“The most powerful person is the one who is being himself.” – T. M. (An old acquaintance I saw the other day for the first time in several years, completely out of the blue.)
I was recently commended for being someone who doesn’t pretend to be someone I am not. I’d like to think that’s true,
especially even if it paints me in a less than perfect light, but I can think of dozens of times I have at least tried out being someone I am not. I must concede, it just doesn’t feel right. Like the one time in high school I tried to walk up to a girl at the mall and simply ask for her number. Couldn’t do it. It just wasn’t me.
I have been through phases in my life where I tried to dress a certain way to please friends or fit a style, but I always eventually come back to being most comfortable in jeans and a sweatshirt. I once tried to dress like an older friend of mine, who liked to wear a baseball cap hooked onto her belt buckle. I know, ridiculous right? And I got a hat that looked like the one she had, but mine had a big “X” on it, but I didn’t know it stood for Malcolm X. People looked at me weird for being a goofy kid walking around wearing that hat, but I just thought it looked cool. But clothes are superficial; they are only a shadow of the real person someone is.
Pop Stars and Comedians
Learning to be oneself is probably one of the great battles or journeys of any person’s life. I wonder how many people actually learn to spread the wings they were born to spread and really fly, before their time on this planet is up. I long to do this. I am still learning what exactly it means, but I think I have a better understanding now in my 30s than I did in my 20s, and definitely more than I did in my teens.
I am learning that, in reality, everyone is him/herself. We can’t help but be ourselves. It’s just a matter of whether or not we are acting like ourselves. It’s kind of like saying that someone is walking around in their underwear. Of course you’re walking around in your underwear, (unless you’re not), but what makes the difference is all the other things you may or may not have on over and around it. Are you acting like you or are you acting like you with a bunch of other stuff piled on?
Take Justin Beiber for example. He is called many things, particularly by the people who can’t stand him: spoiled, disrespectful, entitled, arrogant, reckless, etc. But wait: most people who can’t stand him don’t even know him. What they can’t stand is what they know of him. It’s what they see. That’s all the stuff piled on. For more on this, check out this post about Justin Beiber, and something a comedian said about people like him.
Here’s the bottom line for me. When the biblical book of Genesis records that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him,” I believe He was essentially talking about us being ourselves. Being created in the image of God does not mean we look like God in appearance, but it means that we were made to act like God. That we walk in compassion and strength and holiness. That we live in complete harmony with God and one another. In other words, we are most being ourselves–the selves we were created to be–when we are acting in God’s image. And the perfect picture of acting in God’s image was lived out in the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I dare anyone to say Jesus was not fully being himself.
I know many will say that Christians have a pessimistic, judgmental, dark, and harsh view of people; we say everyone is born in sin and therefore naturally a sinner. But, I don’t believe that’s what the creation story tells us at all. I think just the opposite. The sin is the stuff piled onto who we really are, who we were created to be. Yes, I believe that sin is piled on from birth, but it is still not natural to us. It feels natural, and so much easier to choose than righteousness, but that’s only because it’s piled on so thick. It’s not who we are.
Yes, I believe that sin is more than a cosmetic issue, and I fully resonate with Jeremiah 17:9 when it laments, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” I can relate to the Apostle Paul in Romans 7, when he cries out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And I breathe a sigh of relief when he answers, “I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
However, I cannot shake the reality that I am made in His likeness and image. That is who I am. That is what defines me. That is who I desire to be. I am myself when I am acting like God, following Jesus. When Jesus saves me, he saves me from the layers of sin that has imposed itself on my identity, and saves me to be the man he always meant for me to be in the first place. That’s the me I was born to be.