The Problem with Being Yourself

December 4, 2016

David Sorn

What’s wrong with just “being yourself?” Aren’t you perfect just the way you are? Find out what’s illogical about this sort of thinking.

The Problem with Being Yourself

December 4, 2016

David Sorn

What’s wrong with just “being yourself?” Aren’t you perfect just the way you are? Find out what’s illogical about this sort of thinking.


Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church

Let’s go back in time…before Jesus came to earth.

Let’s say it’s 500 BC…and you are a young peasant…and while growing up, you were always dreaming of one day being a court jester.

You’d lay in bed at night envisioning the king & queen doubling over at your hilarious jokes or entertainment.

But your parents would like you to grow up and help their blacksmith business…like their parents…and their parents’ paernts.

What are you going to do?

This feels like a making of a great Disney movie.

And will you be happy if, to safely provide for your family and help your village…you decide to continue on in the family name and be a blacksmith??

NOOO!! Right? No way!

Live your dreams!

Actually, 2,500 years ago, you probably would have been completely happy with that decision to keep the blacksmith business going.

Before Christianity swept the world, for most people, their self-worth came when they put their family, group, or tribe first.

Your own desires or emotions weren’t actually valid…what mattered was the group.

And when you said, my duty, is to better our people or family, that’s how the community bestowed worth on you

You found worth through your DUTY to the group…not living out your dreams.

In fact, there wasn’t even really a concept of individualism back then.

But along came Christianity, and we started to come to realization that one’s own emotions and feelings weren’t all bad.

Christianity was what taught us that each person is unique…and that’s okay.

And therefore, your family doesn’t need to have absolute control over you as an individual (who you marry, if you work in the family trade, etc.)

The Bible taught us that we should each look at our own unique giftings…and follow, first & foremost…what God wants…not just our family or tribe.

We have Christianity to thank for that.

It vastly changed how we look at ourselves as unique individuals.

But like many of the other topics in our “A Chair with no Legs” series, the modern world has taken this idea, run with it, and sawed off the foundational legs in the process.

In our American culture today, our identity and self-worth isn’t found in what we do for our family or society, or even God, but in what we do for ourselves.

Timothy Keller says that “our society’s main heroic narrative (in books & movies) is that of the individual standing up and being true to him or herself OVER society’s opposition.”

This was an idea that starting gaining a lot of traction in the 1960’s and now in modern day has taken a complete life of its own.


(Switch to “The Problem with Being Yourself slide)

You can recognize it by its many mantras and sayings:

“Just be yourself”

“You’re perfect just the way you are”

“You just be true to you…and don’t listen to what anyone else says”

And over the last 10-15 years, one of the kingpins of American culture has become: Authenticity

The advice of “just be yourself” is the most commonly given advice for your career, love life, or just life in general.

Your goal, we’re told, as an American, is to live out your ideas, your true self, your dreams…no matter what anyone else says.

In fact, what’s happened is today’s culture has taken the idea of “being yourself” even further than the culture of the 90’s.

I believe movies are often the best expression of what the culture believes or is about to believe.

In 1992, when the genie told Aladdin, “just beeeee yourself,” the idea of the film was, “You can’t pretend to be someone else (another prince) …just be you…and she’ll like you. You’re uniquely you.”

That’s not really all that bad.

But fast forward to today… where our little girls sing “Let it Go” from Frozen.

Which, the lyrics are:

“Let it go…no right, no wrong, no rules for me. I’m free. Let it go”

It’s the idea that we should look inside of ourselves and whatever we find is…okay.

As a culture, we’re taking a decent principle…even kind of Christian principle…that God has made us each uniquely different…

And we’re turning it into something that says something more like: “Look inside…and whoever you are…is right. So just be yourself. You’re right”

We’ve taken the chair that Christianity brought in and ripped out the legs

For many today, the idea of “being yourself” has become an excuse to do whatever we want to do.

I often hear people say things like, “I just need to be myself. And who I am…is someone who tells it like it is. Yeah, I know that people say I rub people the wrong way sometimes…but I just need to be me”

Do you see how the idea of “being true to myself” has evolved?

“Being me” is no longer just being your unique personality…”being me” has become something that entitles each of us to live in any way we choose because…that’s me.

Let me give you another example.

One of the reasons the divorce rate is astronomically higher than it was say, 60 years ago, is connected to this idea.

Now, I don’t mean to upset you, if you are divorced.

There are plenty of divorced people in this church.

And God loves you just the same.

But listen to the reasons that have become so common for divorce nowadays…or even adultery.

We say, “I just need to be true to myself…and I’m falling in love with another person. So I have to follow my heart.”

Or, I’ll hear people say, “I was in a marriage where I just wasn’t myself anymore. And in order to be true to me, I needed to leave…to find myself again…who I really am”

We’re saying, “What matters most is me being true to ME”


So let’s see if we can break this down…because this kind of thinking is absolutely everywhere. It has saturated society.

I want to walk you through 4 reasons why it’s illogical to make moral decisions in your life based on the moral code of: “Just be yourself”

(Slide 1)

What’s Wrong With Just Being Yourself?

#1: It wrongly assumes the highest moral code is to be true to yourself.

I spent a part of the week forcing myself to read articles and journals like, “10 ways to love you and be true to yourself” in order to understand the worldly perspective even better.

And I kept running across phrases that said something like, “Remember: The only person you need to be true to in your life…is yourself”

A lot of us got told things like this all the time as kids… “Just do what’s best for you!”

But let’s recognize, this is completely antithetical to Christianity

The moral code of Christianity (how we should live) is governed by this:

(Matthew 22:36-38) – NIV

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

See, what the culture is now saying is “put yourself first,” 2nd others, and 3rd (if you want) bring in God.

And Jesus is saying that the highest moral code that we can live by is to flip that around: God first, then others, then yourself.

So if your marriage is falling apart:

The 1st question is: What have I vowed to God?

The 2nd question is: What have I vowed to this person

And 3rd question is: What about me?

But we’ve erased the first two and said, “But what does my heart say?”

We say, “I must, above all things, be true to myself. And I can’t be myself…if I’m unhappy in this marriage…then my code tells me to leave…because I must be myself…I MUST be happy!”

But this is a completely unChristian (and ultimately if you play it out…unhelpful) way to live

Society would crumble…no police…no military…no teachers…no doctors

If we all live by just be yourself and do what’s best for yourself…we’re in trouble

The 2nd reason why we can’t just make moral decisions on how we should live based on the principle that we should just “be ourselves”

(Slide 2)

What’s Wrong With Just Being Yourself?

#1: It wrongly assumes the highest moral code is to be true to yourself.

#2: It wrongly assumes that you KNOW what you want.

Buried in the catchphrase of “just be true to yourself” is the ASSUMPTION that we must actually KNOW ourselves.

Don’t you have to know WHO you are…and WHAT you want…to even be true to yourself?

And yet, many us don’t really know ourselves…or what we want. .

A recent national survey of 18-24 year olds revealed that only 43% of them have a clear picture of what they want in life and only 30% know WHY they are here.

How can you be true to yourself if you’re not even sure of what you want?

On top of this…some people have such terribly poor self-awareness and self-assessment.

Do you know people like this?

They think they’re awesome at something…but clearly they’re not.

They say they want something, but even you know that’s not what they really want.

Barna Research tells us that 91% of Americans believe that “the best way to find yourself is to look within yourself” and 86% believe that “To be fulfilled in life, you should pursue the things you desire most”

The problem is “What I desire” isn’t a CONSTANT.

What I want at 34, is not what I wanted at 24, or 14.

Even the idea of “just be yourself” strikes me as somewhat odd to a culture who’s so focused on the journey of life.

If we only lived by the code of “just be yourself,” you would completely stunt yourself.

What if I, say at 14, was completely dedicated to the moral code “of just being myself?”

I’d say, “I don’t care what my parents, or teachers, or coaches think…I’m going to just be myself”

I’d never mature beyond 14 if that was the case.

Because maturation is when you take something in…that was contrary to how you once thought you YOURSELF should live, and you change

Like we said last week, these phrases are often more defense mechanisms than they are well thought out philosophies.

(Slide 3)

What’s Wrong With Just Being Yourself?

#1: It wrongly assumes that the highest moral code is to be true to yourself.

#2: It wrongly assumes that you KNOW what you want.

#3: It wrongly assumes that we’re not sinful

One of the major flaws of making moral decisions by just “looking inside and being myself” is that it forgets (or ignores) that we’re sinful people.

We shouldn’t trust ourselves so readily.

The Bible is clear on this.

Romans 3, For all have sinned.

(1 John 1:8 – NIV)

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

And if we have sin in us (selfishness, deceit, you name it), how can we trust ourselves to know that what our “self” wants…is the right thing?

If we say, “I know everyone around me wants me to stop drinking so much…but…I just need to me…and I’m the type of person who likes to have a good time!”

We can rationalize just about anything.

Surely the answer to our moral choices on how to live isn’t to just look inside and decide what we (ousSELVES) want to do.

This is why the Bible has such a more accurate assessment of humanity.

There’s a sinful monster in us called our “flesh” and I can’t trust what I crave and desire as always the “right” moral choice.

About a decade ago, writer AJ Jacobs, who experiments with his life for journalism, did an experiment where he spent a few weeks trying to be radically true to himself…and that meant verbalizing his completely honest thoughts.

And so he told an editor he would like to sleep with her

And informed someone who wasn’t his wife he’d like to date her

He informed a friend’s 5 year old daughter that the ladybug in her hands was in fact, not napping, but dead.

And he learned the spiral…of being yourself….because yourself is sinful.

If we realized how sinful…and selfish our “true selves” really are (that the heart is wicked and deceitful like the Bible says)…would we really desire so much to just follow our own hearts?

What are we really doing anyway when we say that we should all just be ourselves?

And again, remember, Christianity validates the idea that we should each live uniquely.

If you’re quirky, be quirky.

If you’re an introvert…be an introvert.

But when we say that we should each just be ourselves and not listen to what anyone else says…aren’t we kind of saying that we’re God?

I hear people say all the time nowadays, “No one else knows what’s best for you. You know what’s best for you.”

Aren’t we forgetting someone?

Listen, I don’t think that my 3 year old twins know what’s best for themselves.

I assume I know better.

And at the same level, I should assume, that an infinite almighty God, knows what’s better for me than I know for myself

And so it’s shortsighted to think that my path to the right decisions is to just look within, and listen to myself.

And even if I did look within, I won’t discover some autonomous, mythical untouched self.

Let me explain.

(Slide 3)

What’s Wrong With Just Being Yourself?

#1: It wrongly assumes the highest moral code is to be true to yourself.

#2: It wrongly assumes that you KNOW what you want.

#3: It wrongly assumes that we’re not sinful

#4: It wrongly assumes that are feelings aren’t rooted in the culture

We have this false assumption…that our “self” is autonomous

That it’s hidden within us…untouched by the world.

And at moments of difficulty, we can reach within ourselves, and say, “Self, you’re not influenced by everyone else in this world…what do YOU think I should do?”

But that’s not how the “self” works.

Let me explain with an illustration I once heard from Timothy Keller

Imagine a northern European man in 800 AD.

He has two dominant feelings in his life…that he treats very differently.

#1: He loves to smash and kill people.

Now, in his warrior culture, he will he will identify with that feeling.

He’ll say, “That’s me! That’s who I am. That’s how the gods made me. I will express that!

#2: The other feeling that he feels is a same sex attraction. .

Now regardless of what you think of that issue, this illustration works the same.

But to that feeling, he’ll say, “That’s NOT me. I don’t what that is…(perhaps a temptation from outside me), but I will control and suppress that impulse”

Now, imagine a young man in urban America today.

Let’s say he feels the same two inward impulses (to smash and kill…and same sex attraction)

Both of them are strong and hard to control for him.

He’ll look at the aggression and say, “That’s not me. I’m not going to embrace that as ME. I don’t know what that is. I will seek help on suppressing it through therapy or maybe anger management”

But for his sexual desire, he’ll say, “That’s me. That’s who I am”

What can we learn from this?

The idea that we have a “self” that’s not influenced by the culture…is a mirage.

When we say, “I just need to be true to me…”

What we’re really saying is, “I just need to be true to what my culture has already influenced me to believe”


(Back to “The Problem with Being Yourself” slide)

So clearly, there are some major holes in the logic of trying to live life by just “being yourself”

But I think, perhaps, we should ask the question, “Why are so many of us trying so hard to live out that principle in the first place?”

What are we looking for??

Part of the reason we’re so OBSESSED with the idea of just being yourself is because (like any other human of the past) we’re desperate for acceptance and validation.

And if we can say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, the way I choose to live is perfectly fine…I don’t need to CHANGE no matter what you think…I’m fine just the way I am…then we can finally feel like we’ve made it…right??!

We’re accepted!! Loved!

We’re accepted…by…ourselves??

This is the root of it.

What we want…from birth…is to be loved…and accepted.

And because the world is a dark place sometimes…we find that being loved…isn’t as easy as we once hoped.

And so we decided to attempt to shortcut the process.

We thought, “We’ll just ‘be ourselves’ and ‘love ourselves’ simply for being me…no matter what we do”

It sounds really nice. Really nice.

But unfortunately, you cannot get love, acceptance, and significance through SELF-recognition.

You can’t say to yourself, “I don’t care that everyone thinks I’m a complete jerk, but I love myself”

That doesn’t work. Seriously.

People constantly say, “I don’t care what everyone else thinks…and yet everyone’s so offended and in therapy because of what everyone else thinks”

We can’t escape the idea that we desire love and acceptance from other people…no matter how creatively we try.

It’s how God designed us.

God didn’t design us to find acceptance in ourselves. That wasn’t His plan.

We find identity and significance from outside of ourselves.

And our actions prove His design.

Like we said in weeks 1 & 2…don’t listen to what people say…watch what they do if you want to see what they really believe.

Do we care what people think about us or are we 100% okay with just being ourselves and living our own way?

Social Media is probably exhibit A, B, and C here.

If we all are supposed to be okay living however we want…why do we place so much emphasis on the world validating (or liking) everything we do?

Wouldn’t me just being myself be enough?

Why would I need any validation from the world for living out MY dreams?

Wouldn’t I be fine if no one knew?

But yet, we all need this validation from someone outside of us to say we are of great worth.

And the greater worth of the person telling us so, the more powerful that recognition is to our identify formation.

For example, if you’re a teenage gymnast, and your teammate tells you that “you’re pretty good”…you feel good about that.

If you’re coach tells you that “you’re pretty good,” you feel great about that.

If Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles tells you that “you’re pretty good,” you feel incredible.

And this brings up an interesting question.

Perhaps, we’ve been going about this thing all wrong.

What if we stopped looking to ourselves for validation?

What if we gave up on the idea that the path to finding love & acceptance is learning to love and validate everything about ourselves?

Because, let me tell you…it’ll never work.

I don’t love everything about me right now.

And I don’t want to love or validate everything about me right now.

It’s no wonder we’re so depressed.

We inwardly despise some of our thoughts & actions all while the culture is telling us to love everything about ourselves.

What a confusing reality to live in.

But the Christian view of you and the world makes a whole lot more sense.

When we put the legs of the chair back on…it works.

I believe the Christian story…is liberating

You’re not going to find your identity by looking within…or even outward…but upward.

Our value…our love & acceptance…it’s in Him.

He loves us just because…and He sent his son for us.

The world says something similar to this, but it’s lost the legs.

The world says, “just live your own way…be yourself…because you are perfect just the way you are”

This is a knock-off of a Christian truth.

I’m not perfect. I’m mean sometimes. Full of worry & anxiety at others.. Somedays I’m a great parent, other days a mess of one.

I’m not “perfect just the way I am”

But God loved me…despite those flaws.

(Romans 5:8) – NIV

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And God STILL loves me…despite my continuing flaws.

But am I perfect just the way I am?


God loves me and sent His Son to die for me despite the fact that I’m NOT perfect…not BECAUSE I’m perfect.

And that’s a much better truth than the world’s

Now, I don’t have to lie to myself…and say, “I’m just perfect the way that I am…when I know deep down inside...there’s no way that’s true”

Now I can say, “I’m not perfect…but in Him…I’m forgiven. In Him, He loves me anyway”

And I don’t have to lie to myself and never change my life because of some phrase that says “I’m perfect just the way I am”

I’m not.

But because He loves me…even with the way that I am…he’s going to start working in my life and help me change all of those messy ways.

Despite it all, He’s going to do great things in my life.

Do you see the liberation of truth?

And now I can truly find acceptance and love.

Do you remember what I said about the gymnast?

“The greater worth of the person validating us, the more powerful that recognition is to our identify.”

If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, the God of the Universe has just said, “In your imperfections, I forgive you. I, the Lord of All love YOU”

Let go of trying to validate yourself…I’ve got something better for you

Christians, your worth is not found in who you are…but in WHOSE you are.

And you’re His.

Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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