Be true to yourself. Follow your dreams. Search deep inside for the real you. This is confusing stuff! Sure, these sentiments sound nice, but they are so subjective that you never know when you have arrived at your actual self. We all come to terms with this question of who we are many times throughout our lives. There are various methods people use to define their identities. Some use a job title or education status; others use their popularity or physical attractiveness. Sadly, some identify themselves by their mistakes in life and never seem to move past them. Then there are wealth, health race, family, neighborhoods, fame, and talents that define us…
C.S. Lewis challenges us to stop looking. In fact, he wants us to try to forget about ourselves altogether. We are looking for the wrong person, he says. Have you ever noticed when someone is trying too hard to make a good impression on you? Sure you have, and if they realized it too they probably ended up asking, “Can we start over?” Lewis says that the same principle applies here. He also compares it to the artist’s quest for originality. The truly unique are those who are just pursuing truth.
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life, and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end…and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will truly be yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in (1).
This wonderful wisdom from C.S. Lewis is way different from the self-assertiveness our culture seems to promote. All too often, we are encouraged to find ourselves by chasing some dream or ambition. We can do a killer job building up for ourselves an image that we would like to portray to the world around us. But all this is a veneer covering over what is really there. I think that we all struggle in this area.
This is an excerpt from my book, Housewife Theologian. It comes from chapter four, Hear Me Roar, p. 73-75.
(1) C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; repr., New York: HarperCollins, 1980), 226-27.