Walk into any book shop and you will see no end of books on “discovering yourself”. Browse television channels and you are bound to find somebody telling you how to be “your true self”.
But who is that? Who do you think you are – really?
In The Gift of Being Yourself, David Benner says that we start building a “false self” very early in life. Speaking for himself, he says:
“The root of my false self was the childhood discovery that by being a good boy I could earn love.”
He goes on to say that the problem with the false self is – it works! People do respond with affirmation if we present to them what we think they want to see. But in the end this false-self stifles the true self of the person God originally created:
“My compulsive pursuit of accomplishment and the respect of people who are important to me suffocates the life of my true self… binds and inhibits my gifts and restricts my freedom."
Part of the problem is our human obsession – especially in Western culture – to associate our identity with “doing”. We are obsessed with being “productive”, as if, like a factory worker, our “success” is measured by productive output. We even talk about being a “productive member of society”.
Parker Palmer writes in The Active Life how modern English reflects this very skewed focus He invites us to consider how often we use the word “make”, even when talking about the way we relate to one another: We make time, we make space, we make allowances, and we even make love. He makes the point that we are arrogant to think we can “make” any of those things!
So who are we really? How can we get the false self out of the way and be who we really are? How can we even know who that is? Surely the answer to all those questions can be found only in relationship with the God who made us and knows us intimately. In the end who we are depends on whose we are. It’s about belonging to God.
We need to take time to build that relationship, to be still and listen as God whispers your name and reminds you who you really are? Perhaps you will find that it is actually easier to just be you than to hold up the pretence of the false self!
As Benner says: “I need to remember I am a human being not a human doing - my worth lies in who I am, not what I can do or how I am seen by others.”
Rev. Brenton Prigge