We live in a world where we must live lives of duplicity in order to conform to the social norms. If you are not how people say you ought to be, you’re tempted to look into the mirror of your surrounding culture and conform to the reflection you see. Any instance during which your true self is revealed is a moment of vulnerability. They are threatened because you had the courage to do something they can’t or won’t do: express who you are. In an attempt to dismantle your freedom of expression, they will try to suppress the true self you expose in order that they may be more comfortable with themselves.
It is a breath of fresh air to see a man or woman freely express him or herself without inhibition. The moment a person does that, their heart is exposed in an instance of vulnerability. For example, when someone is in a discussion and they give their honest opinion on a given matter, they are being vulnerable with you as they are sharing from the rawness of their heart. It takes a colossal amount of emotional energy to freely express your heart with someone, but it only takes a microscopic response to derail that person. I have seen many youth express their hearts to a leader, but all too often I’ve seen the leader derail them, saying things like “no, you’re wrong” or “how could you ever think that?”
If you ever spend time around kids, they seem so happy because they are free to express themselves without the fear of pleasing those around them. As we get older, it is easy to stray farther and farther away from our true selves. We allow the words of others to slowly and subconsciously turn us against ourselves. Over time, as we look in the mirror, we become uncomfortable and bitter at the things society has deemed gross, ugly, weird, different, odd and worthless. The very things that God has given us as essential characteristics of who we are also are the very things society tries to rid us of and make us dislike about ourselves.
God has given each of us unique characteristics that make us different from others. Whenever you expose what makes you unique, people tuck their tail between their legs because they are afraid of what’s different. We tend to look at others and suppress their unique qualities in an attempt to find comfortability in conformity. The issue is that conformity gives a false sense of unity and oneness. We may look like we are all extroverts who dress casually and follow all the rules, but unfortunately perception does NOT equal reality. Conformity suppresses our true self. Instead of being yourself, you become a reflection of society. Conformity dresses us all up in the same wrapping paper. It doesn’t change what is underneath the wrapping paper, but gives us the perception that we are united by our sameness.
Maybe you are introverted, don’t like big groups of people, don’t care how you dress, have a weird sense of humor, and are single. These things are all great, but society would say otherwise. According to society, introverts are weird; people who don’t like big groups are “anti-social”; people who don’t care how they dress are lazy; humor isn’t funny if they don’t laugh when you do; and you should be insecure if you are single. Though society might frown on these attributes, God does not because they are essential to what makes you unique. When we believe the lies society tells us, we start internalizing those lies and live lives that reflect the very things we have come to believe about ourselves. Fortunately for us, the truest thing about you is never what others say about you, but rather whatever God says about you.
God doesn’t say extroverts are greater than introverts, loud people are better than quiet people, those dating are better than those single, vocational ministry jobs are better than average nine-to-five jobs or anything else. God says we are all different, but those differences help to develop unity. 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 says “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”
God made you unique. There is no one who is, was, or ever will be exactly like you. Look honestly in the mirror, accept who you are, own it, learn to love it, and live a life that reflects who you are not what society says you should be. Just remember that life is too short to live as anyone other than you. So don’t live lives of duplicity in which the only person you’re able to be yourself with is you, but rather live a life that tells the world “here I am; love it or hate it.”