Be who you are.
Because you never know who would love the person you hide.
~ C.S. Lewis
A friend posted this on social media, and I have to admit this is a HUGE struggle for me! It is hard for me to be myself around others.
What will they think?
Will they like me?
We all wonder what other people think of us, whether the person they perceive is the same as the one we see in the mirror. I believe that is normal, a part of us navigating our humanity.
But I also believe that underneath there are some fears and truths that need to be examined.
A church friend and I were discussing various essential oils that help with sleep and relaxation. I told her there is one oil in particular that gives me really strange dreams when I diffuse it a night. She wondered if I was talking about nightmares. I replied they weren’t bad dreams so much as really messed up ones — like I was tripping on acid or something (the best way I could think to describe them).
As I was having this conversation with her, I was internally weighing whether or not I should say the part about the acid and what she may think if I did. As I pondered her possible reactions, I came up with at least three in those few nanoseconds of thought:
1) She may think I am a horrible example of a Christian because I know, and proficiently use, drug references in everyday speech.
2) That furthermore, I must know drug references because either
3) I have experience with drug use in the past and am currently in recovery.
4) I am currently doing drugs.
In reality, I have no personal experience with drugs whatsoever, so these thoughts may seem unreasonable, extreme, or even comical, but they’re legit. Heck, I’m even afraid to let certain people know that I burn incense while listening to Dave Matthews Band.
(I am even worried about what you might be thinking right now because I just used the word “heck.”)
Every time I talk to someone, I am constantly trying to monitor, filter, edit, and mold myself into what I think that person would find acceptable. Like “What is their normal?” and if I say this or do that, am I going to fit into the realm of what they can handle without giving them any strange vibes or setting off their internal “weirdo alarm”?
(And yes, I am having this dialogue with myself at the same time I am interacting with people. And yes, I’m afraid you are judging me for it.)
What am I afraid of in situations like these? I’m afraid if I am truly myself, people will not like me. That if my way of saying and doing things doesn’t jive with the way they would say and do things, they won’t want to be around me.
But what I have to remind myself is that God made me who I am: idiosyncrasies and all. Taking into account that the Christian should always be changing from one degree of glory to another and growing in sanctification (Christ-likeness), there is still an element of us that is going to remain uniquely “us”, the special person God made.
There isn’t another person JUST like you. He gave us varying spiritual gifts for the edification of the body, but He also gave us varying personalities and quirks. These are not a result of the Fall (like when the dude at Walmart is a jerk and says that it’s “just his personality”). These are the idiosyncrasies that God, in His goodness, ordained to display His glory through the creativity it took to make each person unique among the billions.
What this means in practical terms is that I am never going to stop being the introvert who . ..
is way better at writing my thoughts than speaking them
lights up when teaching a women’s Bible study.
could spend hours in a craft store planning projects
is equally content left alone all day with a good book
is a bit snarky and makes occasional drug references in everyday conversation (Ok, that’s a joke….I really don’t talk about drugs that much!).
It means my husband is never going to a person who . . .
stops being the quiet, shy, a-bit-nerdy guy in person with a no-holds-barred personality on stage
loves sports, history, and pestering people with old man jokes
can’t teach without a whiteboard.
It means our friend Terry will never be someone who . . .
stops being the goofy guy who has way too many books, fountain pens, and song references
can strike up a friendly conversation with anybody even though he is a self-proclaimed introvert.
It means our friend Shannon is a person who will . . .
never stop being the girl who can’t stand the salt and pepper shakers to be off-centered on the table. (No, I mean, like she really can’t stand it. Like, it’s a thing. It has to be fixed. Immediately.)
When God formed us in the womb, He had all of our “oddities” planned out for His glory and good purposes (even the weird salt shaker thing). So we do not have to fear being ourselves! Our differences are good!
Another thing that needs to be considered is my location. Where was I when I was having this acid-tripping, essential-oil conversation? The church. The church is supposed to be the most welcoming place on earth because it is made up of believers who are the embodiment of Christ.
We should represent the fact that all who are in Christ are welcome and accepted into the Father’s presence because of Christ. But sadly, the church is too often the place where we feel the least welcome and accepted; often it is the hardest place to be ourselves.
Before Christ, we were all equally sinners standing before a holy God, and none of us could make ourselves acceptable in His sight. When we are in Christ, the just debt for our sins has already been paid by Christ (we have no room to boast), so we are all on level playing ground.
Before Christ, our sin was the great equalizer; in Christ, His blood is the great equalizer. We all needed it for our covering. In Christ, there is neither Scythian, Jew, slave, or free, but Christ is all in all.
So our churches should be welcoming to everyone, not just people “like us”. When done right, the church is the one place where people from all walks of life, ages, socio-economic statuses, ethnicities, music preferences, types of dress, interests and hobbies can come together and LIKE each other.
The church should be the place where people who wouldn’t normally “hang out” together come and LOVE each other because their lives share a common theme: redemption. They love and accept each other because they have been loved and accepted by the Savior.
So while I need to filter everything I say through the Word (Is it helpful, edifying, truthful, not slanderous, does it give grace to those who hear, etc?), I am free to be myself and say quirky things that come to my mind.
As long as I am not giving license to my “old self”, which has been crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be brought to nothing and we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6), I am free to be the person I have been made to be in Christ (Ephesians 4:24).
And if you are a part of the church, how are you doing at loving that quirky person who isn’t exactly your cup of tea? Who knows? You may not be theirs, either. Maybe we won’t be BFFs with everyone we talk to, and that’s OK.
But we can love each other and even have cordial (dare I say, “uplifting”?) conversations because we were both called to the same body. So don’t be afraid to be the genuine, exceptional person God made you to be just because someone doesn’t “get” you. Be yourself.
You never know who may need the blessings that your personality brings.