“Like me or hate me, it’s your choice. I won’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I am who I am, and I won’t change.”
I see things like this everywhere online, and I hear so many girls talking this way. It’s not always the same phrase, but it’s the same attitude. Many times, it’s something that is mingled with a mantra for girls to not worry about how they look – which is something that I do think is way over-glorified in our culture…but does that make it ok?
I’ve seen this attitude take friends of mine down very dangerous roads, and I’ve watched people I’ve known destroy their own lives because of this very attitude. It’s not just an innocent way of thinking to help girls not to think badly of themselves. It’s a deadly snare. (Just understand, however, that this is not the same thing as having Godly standards, and refusing to compromise on them.)
At the root of it is pride. Pride is so deadly because it cuts us off from being able to receive any correction or help. We stubbornly plow through anyone who stands in our way, whether or not they were standing there to try to keep us from blindly leaping off of a 500 foot drop. Pride numbs us to the importance of there being an absolute right and wrong, and it blinds us to sin. So often, with this kind of pride filling our hearts, we have decided that the problem is with everyone else – not us. Everyone else is being judgmental and un-loving. We don’t want to believe that there could be anything wrong with how we are living…and honestly, we really just don’t want to have to give up the things that we enjoy doing.
This attitude says that there’s both good and bad in us, if someone doesn’t like what we’re doing, we shouldn’t have to change; if they don’t love all of the bad along with the good, then they don’t really love us. It says that, unless we are living how we want to with freedom, we are living a lie. Of course we don’t want to live a lie! But at the very heart of the gospel is the need for change, humility, boundaries, and yes – even submission…in fact, even cheerful submission! Our sin nature loves to do what is wrong…and set free without bounds to do what it wants, it would be like a wild tiger- savage and dangerous. Without limits, we will always lean toward doing things that will destroy us. This is why God gave us commandments! Not because He is mean or doesn’t love us – but because He does love us, and He wants to keep us from getting hurt! It is so important that we don’t live un-checked lives, doing whatever we want without anyone saying a word to us. Though to many people that sounds like an ideal society, in reality it would be a terrible, broken society full of hurt and destruction….much like our society currently is. In fact, it is because of this attitude – this pride, and not wanting to change our way of living or listen to instruction – that our society is the way it is!
But the gospel is about changing our whole lives! God gives us new hearts, and along with those new hearts, He gives us new desires and goals. He also gives us commands that we need to follow to keep us in the right way. Are we living a lie if we learn what God’s commands are and obey them – even if that means changing the way we act and think? Are we living a lie because we aren’t doing all the same things we used to love doing? Are we living a lie because we don’t want to swear any more or watch horror movies or live in the depths of depression? No! Of course not! Jesus gives us new hearts and desires – that means that the old things must change, and DO change…and it is good! Every change that Jesus brings to our lives is SO good! The truth of the matter is that our old, sinful way of living is the lie! We wallow in the muck of our sinful lives for so long because the devil lies to us and tells us that it’s fun and it will be fulfilling if we just stick around…and he will even tell us that there’s no way out – all of which is a lie! But Jesus came so that we could truly live in freedom and joy – freedom from our slavery to sin and the lies of the devil! And His laws show us that there is, in fact, a right and a wrong…which I am so glad for! If I didn’t have guideposts, I would be making a mess of my life and the lives of everyone around me – of this I am very certain. Even if God hadn’t told us specifically what things were wrong, we would still have to deal with the consequences of them. But He has told us! And we should take that as a great mercy toward us! The fact that we can know what things are wrong and going to cause pain and trouble if we persist in them is amazing, because when we know, we can do something about it! Because Jesus came to rescue us from our sins, we don’t have to stay stuck in them – the very things that are destroying us!
Now, you might wonder, “But do I have to change every little thing that people think is wrong with me? Do I have to try to measure up to what people think I should be?”
The answer to these questions is sticky and can be different depending on the particulars of circumstances…so try to hear the heart of what I’m saying in this limited amount of space that I have. The short answer is: no. Ok, now here’s the longer answer:
First of all, you don’t really have much power to change yourself anyway. You’ve probably noticed that. Without the Spirit of God to fill you and change your heart, you really won’t be able to live as God requires. Now, we do have to choose to obey God’s commands, and not to do the things that are wrong. But it is God’s Spirit that gives us the power to resist temptation and to do what is right. And God wants to change the things that are sinful in us, and make us more and more into children of light. Though you probably won’t be able to be perfect any time soon, Jesus actually calls us to strive for it; instead of being apathetic and not caring how you live or how much sin is in your heart, Jesus tells us to set our sights on being perfect, so that we are always pressing forward to be more and more like Him, and so that we don’t get stuck in a place of complacency and thinking we’re simply ‘good enough’. (Matthew 5:48)
Now, God has given you your parents to help you to grow up right, and you are called to honor them, and what they ask you to do….and when they point out an area of sin or weakness in your life, you need to accept it humbly and bring it to God in prayer and ask Him to change you and help you to live in a way that is a blessing to others – especially them. If you heed their warnings, chances are that you will save yourself a lot of trouble and heartache. What about those who aren’t your parents? If someone (particularly a fellow Christian) comes to you with a concern, listen, and ask God for humility and His help to not get offended. It is so easy to get offended by someone bringing a concern to you that means that you did something that wasn’t quite right. But listen to them, and bring what they say to God in prayer. They might just be right – often times it can be easier for someone standing on the outside of situations to see more clearly what is wrong and what needs to be done. And if you do find that they are right, even if it stings at first, you may save yourself much pain by listening to them and heeding their advice.
At the same time, your job is, first and foremost, to be seeking God daily, and to be striving to live according to HIS standards…and finding your identity and confidence in Him (not in trying to measure up to everyone’s ideas of what you should be like), and then getting out and telling people everywhere about Him and what He is doing in your life, and what He can also do in their lives. When you are doing those things, everything else will fall into place, and there is no pride in that way of striving after God, because we know that, without God doing miracles in our hearts, we would be lost…and without His power strengthening us, and picking us up, and sometimes almost having to force us to do what is right, nothing good would come out of our lives. We know who we really are, and where God is calling us to be…and we are humbled that He has such patience with us. We will begin to see that who we were was not something to be proud of…but instead, change in our hearts and lives is to be sought after and embraced with gladness! We get to see this more and more clearly as we let Him change us, and make us new. And this ‘making us new’ is not a one-time-and-it’s-over thing, it’s an ongoing, daily work that will continue for the rest of our lives. Start here: Take some time today to ask the Lord to show you any areas in your life that aren’t pleasing to Him – things that He wants to change in you, if you’ll let Him – and then begin to pray about those things, and ask God to take them out of you and to change you so that you can bring more glory to Him. This life is not about us doing what we want or feeling good about ourselves; it’s about bringing glory to Jesus, and showing the world that He is beautiful!