Whether we know it or not, we are influenced by the “deep” statements of “truth” made by those around us. These ideas may or may not be true or helpful depending on how you look at them, but they usually stick with us if they seem meaningful. One of the most common statements among young people in recent times has been the message, “Be yourself.” This has so many different connotations and meanings, so let’s take a look at some of them. The more we understand the language of our time, the easier it will be for us to use that language to the glory of God.
Be Who You Want to Be
One way we can interpret this idea is that we are supposed to be whoever we want to be. What we desire is what’s most important. This is a bit ambiguous because it ignores the fact that most of us have conflicting desires about who we want to be. But it does make an important point. We should not let our identity become wrapped up in other people or their view of us. For example, if we mold our lives to every whim of our significant other, we worship them and let them control us. When they leave our lives or change in nature, we will be deeply hurt and affected by this, because we don’t know who we are apart from them. If they pursue a path we don’t want to go down, we will have to separate from them and rebuild who we are. At no point should we let our identity be caught up in another human. Even husbands and wives must have a clear sense of separate identity. They may be “one” in a sense, but they must each have their own decisions and relationships. Otherwise, when they disagree about something, they will be ripped apart and unable to handle a simple difference of opinion. Being ok with being different is vital in a relationship and in life.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17
Embrace The Flesh
Another interpretation is that we are supposed to embrace our fleshly desires. This is, of course, nonsense. We should never embrace sin. But that’s how many people take this simple little phrase, “be yourself.” They really want to skip class so they can go party. They want to spend an excessive amount of money on their hobbies. Girls may want to wear hip new clothes that are too revealing, and guys may want to pursue controlling relationships for selfish reasons. We all have our weak spot to sin. For some, saying “Be yourself” is encouraging surrender to that weak spot, letting sin act freely. It’s saying, “Go have fun for once.” “Stop caring so much about what God thinks.” This is a horrible thing for a person to pursue. Once they allow sin to reign in their weak areas, they open their lives up to let Satan do his work. They unknowingly reject God’s control over them and leave his safe place of obedience and purity. This message that we should “be ourselves” can inflict great pain on a person’s life, and we should be very careful with how we use this phrase in our conversations with others.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
Be Who You Know God Wants You to Be
This is the most exciting interpretation. It says that we are to let loose and pursue that part of us that knows what’s right. We are to give in to our guilt and let it turn to healing repentance and humility before God’s throne of grace. We should stop caring about what other people think or what we know is sin and instead live a life that pleases our heavenly Father. This is the only powerfully positive message that can be communicated when we say “Be yourself.” It communicates to others that they should be who they know God wants them to be. Their true self, in this case, is a version of them that loves God and wants what God wants, even if that means some “surgery” on their desires, habits, and friends. I ask you to join me in using the phrase “be yourself” to encourage sanctification and holiness in ourselves and others. We can use this normally self-centered idea for good, refusing to let anyone or anything define who we are except God. What He desires for us is what’s best.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18