Becoming Your Best Self

October 30, 2015 at 2:42 pm Leave a comment

Travelling by train to and from Sydney from Westmead I get to see all kinds of people. If it is the morning rush hour then it is commuters and some young people going to school. If it is later older people are more likely to be on the train. If I have to catch a very early train to go to the airport I see sleepy workers. If I am returning from an interstate trip on a Friday or Saturday night I am likely to see dressed up young people at Central Station. Coming from western Sydney means many ethnic people: Indians, Koreans, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Pacific islanders, Sudanese. I am a minority as an Anglo person.

It strikes me that all of us, no matter who we are, are challenged to become ourselves – our unique selves.

Young people have to discover their interests, abilities, qualities, vocation etc. People in their mid-years have to mature and use their gifts and abilities for the common good. Older people have to continue to adapt to changing circumstances, both personally and socially, and hopefully age gracefully. Becoming ourselves does not come easily. It is something we have to work at to become who we want to be. We need to become comfortable with our body type, our personality, our particular qualities, and feel confident and happy with whom we are.

Becoming who you potentially are is not a goal that is easily reached. Yet it is surprising how early certain characteristics reveal themselves. Grandchildren very early show whether they are extraverts or introverts for example and have particular qualities and personalities. Other qualities and abilities only emerge by trying them out. An aptitude for sports or music only shows itself by becoming involved in that activity. For adults especially it is in testing and difficult times that our characters are revealed.

We are all social creatures. So who we are emerges in the family, with friends at school and university, with colleagues at work. It is through interaction with others that we become ourselves. Who do we admire? Who do we dislike? We might be influenced by a particular teacher not only for their teaching. Growing up we might adopt the look of a sports, or music, or movie star we like. Perhaps we do not want to become like our mother or father if the relationship was strained. We consciously do not want to take on their qualities, yet so often despite ourselves we do.

The Christian faith says we are all made in the image of God. All of us can reflect something of God’s infinite qualities. We can also go against these, deliberately turning from God which is what sin and evil is. We can be like rebellious children. Making mistakes however is not sin. Trying things inevitably means getting it wrong at times. What matters is the spirit in which we do things. If we consciously seek to undermine others then it is sin. Doing so limits others and detracts from whom we could be if we are to become our best self.

It is possible to move towards becoming our best self. Or we can move towards becoming our worst self. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that becoming and living as a disciple of Jesus was not easy. He was critical of those who thought being a Christian was undemanding. He said it was a life-long challenging task. In a similar way, Catholic theologian Karl Rahner wrote: “A person is always a Christian in order to become one.” It is an ongoing discipline to become the person God wants us to be. Following Jesus, the perfect image of God, shows us the kind of life we are to seek to become. He aligned himself to God and the reign of God. He demonstrated compassion, wisdom, self-giving, confidence, sureness about himself and his mission. He was not intimidated by anyone yet did not dominate others. His Spirit can help us become more Christ-like in how we conduct ourselves. This does not detract from who we are but will assist us to become the person we can be.

In order to allow Jesus’ Spirit to really influence our lives we need to become very familiar with the accounts of Jesus. Yet it is more than simply knowing the stories. We have to enter into them in such a way that they inform how we respond, how we react to situations in our lives. People can also segregate their lives such that their personal religious life is separate from their public living. That is not what God desires. God wants us to become our best selves. This means having an integrated personality that holds together our personal, innate characteristics, and those that we have developed for our social roles. Our faith should influence all our decisions and actions as it did for Jesus.

If we are to be our best selves in our context, it also means knowing our world and our circumstances. This involves keeping in touch and also critiquing what is happening around us. I try to do this on the basis of my values drawn from my Christian convictions. In the present context, that means taking a critical stance in relation to Australia’s ventures into war zones. It leads me to want refugees and asylum seekers to be treated with more consideration. It means wanting all people to be treated with dignity and respect, especially those who are vulnerable. So no child should be abused, no woman psychologically and physically battered, no one treated badly because of their ethnicity.

Everyone should be given the opportunity to become the person God wants them to become. No one should be restricted to be less than they could be. If people are enabled to become the person God wants them to be, reflecting the image of God, the likeness of Jesus, then we are all better off. We will benefit from the unique persons we each are and collectively will have a more just and compassionate society.

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