Saturday, October 22, 2011


"Be yourself." This is age-old advice, an aphorism familiar to virtually everyone. Yet, what does it mean to actually be oneself? What does it take to reach that goal?

Some suggest that being yourself means not thinking about how you look or how others perceive you and just doing. And that'd be great, if we weren't living in a broken world. Unfortunately, just doing (and not thinking about what you're doing, or how it will appear to others) can generate a great deal of pain, conflict and misunderstanding. When we just do, we are more inclined to upset or hurt others even without intending to.

Plus, I may actually be incapable of just doing without thinking. I over-think just about everything. The mere fact that I'm writing about the topic of being myself is ample evidence of this fact.

Now, I agree that we shouldn't base our every action, or every word that we speak upon what others will think of us. Being oneself and being what you assume others want you to be are not one and the same. Considering that every person has opinions and values that they hold to, when one acts only to impress others they will inevitably sacrifice their own opinions and values at some point. With opinions... well, that's not such a big deal... as a Humanities teacher, I am constantly pushing my students to consider opinions and viewpoints other than their own to achieve a fuller understanding of the world. Opinions are changeable and it does not hurt us to walk in someone elses' shoes for a while (or wear someone elses' glasses... or whatever metaphor you like). However... when we sacrifice our deepest values for the sake of impressing others, that's an infinitely more serious loss.

You see, unlike our opinions, our values represent the foundation of who we are: where we find meaning, purpose, comfort, energy. As a Christian, my values and therefore my identity must be firmly rooted in the person of Jesus Christ. So... is this the case for me? Are my actions and my words consistent with my values? And are my values truly rooted in Christ?

Unpacking further: Do I love others? Is my first thought to serve those around me? Am I humble? Do I praise God for every good thing in my life? Am I patient? Is God truly the center of my life? Do I truly find my hope in Christ alone? Am I able to weather trials without getting discouraged?

Simply, decisively: No, not always. I feel like I'm more aware of the right questions than I was five years ago, or even two years ago, and that there's tremendous value in asking these questions and thinking them through. I also recognize that there's a pretty big gulf between knowing and asking the right questions and then actually following through on the right answers... this is where I trip up.

In striving to truly "be myself", I must pick myself up when I trip, dust myself off and keep asking these questions. I earnestly hope that it can be said of me: "Here's someone who knows how to be himself" and "His identity is rooted in Christ." I know that this will never be perfect in this lifetime, but... I won't let that stop me from pursuing this identity :)

No comments:

Post a Comment