But what if my heart is leading me to lie, steal, commit adultery, murder, and covet? May I still follow my heart and be true to myself?
We hear this counsel from high-profile socialites, aristocrats, philosophers, and sages of sorts: Be True to Yourself. Some go so far as to advise you to not allow any shame for any reason into your life – as if there is nothing to be ashamed about if it was what you wanted to do for yourself. Hhmmm? Let’s think about this and see if it pans out for our good in everyday happenings.
First, I think there is something right about this motto. If you shared with me how hard it is to keep working toward your Master’s degree, while your best friend keeps ridiculing you, telling you that you’re a failure – out of jealousy, then, be true to yourself! That is, don’t let people box you in and limit you from broadening your skills, education, and worthwhile pursuits.
So there is a whisper of advice that seems to fit with our everyday experiences. Very true, we can heed the scorn and belittlement of those around us who want us to fail because of their jealousy, to our demise. But we need to stay the course, and remain true to what we have come to believe is good for our welfare in this life. It takes prudence and courage to know when a scoffer is attempting to derail your efforts, and to keep-on-keeping-on against the cynical wind.
However . . .
My Self cannot consistently be the goal for navigation in this life – it only causes more harm than good. For example,
If I really stayed true to myself when Cheryl asks me to help her hoe the garden, she would wrap that hoe around my head. ‘Ouch’ – that motto hurts! To Be True To Myself when asked to do something that I don’t want to do, or is out of my proverbial comfort-zone, does not bode well for me or for those that I care about. One cannot simply use this advice as an out when put in uncomfortable circumstances.
Again, for example,
If you, as an 18 year old young man, shared with me that you want to make it big in the music industry – but you needed to borrow $50 from me, I would have a few questions. Like, “Do you have a job?” You reply, “No, I don’t want to waste my time working for McDonald’s 40 hours a week when I can be working on lyrics and chord progressions.” I can certainly tell you that I would not put money into your hand and say, “Be True to Yourself – Live Long and Prosper.”
And again, for example,
If you grew up believing that the acquisition of material wealth was the measure of your humanity and self-worth, and consequently you keep your credit cards maxed out, you buy on impulse, you refuse to spend less than what you earn – all because you NEED to feel special via a new purchase, then “Be True To Yourself” is bad advice. Here’s why:
Your Self is not the first and foremost consideration for well-being – it’s an assumed implication of your consideration for others. It goes like this: Love Your Neighbor As Yourself. Meaning, just as you instinctively and naturally consider your well-being, you first treat your fellow-man with the same consideration that you would desire from them. The only way to be true to yourself is to first be true to others. Ultimately, Be True To Yourself fails to take in the full spectrum of human interaction. But what Jesus said does. That’s because Jesus knows what we deny about ourselves. Jesus knows how selfish and self-centered we are. He knows that when push comes to shove, we will turn away from our fellow-man for our own personal gratification and comfort.
This does not mean that you can’t tell your kids to be quiet because you’re preparing for a test; or, that you can’t say no to a request if it is inappropriate or too imposing upon your time. It just means that when you say yes to yourself, have you first considered that it is also right to say no to others? Saying no to a certain other is the right thing to do if they were in your shoes – they too would want the right to say no, if you were too demanding and manipulative with their time. See how this works?! When you love others as yourself, you can make a decision that is best for you because it is what you would desire for them – if they were in your place.
In the end, Jesus beats what the world offers because he calls me to turn away from myself and turn to others, first. That’s because Jesus wants me to spend more time thinking about others than myself. And because of that, any consideration for myself is now guided by how I would want others to treat me. In the end, to love your neighbor as yourself is better because it is the offspring of , “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.” In the end is Christ crucified for all the harmful ways that I have been true to my selfish self.