To be one’s true self may be about the most difficult task we human beings have. We have to figure out who we are to begin with, and then we have to live that out in a world which will often try to dictate that we should be something or someone other than what we are.
Now before I take one step further down the path, I should probably say a word or two about what I am not advocating here. I am not saying we should be selfish. I exist in the world, and therefore have some place in it, but the world is not about me. I’m a character in the Great Story–and the primary character in my chapter, but it’s pretty clear that much has come before and much will likely come after so I best not let my head inflate too much. Much of the world’s trouble and suffering comes from folks mistaking their story for the Big Story instead of just enjoying their part.
Nor am I encouraging anyone to be an ass. Sometimes we mistake rudeness for authenticity. “I’ll say or do whatever I think and I don’t care what anyone thinks about it” may have had twelve or fourteen valid applications in the history of the world, but generally is misused as license to be jerk or start a war or some other destructive behavior. Often it comes from acting out of our wounds–and our wounded selves are not our true selves at all. Whatever or whoever you are, acting like a jerk isn’t a good thing. We should never kid ourselves by thinking that dressing boorish behavior up in principles makes it less boorish. It really just sullies the principles.
Ok–now that that is out of the way, on to the good stuff.
I have been often asked lately by people who know me personally why I ceased being a Christian minister. I’ve given different answers to different people based on what I thought they could handle, but probably the most honest, simple answer is that the words “Christian minister” carry so much baggage that they had begun to to suffocate Jeff Johnson. I was losing myself underneath the weight of those words and the human expectations that came with them. So I had a pretty clear choice to make–be the person God made me to be or be the person others thought I should be. When I considered it that way, the choice was pretty obvious which way I should go.
You see, words are pretty potent things. They woo women, flatter men, and start wars. They take on a life of their own. The words we use as labels to describe ourselves can become especially powerful things. The more we and others use those words the more they can paint a facade of expectation over who we really are. Wear any facade long enough and it can get hard to tell where the facade ends and our true selves begin. So probably the first step toward seeing one’s true self is to step away from the labels–even if only for a bit. Who are we when we shed all the words we and others use to describe ourselves? Who’s underneath all those layers of verbiage?
I certainly can’t answer that for anyone but myself. Nor do I have to. That alone is a powerful liberation. I don’t need to try to live anyone’s life but my own. That is more than adventure enough, and oh how I am coming to enjoy the abundance that comes with not living out other peoples thoughts for me, nor trying to impose mine on them. Don’t get me wrong–I love hearing other people’s thoughts and stories and I love sharing mine. But ultimately only you can live your life and only I can live mine, and neither of us will do a good job of that if we are trying to be someone else.