Are you being true to yourself? Since about 1980 this has been the operative question in society hasn’t it?
Got a problem? The answer is in being true to yourself.
Need to make a tough decision? Just be true to yourself.
Not sure if you should feel guilty? Well, were you true to yourself? If so, it’s all good . . .
My wife and I like reality TV, especially when someone can win at the end. Survivor is our favorite—and one I dream of being on, if anyone out there knows any producers. But Survivor isn’t on all the time, so we have to settle for other shows. Shows like American Idol, and the theme of such shows is “be true to yourself.” When someone gets cut because they sound more like a horse caught in a fence than an actual human person in song, their crew of supporters whispers the mantra hypnotically: “Be true to yourself, that’s all that matters.” Um, is it really all that matters? I mean, it kind of matters that your child/friend/lover is going to waste his or her life pursuing a thing he or she simply is not meant to be doing—in the same way I do not need to be pursuing the NBA or anything involving Mathematics or any number of other things I’m terrible at. And yes, perseverance is a thing, but so are reality and calling and truth and perspective and humility . . .
But this post isn’t about folks who can’t sing on TV shows. It is about this notion that “being true to yourself” is somehow good advice. In college I sort of believed this mantra. You know those people movers in airports—the ones you just step on and they move you from one place to another? Being true to myself was like stepping on one of those and being somewhat effortlessly moved to realm of terribleness: You have arrived at your destination! That advice could have been summarized with one word: GET. Get this girl to like you; get this bit of respect; get this amount of money; get this kind of vehicle . . . Get. Get. Get. Being true to myself was a disgusting gluttonizing of life, and in that gluttony having the “food” of it all lose its taste, its flavor, its nuance. I was too busy consuming to enjoy. Like thirsting in the desert and having only saltwater to drink. Be true to yourself, be true to yourself, be true to yourself . . . The poison is gulped down maniacally.
The other thing I’ve found when “I’m true to myself” is that I can make “being true to myself” look like anything I want. I can do mental gymnastics to rationalize any old thing. John Wooden has a somewhat famous quote dealing with this: “Charles Manson was true to himself, and as a result, he rightly is spending the rest of his life in prison.”
We aren’t to be true to ourselves, we are to be true. And to be true, we must truly inhabit the space we were called to occupy: that of the created. We are not the arbiter of goodness, the judge of right, the individual decider of all things. We are humans, made in the image of God, but very much made. If that is the case, then being true isn’t hitched to myself—my notions and ideas and desires—but rather hitched to the Creator. I am to be true to God, which, according to Him, means I am not to be “true to myself” but I am to die to myself.
That isn’t to say we don’t chase dreams. We just don’t chase our dreams. We chase His dreams for us.
That isn’t to say we don’t use our talents. We just don’t own our talents. We steward them as investments a good God made in us.
That isn’t to say we don’t pursue happiness. We just don’t see happiness apart from God. He is our happiness; He is our joy.
Being true to myself is crummy. I’ve tried it enough to know that it yields an insatiable hunger for more and for different and for better and for perfect . . . it exhausts and cages and controls. I’m too small for this universe and all things in it to revolve around me, and I collapse in on myself in the end. Get. Get. Get. Die.
So the question remains: Are you being true to yourself? I certainly hope not. Why settle for such a pitiful aim? We are called to be true to Him—as He is true for us. Give. Give. Give. Die. Get, forever and ever, amen.