The world says: be yourself.
Christianity teaches: be more like Jesus.
Which one is it?
I struggled with these questions as a child and teenager.
I thought that being myself meant I was living “according to the flesh” and my concept of ‘being like Jesus’ meant:
Control my emotions – especially my temper
Always be kind
Let people walk all over me – turn the other cheek
Be polite and never swear or complain etc
Respect and obey adults
Forgive everyone and resolve all conflict in the other person’s favour
Love everyone equally
I couldn’t do these things, and I knew I was a miserable failure. In fact, many times over the years I’ve been called a snob. This is possibly because I was insecure about who I was and perhaps I avoided relationships because of the responsibility I felt to put on this façade – which was exhausting and made friendship exhausting too.
I’ll never forget the day one of my teachers actually called me an inverted-snob. He said that I hated myself, and because I hated myself, other people thought I hated them as well. (He said it very kindly and this was helpful for me, although I was perhaps a slow learner.) It was true. I was both an inverted-snob and a snob!
Recently, a very wise friend said to me that Jesus was always himself. Jesus needed alone time. Jesus had some friends that were closer than others. Jesus even had enemies and has been recorded calling those enemies a “brood of vipers!” Jesus knew his identity as God and man and he lived it out without worrying what anyone thought of him.
In recent years I’ve stopped trying to be perfect – which is what I was really trying to be, when I thought I was trying to be like Jesus – according to my own idea of perfection.
Now, more than ever, I feel convinced that God wants me to be myself. That he created me uniquely and wants me to be true to who I am. Another wise friend, Daniel Dolman (RIP), once told me that “The glory of God is Liss fully alive.” In other words, God’s glory shines through much more when we are truly ourselves.
It is through knowing Jesus more and more deeply over time, that I have learned more about who I am deep down, and how to be more authentic, real, honest, open – more Elissa! I believe that becoming more like Jesus, is also becoming more yourself. These two concepts are not at odds.
There is certainly a struggle around being ourselves in a sinful world. But God has allowed for that too – it’s called: grace.
God created me to be exactly who I am and you to be true to who you are.
And God said that it was good.