Why "Be Yourself" is Terrible Advice
I recently had a conversation with one of my friends, which led her to the conclusion that I wasn’t spiritual enough to date her brother. It was kind of a joke, but as we know, in every joke there’s at least an iota of truth. So, it got me thinking.
See, I self-identify as an open-minded person, at least in my circle of Nigerian, Christian friends, I’m a little bit of an anomaly. I have my own ideas about life, alcohol, sex, and other things I wonder about. No, it’s nothing that necessarily contradicts the Bible; it’s just a little too much for my people. Now, without even knowing the details of our conversation, you’re already thinking I’m not Christian enough to date you or your brother. Don’t worry I don’t want to date you either.
On a serious note though, I was taken aback a little by my friend’s conclusion, mostly because I wondered if the things that made her come to that conclusion were the same ones being impediments to my ability to tell my non-Christian friends about Jesus. Has being an open-minded, incredibly curious person sipped so much into my being that I am no longer letting Christ filter my thoughts and interests?
Reflecting even more on this issue, I came to the conclusion that there aren't a lot of things that are off- topic for me. This by itself is not a problem, but I’ve started seeing how this is impeding my spiritual growth. If I won’t stop enough to think about my words, how can I receive the gift of discernment that I’ve been praying for? If I let every thought roll through my mind and don’t hold it captive to the word of God, how can this translate into a deliberate lifestyle of choosing to be Christ-like?
"Be yourself" is bad advice because it's not enough. Should a person who enjoys the euphoria of having multiple love-interests, continue to “be herself” by entertaining the gazillion “Good morning beautiful ;)” text messages? Should the people who naturally have the wittiest comebacks continue to throw shots at every chance they get…all in the name of “being themselves”?
Instead of “be yourself”, I say, “Learn yourself”. Learn what makes you tick, learn what makes you feel alive, learn the things that you can do amazingly well even on your worst days, learn the things that you are constantly struggling with, learn all of the things you consider weaknesses, and even when you’ve learned all of these, keep examining yourself. Line each of these things up with what you know and have heard about God. If you know or have heard nothing about your particular issue, or you really aren’t sure what applies where, you’ve got to get digging in the word of God. Don’t forget to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you too; you’d be amazed how real getting to know God can be. See if these things that make you excited are things that make God excited, and even better; pray that the things that break God’s heart break yours too.
As for me, since my interests in one day experimenting with things that I cannot even dare to type are interests that probably break God’s heart, I’m giving them up. Like I’ve learned in 2 Corinthians 10:5, I’ll be fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. And whatever doesn’t line up with God’s word has to go.