It’s been over four hundred years since Shakespeare wrote the words, “To thine own self be true.” A more updated version reads, “Be true to yourself.” We all get the gist, right? Being a people pleaser is a barren and tiresome road to travel. I need to be the authentic “me”. I heard one Bible teacher sum it up like this:
Being True to Christ
Just to clarify, being true to yourself does not deputize you to go rogue whenever you feel like it, and only be concerned with how “you” feel about things. There is a responsibility we have to walk in love, and our greatest role model, the most authentic human being ever, left us a clear example to emulate. Jesus was not a people pleaser, was not bound up with insecurity or fear, had total confidence in himself, yet walked in obedience to his father’s mission and lived sacrificially. Bottom line: being true to yourself is being true to following Christ, hearing His voice, and living for His glory.
True or False
I’d like to add a little muscle to our topic. Let me rephrase it to say, “Be true to your true self.” Wait, is there actually a false self? There is. The Bible calls it your old self. “Put off your old self which belongs to your former manner of life…Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22 and 24) We have “put on the new [spiritual] self who is being continually renewed in true knowledge in the image of Him who created the new self.” (Colossians 3:10)
A Surrendered State
The true self emerging requires continual renewal and the old self doesn’t always succumb easily. It necessitates our living in a surrendered state. Think of a sculptor and his unformed piece of stone. You use dynamite, drilling, and hammering to bring separation and freedom from the old structure. The stone is free from the mountain but it’s not free from itself. Becoming a Christian is like a precious stone being released from a mountain. My eternal destiny is changed in a moment when I’m born again, and then the spiritual formation continues in earnest.
God is the Master Sculptor. My true self emerges, ever-increasing, as I’m conformed to the image of Christ. So He chips away everything that isn’t Jesus. The false self will never be on display in the finished work. Unlike real stone, we have a voice; the ability to choose for or against the Sculptor’s intentions. Sometimes the false (old) self is clearly dark and unhealthy, giving us a clear choice to make. Other times, it’s more like a prison that one does not know how to escape, or worse yet, that one does not even realize they are inhabiting.
In my experience, both personal and in pastoring others, the false self (impostor) is rooted in childhood. Emotional wounding and trauma, are a potent force against authenticity. In order for the child to survive, the only option is to become somebody safe. There are at least two sides to this coin, with many variations. Some go inward to build their fortress of safety, while some become aggressive to ensure that they will have control over their life. Because the false self may have been the only friend you had, it almost feels unnatural to detach one’s self. We need trusted allies on the journey.
German pastor and author, Dietrich Bonhoeffer appeals to our need for family. “God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged…the Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is unsure, his brother’s is sure”
“What I have trouble believing about myself, my friend can see and easily believe. When it comes to self-perception, the Christ in you is stronger and more accurate than the Christ in me. That’s no reflection on Christ; it simply reflects the power of self-deception. I need the freshness of your perception, and the reverse is true. The Christ in me is stronger when it’s you that needs the accurate word.”
Living surrendered, in the midst of those who are like-minded, is a great impetus in our walk with God. I’m thankful for all those who have challenged me over the years, calling me higher into God’s purposes for my life. Gifted pastors and counselors have carried me through some rough patches and I have endeavored to do the same for others. Most of all, my beloved wife has been a faithful friend to see me through.
We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” – respected by God and distinguished by Him from every other person ever created. Everything good in me is in the image of God. Thus when I self reflect, my goal is to Christ reflect. “And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Be true to yourself; to the ever-expanding true “you.”