Why “Just Be Yourself” is Terrible Advice!

Somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of a closet in my home, there’s a high school yearbook. In that yearbook are little notes of encouragement that were written to me by my classmates. Virtually all of them convey the same message, just expressed in a slightly different way.

  • “Stay the way you are.”
  • “Don’t ever change.”
  • “Be true to yourself.”
  • “Keep it real.”
  • And, “just be yourself.”

My friends meant well. They didn’t realize that when they wrote these things they were actually giving me the absolute worst advice they could ever give. I don’t blame them. After all, they were only 18 at the time. I’m sure some thirty years later none of them have stayed the same. All of them have changed to some degree. I know for a fact that some of them have gotten heavier. Some of them have lost a lot of hair. Some of them have gotten smarter. And all of them have gotten older. Life is marked by change. None of us stay the way we were when we were teenagers, and aren’t you grateful for that?

What if Paul or Peter or John or even Jesus were to sign your yearbook? What do you think they would write. Maybe something like this?

  • “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor. 5:17).” –Love Paul. Sr. ’20 A.D.
  •  “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (2 Pet. 3:18).” –Your buddy Peter
  • “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:7).” –John
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3).” –Your Savior, Jesus

The message of the Bible is not, “Be yourself.” In fact, it’s anything but. The message of the Bible is, “Be something greater.” Notice what Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1-3.

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

What would be the outcome of “just being yourself” or “staying just the way you are?” Well, you would remain dead. You would continue to be a child of wrath. You would remain alienated from the Lord (Col. 1:21). You would miss out on heaven and all the spiritual blessings that a child of God is privileged to enjoy, both in this life and the life to come.

Salvation is not like going to the chiropractor. This isn’t about an adjustment. This is about dying. Instead of being yourself, you die to yourself. Paul spoke of this very thing in Romans Chapter 6 as he described baptism as participating in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:3-6). It was Jesus who told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3).” It was also Paul who stated, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17).” The Christian life is marked by transformation. It’s marked by growth and maturity (2 Pet. 3:18). It’s all about newness, which means that “being yourself” is not an option.

Don’t be yourself. Yourself stinks! Be something better. Be like Jesus.

 

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