WARNING: You are Acting Like Yourself!

Every year when I see students sign each others’ yearbooks I laugh out loud. Literally. I don’t think something is funny and type “LOL” while I sit stone-faced in front of a computer monitor. I have to force myself to stifle the sounds coming from my mouth as I see one kid after another write “Don’t ever change” or “Just be yourself” on the blank pages.

Really? That’s your wish for your friend? Really?!

You want him to remain an unemployed person living with his parents? You want his biggest contribution to the world to be dislodging the chips stuck in the vending machine? You want him to be in an on-again/off-again relationship based entirely upon gossip for the remainder of his life? You want him to give words of wisdom like “Have fun and don’t worry” to everyone he comes in contact with? You want him to need constant encouragement to get out of bed on time, maintain personal hygiene, and be civil when interacting with others? That’s the kind of person you want him to be for the foreseeable future?

That advice doesn’t really hold up to a literal interpretation. You know why? Because it is a universal truth that teenagers are inherently flawed—as is everyone else. Even so, I doubt any of us really want to remain the person that we are right now. I know I don’t.

Don’t worry; this post is not a rant about the short-sightedness of teenagers. They would know the error of that kind of thinking were it not for the utopian social high school experience portrayed on the Disney Channel. They would realize how ridiculous that mindset is if it weren’t for adults erroneously telling them that “this is the best time of your life” only because said adults don’t remember the frustration level that accompanies adolescence.

I realize that “don’t ever change” is intended as a call to individuality. I realize that the instruction to “be yourself” is affirmation to your friend that he is on the right track and needs to pursue his own desires rather than allow our cookie-cutter society to mold him into something opposed to his natural bent. And all of that sounds good until you realize the truth:

Individuality is the mantra of the masses.

Want to be just like everybody else? Talk about how you are an individual.
Want to fit in with the crowd? Just be yourself and you’ll be exactly like them.
Want to be part of the herd? Act like no individual choice is superior to another.

The reality is that in order to make up for our past sins of exclusion and repression, our society has completely ignored the necessity of a standard—a normalcy—an average person. This post is also not going to be a defamation of 21st century American culture and ideology. I am pretty sure that this short article (well, it was intended to be short but it just keeps getting longer) won’t change anyone’s mind about his particular world view.

Twice I’ve said what the point of this post is NOT without ever clarifying what I’m trying to say, so here goes: I am calling every Christian to examine himself for traces of dangerous individuality.
Not the form of individuality that causes you to take personal responsibility for your own life and actions.
Not the brand of individuality that makes you a unique individual created in God’s image.
Not the individuality that gives you a free will to choose your own actions.

I must lose the kind of individuality that causes me to think that my values, beliefs, and opinions are valid simply because they are my own.

I’m pretty sure that if Jesus were signing yearbooks He wouldn’t write “Don’t ever change!” or “Be yourself!” He would scribble something like “Deny yourself! Take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus wants me to allow someone else to control my thoughts and opinions. He wants me to be a follower. He wants me to abandon my own thinking and selfish desires to become a person completely controlled by His Spirit.

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About Jeff Postlewaite

high school principal since '07, father since '04, teacher since '03, husband since '03, sound tech since '96, UVA fan since '92, gadget junkie since '89, Christian since '88, Giants fan since '84, golfer since '83, brother since '83, human since '81

Posted on October 4, 2012, in Biblical Thought and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Well said. The same thought can be applied to those who claim “That’s just how I am” or the recently-popularized “I was born that way.” Yes, that may be how you are, but that does not mean that you should stay that way – become better.

  2. Thanks, Jeff. I enjoyed this even more than usual, which is saying something. There are times when “be yourself” is good advice:

    (1) the times when it really means “don’t be a hypocrite” (something teenagers especially hate, since they are often accomplished ones themselves) and

    (2) the times when it really means “don’t settle for less than your best.”

    And I think that “don’t ever change” is often a desperate plea for the unconditional love that we humans, especially as teenagers, long to have from each other and can truly find only in God. He’s the One we can really say that to–“Don’t ever change.”

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