Being Yourself

meI had breakfast with an old friend this morning, and while the subject of our conversation was mostly about our lives and what God has done in each, there was a moment when he said something that’s stuck with me all day. Maybe it will stick with you too.

“My goal,” he said, during a conversation about work and environment, “is that the same guy who lives at my house is the same guy who goes into the office. I don’t want to have a ‘home self’ and a ‘work self.’ I want to be me in both places.”

Isn’t that awesome? It’s got to be one of the top five or six things I’ve heard/read/seen lately, and I’ve been hearing/reading/seeing a lot.

I want to be me, wherever I’m at.

For some people, that statement’s pretty stupid. Or at the least, self-evident. After all, who else would you be? Cher? But for some of us, who’ve been conditioned that the bifurcation of ourselves is not only permissible, it’s necessary, the idea of being able to fully ourselves regardless of environment is beyond belief.

We may call it compartmentalization, we may call it professionalism, we may call it a thousand different things, but the bottom line is that a great many of us are used to being limited in some way, shape or form in some areas of our lives. For some us, it’s the decorum of our workplace; our sense of humor, our religious beliefs, our personal lives, might not be welcome conversation topics. And while you certainly don’t want to sit down with your company CEO and make fart jokes, if your company doesn’t respect all of you, then they don’t respect you, period.

For some folks, this is best seen at church. The Sunday Face that so many people put on so people won’t decode the pain they hide, or the differences between their Monday-Saturday life. While I’m not saying that a life of sin is permissible for a Christian, there are some things that some Christians make into MAJOR sins, while conveniently minimizing others.

(In some churches, sin – like beauty – is in the eye of the beholder. Just saying.)

So to avoid issues, some people pretend to be something they’re not. This defeats the purpose of the church, to be a community where people come and grow with Christ and each other. With so many people hiding struggles and problems, just to fit into the expected decorum, there’s nothing to talk about. Everyone just pretends like things are good with them, thanks, and isn’t that painting of Jesus just lovely over the antique table in the hall?

Authenticity. It’s so crucial.

I want to be me. I have a strange sense of humor. I make the occasional statement that people take issue with. I like nerd stuff, I prefer tennis shoes over going barefoot, and I would rather drink a gallon of gasoline than eat a cobb salad. And at 37 years old, I’m tired of having to be HomeJason and WorkJason.

I just want to be Jason. Take it or leave it.

Being yourself shouldn’t be as hard as it is, but courage can change that. Of course, some of us find courage easier than others. Some of us don’t have a choice. Here’s hoping you find the courage you need to be yourself, wherever you are.

The Maze of You

“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There’s no one on earth that is you-er than you!”

– Dr. Seuss

I sometimes wonder if I’m insane. I have a tendency, a nasty, weird tendency, to think of myself as still a child. As a youngster. As someone who isn’t taken seriously as an adult. I see myself, quite often, as the same shy little dork from high school.

It’s debilitating.

Seriously. It is. There’s nothing worse than not seeing yourself as you really are – whether you’re deluded too far to the right of your ego (narcissism) or too far to the left (pathological insecurity). And I think a lot of us suffer from it; even the people you think are immune.

Wouldn’t that explain our self-justifications? Wouldn’t that cover some of the puerile and selfish things we do? Doesn’t that put your neighbor into a clearer perspective?

We’re all adults who act like we’re kids trying to act like we think adults should.

Maybe not all of us. I know most older folks (let’s say 60 and up) seem to have a solid handle on who they are, what they believe, how they’ll live and what they want their life to leave behind. But getting to that point – arriving at full-consciousness of being adult – seems to take longer. Maybe it’s just a generational thing. Or maybe it’s some other sort of factor; maybe it has to do with home life or school districts or Yellow #5 or the strange way some cheese that should be solid and easy to cut steadfastly refuses to be that way. I don’t know.

What I do know is that, as The Head and The Heart sing, sometimes “I get lost in my mind.” Trapped in a maze of me. Maybe you get trapped in a maze of You.

If so, there’s hope.

It’s slight and crazy and almost certainly to scare the fool out of you, but it also creates a warm center in your heart that can’t be extinguished by the fiercest of chills. And it is this: do something that’s not centered around you.

I know – weird, right? I mean, how do you do something that’s not centered around you? You’re you, for Pete’s sakes? You can’t escape yourself! If you do anything, You have to be a central figure in the action!

But being a central figure is not the same as being the central focus. It is entirely possible for you to be intimately involved in something and still be invisible for all intents and purposes. If you simply act and then walk away – do for the sake of doing, without explanation or context or self-aggrandizement – you become nothing more than an actor, nothing more than just a piece in someone else’s story.

And you end up realizing just how grown up you really are. You discover that the maze of You isn’t as confusing as you would think.

It’s been said that the end of you is the beginning of another. Fair enough, but I think you could also add that the center of You is found when you put others at your center.

Seems like I recall a certain Nazarene said something similar about 2,000 years ago. And it still holds.