In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius gives some fatherly advice as he bids his son, Laertes, farewell. He gives him several rules to live by, but one stands out: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” This month I want to encourage us as a congregation to consider a Biblical alternative to the way our culture follows this advice and increasingly exalts what is labeled “authenticity,” or “self-actualization.”

More and more, we are encouraged to “be who we are.” We are told to resist calls to conform our lives to external standards. To “know thyself” is the foundational commandment and the determination to act in light of who we are is the guiding principle behind our morality and ethics. As a pastor, I can assure you that all of our inter-personal struggles are the direct result of people being true to themselves; of people acting exactly like who they are; of people ‘to their own selves being true.’

The Bible offers us a radically different perspective. Culture tells us to “be who we are.” The Bible tells us to “become who we should.” In 2 Corinthians 13, Paul gives those who are his children in the faith a very different farewell. In verse 11, he says,

“Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection…”

In Romans 7 he laments the fact that his conduct is very “authentically” that of a sinner saved by grace in whom a constant struggle between doing good and doing evil takes place:

“What a wretched man I am!,” he writes, “who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Now there is a man who knows himself! But he desperately desires not “to his own self to be true.” Rather, he wants to be true to another – he wants to conform his life to the pattern established in and by Jesus Christ. He aims at perfection and calls us to do so as well.

This month let’s look at the big pictures of our lives. Are we “being who we are,” or are we “Becoming who we should?” Being who we are is as easy as falling off a log. But, like falling off a log, it is always accompanied by the scrapes and bruises of this life. Becoming who we should is in many ways exactly the opposite. As a rule, it is harder to do the right thing, but it brings with us the heavenly rewards of a clean conscience and our growth in Christ-likeness. Who will we listen to this month – Shakespeare speaking through Polonius, or the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul?

Your Pastor,
Bob Bjerkaas

  1. January 4, 2018

    Thank you for this wisdom. I very much adhere to the or I must say strive for the ” aiming for perfection” of Paul.

  2. January 8, 2018

    I am very appreciative of this article because I made a statement in my presentation, which was mocked. However, my heart was convinced God was using me to call to order the deceit of heart toward the children of God.

    Maybe within my presentation, I may have stated the bible teaches “to your own self be true” and a pastor mockingly said, that is Shakespeare not the bible.
    Although, I laughed it off and stated, he may have stated it, God made it. I always believed our true identity through the holy ghost is within our being what He is making us.

  3. March 9, 2018

    This blessed me by helping me resolve stabilize I want and direct my self and my life. My directing should be under the constant direction of Almighty God. Thank you pastor for making this available. It has changed my mind for the better. Keep up the good work. From your sister in Christ

  4. March 9, 2018

    This blessed me! It had helped me resolve an internal conflict. It strengthen me towards stabilizing unresolved feelings to better direct myself and my life. Your words were full of truth and clarity unlike I’ve never known.Thank you pastor for making this available. It has changed my mind for the better. Keep up the good work. From your sister in Christ

  5. September 26, 2020

    Thank you Pastor for this article. I will not make the mistake of saying the Bible said it. It is also good to know who said it as well as your reference to Corinthians. Blessings

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