Hi all! This has been quite a difficult issue to write about so bear with me.
I think it’s fair to say that we all have a desire to be known, to be loved for who we are. However because of this, I think many of us are led, sometimes, to pretend that we are something we’re not. We get trapped in, and feel a lack of freedom regarding the way we act in front of people, and in certain groups. Sometimes this is harmless, obviously you wouldn’t engage with others at a funeral in the same way you would at a birthday party. But sometimes, real issues arise when we don’t just alter the way we apply ourselves to different people and situations, but we actually change or hide important parts of ourselves-to suit the expectations of those around us. Sometimes this can be as serious as compromising on our values, morals, beliefs- and other times it may be suppressing aspects of your personality that you believe may encounter rejection or disapproval, regardless of the situation you’re in.
I know that for me the latter is something I have struggled with, as I’m sure others have too. I think that it’s not that I fear others will reject or disapprove of certain things I may say or do because they are in themselves ‘bad’. Rather, I think it’s just because they are different from what they have expected of me, based on past experiences. Let me give you a practical example. In my early teens I was always fairly quiet and introverted around other people. Thank God that over the years I have discovered more about who I am, and my unique value to him and that my confidence and sense of inner security has increased dramatically.
The way I have behaved however always seem to lag behind slightly. Even though I know that I am valued for my uniqueness, and everything that makes me “me”- sometimes it takes a lot of courage to embrace that freedom and let the real you out… To align your public self with your private self. Sometimes it means being prepared to meet others’ surprise, confusion or scepticism when they see that you’re no longer behaving in the manner that they had always expected of you.
For me, going to university has been a perfect opportunity to discover the freedom of not having people hold misled pre-conceptions about who you are. (Admittedly I think this is definitely an over generalisation) but I do think there is something freeing about being in a new environment, meeting new people and getting involved in new things. For me, it has helped me to gain the confidence to embrace my real self, closing the gap between my public self and private self.
But sometimes it’s not that easy, sometimes we have to embrace our changed selves, and defy others (sometimes year old) expectations of who we should be. I have found, for example, that I have grown and changed a lot at university, and sometimes when I return home I feel that there is a gap between who I am, and perhaps what others expect of me. Recently I came home and felt unease over the idea that people at home wouldn’t see me as the same open, fun-loving person as people do at Uni. So I prayed for opportunities to allow people to get to know me better, change and all, and felt really blessed by the time I was able to enjoy with others.
But (and there is always a but) sometimes I start to worry! This happened recently and I started to ruminate over the past. I started to define myself by how I believed other people would see me as a result of things that have happened along the road. In fact at some points I even started to see myself in this way too! Although I tried my best to “deal” with these thoughts and knew in my head that they were damaging, that didn’t make the message I received a few days later any less powerful.
I was given a message by a church leader that I have only spoken to a couple of times. He had written the message down on paper, and it had two pictures. One was of a shell being opened up to reveal a pearl inside, the other a treasure chest opening up to reveal treasure. The message said, “There is so much value and treasure in you. Both the treasure chest and the shell are opening up, revealing the beauty God has put inside you […] “the shell and chest are opening up as a result of increased freedom and confidence”. He went on to write (and this is where it gets really exciting) “There may be harmful mindsets from the past that will try to close and conceal your real self […] Allow God to free you from lies that seek to steal, kill or destroy what he has won for you…”. Isn’t that amazing!
(Side note: This happened during an evening meeting at church, where one of the leaders suggested we ask God for messages for people, or “prophecies” . I love prophecies because they remind me that God is a living God who cares for, and is interested in the lives of each one of us. Amazing!)
I think that it’s worth reminding ourselves that we don’t just change from one year to another (#new year, new me) but that we are changing all the time! Learning more about ourselves, others, and the world around us. As Christians we are called to change. We have the opportunity to learn from God’s word, to ‘renew’ the way we think, and become people who live lives that are centered in love, as modeled to us through the life of Jesus. I think it is so important to embrace what God says about you, and to constantly renew your inner self by spending time with God. Don’t shy back from embracing the person he is calling you to be. And don’t give in to the enemy’s ploys that try and make you believe that the “real” you is that person who always messes up, or who has always been known as the one who does X, Y and Z. Embrace God’s goodness, grace and faithfulness and take hold of the person he is calling you to be, both inside and out.
“This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace”.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”.