There is a lot of buzz today about being our “authentic selves”. It is often used as rationalization for sinful behaviors, and can be heard in the memes of popular culture: ”I gotta be me”, “this is just who I am”, and sometimes even a misunderstanding and misapplication of the Shakespearean quote, “To thine own self be true…”. As one blogger I read recently put it…
The phrase [“To thine own self be true”] echoes something which I have heard subscribers to a particular brand of therapy repeat as a sort of mantra: “I just really need to focus on me right now.” In fact, the phrase appeals to our complacency, not to our resilience. Its function is to swell our laziness, not to stoke our resolve. It’s use is to excuse our disagreements with society, not to force us to reconcile them with fact. We are all victims, suffering in vain, alone in our wisdom, against an unfair society that condemns iconoclasts. (http://bigthink.com/the-proverbial-skeptic/to-thine-own-self-be-true-really)
I’m not only in agreement, I’d go a step further and say that from a Christian standpoint—I hope you’re not too shocked—God isn’t really interested in us being our “authentic selves”. Interestingly enough, He’d prefer we not be our authentic selves. Isn’t that the whole point of baptism: dying to our “authentic selves” and letting Christ live in us?
Our “authentic selves” are inclined to sin, have sinned, and (given the opportunity) will continue to be willful, rebellious, and self-seeking. It is the “natural man”. Our “authentic selves” have given us this fallen world, the wars, the atrocities, the broken homes, the broken hearts, the abuses, the hatreds, the violence, death, and all the evil this world has to offer. Yes, that was us, our “authentic selves”—not God, not chance, not randomness—starting with Adam and running down to the present moment. God made the world “very good”, and we made a mess of things.
What the Lord wants of us, what discipleship to Jesus is, what He sacrificed Himself for is a “new creation” (Gal. 6:15), to be “born again” of water and the Spirit (John 3:5), to put on the “new self” in the likeness of God (Eph. 4:22-24), and to be a “new creature” with old things passed away (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus describes as denying self (Matt. 16:24), taking up one’s cross daily (Luke 9:23), and following Jesus (Matt. 4:19). There’s not a hint of the “old me” or the “authentic self” present in discipleship to Jesus.
What the authentic self wants is to be saved by Jesus without having to change anything, what is sometimes called “cheap discipleship”. It wants forgiveness without repentance, salvation without dying to self, and Heaven without obedience. It believes that its “authentic self” is more important than Jesus’ holiness. “Authentic self” seeks to be the center of the universe around which all others (including God) revolve; discipleship to Jesus recognizes the real center of the universe.
Now, don’t misunderstand. The old personality still exists; but now it’s been redeemed, transformed, and put under the authority of Christ. And likewise, growth and maturity are a part of this “equation” and will take some time and effort; the old habits and attitudes will continue to crop up and will sometimes take time to “crucify”. We will continue to sin; but now we repent, accept correction, and seek to change—quite unlike the “authentic self”.
Follow Jesus wholeheartedly and unreservedly all the way to Heaven. Being your “authentic self” is terribly overrated and will lead you unswervingly to Hell.
Our culture is becoming increasingly narcissistic. Valuing self above sacrifice and service for others is part of a modernist mindset. Christ does ask us to die to self and become renewed creatures in Him. Unfortunately many do not see a need for this when we are told to ‘follow our bliss’, because it’s our ‘right’ to be happly.
As a minister, I have witnessed many a family break-up, many a man or woman ruin their lives through drugs, sex, or “just being me”; because God wants me to be happy. I couldn’t agree with you more!