You might have heard it during the commencement speech at your graduation, or maybe from a mentor sending you off to the next big phase of your life. Maybe you heard it from your parents or a sibling when you headed off to college or your first big job interview: “Be true to yourself.”
But is that really good advice?
Cale Clarke spent a segment of The Cale Clarke Show breaking it down, and he explained why that can either be the best advice or the worst advice you’ve ever received.
Theology professor Kevin DeYoung wrote a book called Do Not Be True To Yourself: Countercultural Advice for the Rest of Your Life. In it, DeYoung compiled a collection of graduation speeches, and he takes a look at them from a Christian perspective. Those who are seeking to inspire often adopt the moniker “Be true to yourself” but fail to explain it in any specific terms.
Many people who attempt to take that advice to heart fail to reconcile the difference between what they should be and what they want to be. The phrase “be yourself” is so often misinterpreted and misconstrued as a license to pursue what you and only you desire, with no thought of who we are called to be, what our weaknesses are, and how we are being asked to serve God.
Some might posit, “Well, what if I only want good things? What if my desires are pure and true? Would it be such a bad thing to pursue good for the good of everyone, including myself?”
The problem with that thought process is that it disallows the doctrine of the fall of mankind. We know that we are weak, faulted creatures – not because made us this way, but because humankind gave into the temptation to serve one’s self. Because of our fall, we are doomed to struggle with concupiscence, misguided desires, and the temptation to desire and carry out evil. We just simply will sin because of our fallen nature.
And at the end of the day, sin is just a disordered good. Just as the devil himself was initially created to be an angel of God, the “light-bearer”, he will never tempt us with outright evil. Temptation is progressive: it will take something inherently good and twist it into something bad over time.
“So when people say to you, ‘Just be true to yourself,’ that’s not a good way of looking at things if you’re saying that without respect to God, without respect to looking at where these desires you have within you are coming from. Are they coming from the Holy Spirit? Or are they coming from within yourself?” asked Cale.
Contrary to the famous chorus from Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, we have to be born again a different way; through water and fire, be reborn in the Holy Spirit.
“This is how we pass from death to life. This is how we receive the life of God in our souls and defeat the enemy,” said Cale. “In the Bible, the sea is always a symbol of evil. It’s always a symbol of death and chaos. All the monsters in the book of Revelation come out of the sea. And so, really, when Jesus is baptized, that’s when He starts His Passion.”
As Pope Benedict XVI preached in his book Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus began His descent unto death the moment he descended into the waters of Baptism. Baptism is a spiritual death and rebirth in Christ. We are called to unite ourselves with Him in this endeavor. Embrace the difficulty of this call in choosing not to be yourself, but to be like Christ.
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT