If you’ve been paying attention, you probably aren’t surprised to learn that “To Thine Own Self Be True” is not a Bible verse. It’s pretty similar to a phrase we looked at the other day: “Follow Your Heart”. We learned that our hearts are deceitful things. You might already recognize today’s phrase, if you (like I) studied Shakespeare; it is spoken by Polonious in Hamlet. What differentiates this phrase from “Follow Your Heart” is that it takes a step away from the “feelings and emotions”. If we are being true to ourselves, we are making choices according to our own desires, not choosing things because other people say those things will benefit us. (To give a cliche television example, not becoming a doctor just because your parents are doctors.) So…is that concept Biblical?
That depends. It depends on if the things you want are the same things God wants for you. We might think we know ourselves, and then 5 years later find that the college degree we thought was wonderful has landed us in a job we hate. Or we may find that we loved cooking or making music when we were choosing to do it, but we no longer enjoy it when we have to really work at it to put food on our table. To be really true to ourselves, we have to turn to someone who knows us better than we know ourselves. The Bible says that God knew every part of us, and every day destined for us, before we were born.
Psalm 139:13-16 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
It also teaches that we don’t really understand or see everything fully:
1 Corinthians 13:11-12 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So, if we don’t really know ourselves, and we don’t really see the world clearly, how can we be true to ourselves? And should we even be trying to be “true to ourselves” at all? To really be true to ourselves, we need to align our “self” with God (who knows us best) and His plan for us. We can do that by spending time reading our Bible (or listening to good Biblical teaching):
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Then we can learn to be really true to ourselves, not by doing what we want to do, but by doing what God would have us do:
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.