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Can You Be Yourself By Yourself?

I’ve noticed a cultural swing over the last few decades. The 70’s and 80’s launched the self-improvement era. Although we’re still heavily influenced by this ideology, the 90’s to present has seen a shift too. Rather than a focus on actual improvement, it’s more like “bite me.”

We’ve moved from a desire to improve ourselves to a desire to be accepted as is. This “as is” is often expressed with anger; something like “I am who I am – deal with it.” Or, it’s more gently stated with “I’m so glad I’m quirky.” The more eastern thinkers simply go with, “Be.”

What happened? Why the shift? I’ll take a few broad strokes here. The self-help efforts we’ve all tried didn’t actually effect any real change in us. We still felt lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut. As we began to realize this, we finally said “Wait a second, why can’t I just be me?”

We grew tired of feeling like Charlie-In-The-Box from The Island of Misfit toys. So we rebelled against societal standards. We lashed out with a new slogan – “I’m me, like it or not. Screw you!”

Rebellion can be good. We should absolutely question and push cultural norms. And we should absolutely be ourselves. However, being ourselves, or reaching our full potential, is clouded with lots of misinformation. For example the demand to “just be me” is similar to a child stamping his feet. There’s not a lot of weight behind it.

I’d rather be someone who is truly confident in who they are, regardless of what others think.

But how do we figure out who we truly are? We all know it’s an important endeavor. Some, obviously, take it more seriously than others. There are lots of roads to traverse with this, but there’ s one snag for us rebels. We don’t like to trust in God. We want to do this ourselves.

We want to take the same self-help mentality of the 70’s-80’s and apply it to “I am who I am – deal with it.” I appreciate this, but the results will likely be worse than what we’ve already seen. First we had people frustrated, but hoping for relief with some self-improvement. Now we have folks angry and not caring, and doing whatever they think is best. What’s next? Contempt, depression, loneliness, suicide?

We can’t be ourselves by ourselves. We’re not built that way. We’re built by a relational God. We need God. We all have issues with and numerous questions about God. The religious especially have made a mess of things. But God hasn’t, despite what’s been spread.

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson


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