Christian Living Calling Idols

Stop Being Yourself—Your Personality Might Betray You

Remember high school yearbooks? I’m convinced you do. I’m convinced you have a few packed away in a closet, basement or attic right this moment. And I’m convinced that if you cracked them open you’d see heartfelt scribbles from people you can hardly remember now telling you that you’re “da bomb” and asking you to promise them that you’ll never change. Like, totally, never ever change for anyone. 

Never change? Can you imagine? Because obviously you were the best version of yourself as a frothy, insecure teenager. (Insert conspicuous eye roll.)

Thank God you found a way to grow beyond who you were in your high school yearbooks.

Imagine yearbook you doing the things you do now. Imagine yearbook you upholding the responsibilities that are now on your shoulders. Yearbook you would crumple like a paper IKEA lamp under the weight of your life today.

I think that’s why we hold on to these paper time capsules with obnoxiously-embossed covers. They’re more than the stuff of shoeboxes past. They represent that we’ve grown. We’ve changed.

And change is something we were created to do.

The scriptures are a great source of encouragement, but they never pat us on the back for just being ourselves. The Bible is like a beautifully broken record asking us to change, and change, and change.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:18‬)

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

Change is good. If we are living a life without change, we are likely living a life without Christ. He is the author of change, and everywhere he goes he is changing people. And it’s not a side hustle. Your life transformation is his full-time business.

If my personality is preventing me from flourishing into a healthy, whole, and fruitful Christ-follower, I need to change.

God has both a purpose and a plan for your life, and there is a difference between the two. His purpose for your life is to change you. His plan for your life is how wants to do it.

The daily grind. The big adventures. The marriage, the kids, the career. That’s all part of his plan to fulfill his greater purpose—to change you.

He wants to make you more like him and less like you. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. Us humans are flawed, and if we’re going to live the lives we were born for, a divine metamorphosis needs to take place.

The Personality Myth

One myth among people who follow Jesus is that God just wants us to be ourselves. We rise, we fall, we succeed, we fail, but as long as we can emerge from it all having “stayed true to ourselves”, we win.

We call it authenticity, but might it actually be a kind of idolatry?

Ian Cron, personality expert and Enneagram junkie has this to say in his book, The Road Back To You:

“The word personality is derived from the Greek word for mask (persona), reflecting our tendency to confuse the masks we wear with our true selves, even long after the threats of our early childhood have passed. Now we no longer have a personality; our personality has us!”

That’s the nature of an idol. We think it’s a harmless, even natural part of our lives, but it’s actually controlling us.

Eventually we’re so far out into the swampy marsh of our personality (who we think are) we can’t find our way back to reality (who God has created us to be). So we just stay there—stubborn, stuck, and stunted in our growth.

He asks us to change. Not because he doesn’t like us, but because he loves us.

Our personalities have become the center of our lives, and we dare not betray them. We enshrine our personality traits like shiny knick knacks on the shelves of our anxious little hearts. We see them as non-negotiable—if we even see them at all. And we use them to reason our way out of things that would nudge us out of our comfort zones.

There have been times when I’ve held so tightly to my personality that I couldn’t see that my personality actually had a hold on me.

Am I a perfectionist, or am I just afraid of rejection?

Am I an introvert, or am I just too lazy and afraid to forge new friendships?

I could question myself like this for hours. The point is that my personality is not nearly as loyal to me as I am to it. It can and will betray me if If I’m not careful.

If my personality is preventing me from flourishing into a healthy, whole, and fruitful Christ-follower, I need to change.

And it begins with submitting myself to the fact that “being myself” isn’t always the best way to be. And, even more revelatory, the fact that “being myself” isn’t always the true me. (More on that later.)

The Personality Fix 

God isn’t asking us to be robots. He created each of us uniquely, and he treasures our gifts, quirks, and even our imperfections. All of these things, when aligned with his intentions, help us to see him and love him more. But when the alignment is off, he asks us to change. Not because he doesn’t like us, but because he loves us.

Our personalities have become the center of our lives, and we dare not betray them.

The true gospel says, “Come as you are, but don’t expect to stay that way.” We can’t use God’s unconditional love as an excuse to remain unchanged.

I have no science to back this up (yet), but I contend that most of what we think is our true personality is really just a hodgepodge of mimicry, fears, and coping mechanisms that we’ve accumulated over the years. Usually motivated by our pursuit of comfort or social acceptance. But living comfortably is not a Christian virtue, and the Bible condemns all forms of people pleasing.

Thomas Merton said, “Before we can become who we really are, we must become conscious of the fact that the person who we think we are, here and now, is at best an impostor and a stranger.“

Let’s repeat that once more, for good measure.

“Before we can become who we really are, we must become conscious of the fact that the person who we think we are, here and now, is at best an impostor and a stranger.“

So, maybe it’s time to stop being “yourself”. Who the culture expects you to be. Or who your fears have made you to be. Maybe it’s time to start being who you were created to be.

When we say, “That’s just not me”. God responds, “It may not be you, but it’s me, and that’s what matters.”

Instead of saying, “I don’t do these things because that’s not what I’m about,” we should be saying, “I do these things because that’s what God’s about.”

That’s real authenticity. Being true to yourself only works when the real Truth is at the center. That’s where our true identity is found.

In this season, I’m on a personal journey of self-discovery. To clear my shelves of all the personality idols and replace them with the character and calling of God. To sit in his presence and search the depths of his word to find him there in the center. So I can be centered. A person whose authenticity isn’t about me and my truth but rather about God and his.

And as for you, I hope you forget what the yearbook scribbles say. You go ahead and grow. You go ahead and change. Don’t hold yourself hostage to your personality. Become who you were born to be.

This is part three of the Idols series. You can read previous essays in the series here.

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