I’ve been getting lots of mediocre advice on Facebook lately about being myself. A typical example goes something like this: “Don’t change yourself so that other people will like you. Be yourself so that the right people will love you.” Okay, there’s a nugget of truth in there, certainly. We would all do well to be less concerned about what others think of us and just, well, be ourselves. Are any of us completely content with who we are? I know I have often wished I had someone else’s talents, money or looks.
Yet I get the idea that when the world says “be yourself,” it really means “be your sinful self.” Trust your heart and follow its desires. Be resigned to your sinful foibles. Rely on your instincts. Look out for number one.
The Bible also has a lot to say about being yourself. First it says that all people are created in God’s image. That is, there is a God-given dignity and worth that we should recognize in others and in ourselves. God has created each of us with abilities, personalities and traits that vary widely. In the church God has also distributed different spiritual gifts, and the Church is described as a body with many parts. Each part has a role to play. It’s good that we are different.
The image of God, however, has been tainted by sin. Jesus Christ, by making himself nothing and being made in human likeness, took that sin on himself and paid its price on the cross. As a result, all who are united to him by faith may consider themselves as having died to sin.
Our old sin nature clings to us in this life, however, which is why I need to be careful about “being myself.” The Bible has a lot to say that makes me think I shouldn’t be content with who I am right now:
- “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5)
- “I discipline my body and keep it under control” (I Corinthians 9:27)
- “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12)
- “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2)
- “Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (Philippians 3:16).
So yes, be yourself, but be your redeemed self. Don’t be content with your sanctification until you’re in the presence of the Lord. Celebrate the unique way God has made you, but be careful to distinguish God’s good creation from sinful traits that need to be put to death. Use whatever unique gifts God has given you to build up the Church, help your neighbor and make the world a better place.
The way to be your best self is to become more like Christ. For “now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).