend to be something they’re not? Well, sorta…yeah.
You see, so much of our “self” is tied up in who we used to be, that is before Christ, and not who we actually are now, after Christ. Instead, “Be yourself” has become a catch phrase to excuse undesirable behavior.
People will also throw around platitudes like, “You’re great just the way you are,” or “Never change.” (yearbook signing anyone?) You’ve perhaps also heard “be yourself” disguised as: “That’s just the way I am.” Or the slightly more annoying and stealthy “That’s just how God made me.”
Really? God made you to be a brash, rude, condescending jerk? Hmmm…He must have had an off day. Because maybe, just maybe, you’re using that line in an attempt to explain away your less-than-desirable character traits—the parts of yourself you have yet to let Him get a hold of…
Take me, for instance, I know exactly who I’d be if I didn’t know Jesus. I’d be an obnoxious, snobbish, judgmental chick hell-bent on letting you know that I don’t like you–never have and never will. I’d have a superiority complex that could rival an NBA player.
But instead, since knowing Jesus, I have become painfully aware of just how much I suck. No, He doesn’t tell me I suck and He would never say that, but He does gently and lovingly point out my not-so-swell spots. My pride. My lack of self-worth. My anger. My laziness.
I don’t want to be myself. I want to be like Him. I don’t want to excuse away my bad behaviors as some kind of God-given gift. I want to let His Spirit eradicate all that’s left of “me.” Because, if I’m really being honest, being myself isn’t so great…which is just another reason I’m so thankful for Him.
Are you guilty of ever using the excuse “Well, that’s just how I am…” How much have you changed since knowing God? Spill it.