Sunday, June 7, 2009

On being yourself

A friend of mine once posed the question, "What does it actually mean when people say "be yourself"?" Here are a few of my thoughts...

My first reaction is that it's impossible to not be yourself. Telling someone, "be yourself" is like saying, "Obey me by doing whatever you want!" How can they not?

There's more to it than that though. When people say "be yourself," they are actually encouraging you to change. People have the tendency to conform out of a fear of rejection. So, for example, when teachers encourage their pupils to "be themselves," they are encouraging them to be creative and fight against their tendency to conform (they're saying, "don't be afraid"). While this is actually telling them not to be who they are (they are, after all, more likely to be afraid and conform), it encourages new perspectives to be formed and confidence in one's decisions.

On a grander scheme, if we were to truly "be ourselves," we would quickly fall into a life of mediocrity or worse, depravity. There is a great deal of good in people, but ultimately one's sinful nature will dominate. We should aspire not to be ourselves, or even to be who we want to be, but to be who God wants us to be. It's not enough to be yourself, you have to be greater than yourself.