“Many are the plans of a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21
If you were among the upper crust in Europe in the mid-1700s, you may have heard of a man of high society, the Count of St. Germain. He was an artist, musician, scientist and diplomat. He may have been descended from royalty. He was also considered a great philosopher. But in reality, St. Germain was, in retrospect, a fake.
He went by many names, including Marquis de Montferrat, Comte Bellamarre, Chevalier Schoening, Count Weldon, Comte Soltikoff, Graf Tzarodgy and Prinz Ragoczy. In order to keep people from guessing his real origins, he would make incredible claims, such as being 500 years old, or that he married an heiress from Mexico, or was a priest, or a famous alchemist, or a spy. He had great wit, and a grand personality, and people loved to be around him, and yet nobody really knew him at all.
St. Germain was everything to everyone. And history records few facts of virtue about him. Indeed he spent his whole life pretending to be someone he wasn’t, and so his life itself is nothing more than a string of tales, none of which come with much merit and any truth. The Count of St. Germain’s story rings true even today, as many men live their lives pretending to be anyone but themselves, and spending little if any time being or becoming the men they were meant to be.
“Be yourself,” we often hear as advice from distinctive individuals who are themselves. What does it mean to be yourself, and how does this make you a person not only of genuine personality, but of real and lasting impact? Consider:
You must pursue a life a purpose.Any sense of yourself begins with living for a defined purpose. The majority of men live their entire lives without discovering a deep and abiding purpose for living. Often men who become fathers simply pass down their sense of purpose to their children—“my reason for being here is to be a husband and dad.” Those are noble pursuits, but realize that you were born with unique talents, gifts and abilities, and have been afforded specific resources and live in a given location, all of which can help define your true-life purpose.
You are on the earth for a reason. To impact someone, to invent something, to change something, to lead a group, an effort, a campaign, to know something, to share something. Many men feel adrift in life—in control of some elements of living, but at the core, unsure of what they are really supposed to be doing. If this sounds like you, consider stepping back, seeking wise counsel, praying, reading, spending time uncovering what your life is all about. And here is a great clue provided by Proverbs 19:21—don’t look for what you are supposed to be or do. Rather, look to what God may want you to be, or accomplish through you.
You must be confident in your convictions.Just beyond a sense of purpose is a sense of confidence. This comes from a thoughtful understanding of your core beliefs. While purpose is what you live for, convictions define how you live. This is not political ideology or social justice cause selection (though convictions can look like political stands at times). Rather, these are the central facts upon which you base and stake your life. That Jesus is real and so are heaven and hell. That family comes before career. That you cannot compromise your word for any short-term gain. While purpose is what you live for, convictions define how you will live.
“The purpose of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” Proverbs 20:5
Many times our convictions lack confidence. A downturn in the market, a sudden death in the family, an unexpected challenge with a child. Circumstances can eat away at convictions if they are not rooted in something more than a general feeling of being “good”. In our convictions we must continually ask God to reinforce these beliefs as our faith grows and is tested. Confidence in our convictions comes not when we become sure of our own strength, but when we rest confidently in the strength of the God we serve.
You must be infused with integrity.A man of integrity carries through on his promises and commitments. Often a man of integrity would also be called a man of his word. Ultimately being yourself means you are true to yourself. When you are true to yourself, you are also true to others and to the rest of the world around you. Integrity is not a set of selfless actions. It is a heart that acts selflessly. Thus, integrity cannot be practiced. It must, rather, be infused into the man. This too is a spiritual act. We rely on Christ in us to change our heart and to bring His integrity into our life through His Spirit.
Being yourself is not simply relaxing into your character traits. Funny, charming, passionate, aggressive, ill-tempered, altruistic, conservative—these are just icing on your cake. You are also a dynamic person, changing over time as your interests, experiences and culture change. Being yourself is bigger than these things. It is knowing why you are here, how you want to live, and then having the integrity to live out those beliefs daily, in your marriage, family and workplace. Being yourself is not so much a personality exercise as a spiritual one. Resolve then, to determine purpose, stand on conviction, and live with integrity. Then it will be said of you, he was one of a kind.