Don’t Be True to Yourself

By Casey Chalk Published on November 30, 2018

Written along a guardrail near my home in big black letters is the aphorism, “Choose Your Own Path.” Michelle Obama exhorts: “Always stay true to yourself.” Journalist Katie Couric observes: “I’ve always tried to stay true to my authentic self.”

Everyone says it. It’s one of the shared beliefs of our time. And we have to admit, it sounds good. Yet that’s often the very worst thing we can do. I know this because I see it every day with my three children. And I’ve seen it in myself.

The Consequences

Recently my eldest daughter, contrary to my warnings, rode down our street, got off her bicycle, took off her helmet, and tried to do a handstand in the middle of the uneven, gravelly pavement. She was being true to herself, just like Michelle and Katie say. She got nasty cuts on her face. It was especially unfortunate that she had her school pictures soon afterwards!

She’ll get over it, and no one else was hurt. The older we get, though, the greater the consequences of choosing our own path. Consider divorce.

People get divorced for all manner of reasons, some understandable. I bought our leather couch from a couple divorcing because the wife couldn’t deal with the husband’s PTSD, acquired after a year serving in Iraq. Others divorce to escape abuse or protect their children. I’m not talking about them.

Other divorces I’ve witnessed fit quite well under “choosing your own path”: one spouse was cheating on the other; one spouse fell out of love with the other; one spouse wanted to focus more on career than family. They wanted to be “true to themselves,” and felt that required them to stop being true to their spouse.

What happens when one or both parents choose their own path? However bad a marriage may be, the bad effects of divorce, as sociological research have demonstrated, are legion. Children exposed to divorce are more likely than their peers in intact marriages to suffer from social or psychological pathologies. Adolescents with divorced parents are more than twice as likely to drop out of high school compared to children from intact families.

Adolescent girls with divorced parents are three times more likely to become teen mothers, while their male counterparts are twice as likely to spend time in prison. Kids who grow up with a divorce more often repeat grades, get school suspensions, commit delinquent acts, receive therapy, and attempt suicide.

American Sacred Cows

Americans choosing their own path by divorcing “to be true to themselves” have devastated our nation, socially, psychologically, and financially. Yet most Americans believe free divorce must be permitted, precisely because to limit it infringes on our freedom to “be ourselves.” Many believe this about other social ills, like abortion, pornography, and drugs. Those have the same destructive effects as easy divorce. We ultimately destroy ourselves — and others — when we use our freedom to violate the moral law.

To return to my children, their freedom to follow their own path quickly devolves into destruction. When I leave them for only a few minutes — say to use the restroom or take a phone call — anarchy soon ensues: screaming, hitting, crying. Each of them have his own path and none of those paths are perfectly good ones to follow.

If my wife and I let them “stay true to themselves,” they would eat terribly, stay up late, and watch movies all day. This would damage their physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Have you ever considered that grade school-age children, though superior to every animal on the face of the earth, would starve to death in short time without adults’ careful supervision? Or kill each other. Or fall victim to predators. Yet when children are guided to follow not their own path, but the loving wisdom of their parents, they flourish. They learn how to groom themselves and feed themselves, and, in time, to think for themselves and provide for themselves. They learn courtesy and kindness. Because my wife and I feed our kids healthy food and limit screen time, they’ve learned to love fruit and beg to be read books.

Necessary Laws

Christians know that the moral law is God’s law. In relation to God, we are all children. Not just in the sense that he loves us as his children, but in the sense that he knows what’s good for us better than we do. In original sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. We each do that whenever we sin.

God’s laws don’t limit our potential. They don’t make us false to ourselves. They give us a necessary boundary to live a good life, just like those I try to create for my children. I tell them “do this” and “don’t do that” because I want them to grow into their true selves, the self God created them to be. I want them to know that the God who loves them has already mapped out their own path for them.

God’s laws help us stay true to ourselves by telling us who we really are. That, Holy Scripture tells us, is far more than we could ever conceive for ourselves. The Psalmist writes, “I say, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you” (Psalm 82:6). Elsewhere St. Peter tells us, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Only when we choose God’s path will we discover our true selves, reflecting that divine light as sons of the living God. 

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  • apollo

    Our goal is to once again become the image of God.

    • Man already has the Image of God, and it is not based on attractiveness or health.

      • apollo

        God is Spirit and with the fall of mankind we lost His image.

        • God is the uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover. spirits are created, contingent beings that have no body but have a rational soul.

          Man is Made in the Image of God. This cannot be lost as it is intrinsic to us.

          If your “god” is a spirit, then you are worshipping demons, full stop.

          • apollo

            There are three ways in which God communicates with us . The scriptures, the Holy Spirit and His people. Those of us who are born again know God through the Holy Spirit. So is that indwelling Spirit a demon?

          • If you honestly think God is a mere spirit, and you literally talk to this spirit in your head, and this spirit tells you that you can do whatever you want with free license as long as you take the Lord’s Name in vain to do it:

            yes, you are talking to a demon.

          • apollo

            You tell me , us who God is.

          • God is the uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover, the subsistent act of “to be” Himself.

            A spirit is just a creates, contingent being like you, that has a Rational Soul like humans but no body or any material presence whatsoever.

          • apollo

            Because I have no clue who God is and only experience Him through His spirit I can not add to this thread. I found this analysis interesting : “…professor Christine Hayes considers the possibilities and is tempted to read “Ehyeh asher ehyeh” as God’s reluctance to tell Moses his name:

            Moses says: May I say who sent me? He asks for God’s name. The
            Israelites will want to know who has sent me, and God replies with a
            sentence, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh.” This is a first person sentence that can
            be translated, “I am who I am,” or perhaps, “I will be who I will be,”
            or perhaps, “I cause to be what I cause to be.” We really don’t know,
            but it has something to do with “being.” So he asks who God is, God
            says, “I am who am I am” or “I will cause to be what I will cause to
            be.” So Moses, wisely enough, converts that into a third-person formula:
            okay, he will be who he will be, he is who he is, “Yahweh asher
            Yahweh.” God’s answer to the question of his name is this sentence, and
            Moses converts it from a first-person to a third-person sentence: he
            will be who he will be; he is who he is; he will cause to be, I think
            most people think now, what he will cause to be, and that sentence gets
            shortened to “Yahweh.” This is the Bible’s explanation for the name
            Yahweh, and as the personal name of God, some have argued that the name
            Yahweh expresses the quality of being, an active, dynamic being. This
            God is one who brings things into being, whether it’s a cosmos from
            chaos, or now a new nation from a band of runaway slaves. But it could
            well be that this is simply God’s way of not answering Moses’ question.
            We’ve seen how the Bible feels about revealing names, and the divine
            being who struggled and wrestled with Jacob
            sure didn’t want to give him his name. So I’ve often wondered if we’re
            to read this differently: Who am I? I am who I am, and never you mind.”

          • God is the uncreated, uncontingent Prime Mover. Names are given by contingency or by a creator. God names things into existence or you are contingent on your parents so they get to name you.

            Since God is uncreated and uncontingent, therefore God has no name as a name is a limit placed upon something with a means of cataloguing the created, contingent to keep track of them. One cannot limit God by asking Him who He is, as God is the subsistent act of “to be” Himself and cannot be labeled as that would be a limit upon Him

            That you do not know who God is, is how a demon was able to so easily oppress you.

          • apollo

            Well on that note I will bid you good day

          • Seeing how demonically oppressed you are (and even showing signs of possession like your claims of preternatural ability), I would get a second opinion on what you wish on anybody.

          • apollo

            sir you are a very offensive man.

          • Considering who you serve, I take it as a great compliment that a demon is displeased with me.

          • apollo

            Judge not lest you be judged.

          • I am using practical judgement, also called Reason, to determine you are spouting frightening, satanic bs as you lose your grip on reality by the post.

            God has already spoken on what the occult will do to.

          • apollo

            You can not use human reason to judge spiritual things.

          • Reason is made possible through the Rational Soul man has. Yes, I bloody can use my reason to determine if something is demonic, and I just have.

            Because you refused to use your reason, you got yourself into this mess you want others to suffer with now.

          • apollo

            I no longer have a will of my own. I serve my master Jesus Christ. It is HIS will that I live.

          • I know you have no will of your own, as that is what selling yourself to the devil does. you also cannot use your will if you do not know Good as Good and you clearly and proudly do not.

            Of course you do have free will and can always take yourself back as the devil cannot take anything that does not belong to him even if you claim to hand it over.

            Once more, you have claimed to me you are the bearer of satanic “gifts” that read like you took them right out of an rpg book.

            Then you claim to have preternatural abilities and that some “spirit” gave you the Apostolic Authority of St Paul.

            Honestly, how reprobate are you that none of the things you post seem wrong to you?

          • apollo


          • Is this real the flippant attitude of someone who has (in the past two days alone no less) claimed Apostolic Authority for himself, claims to have preternatural ability, claims to have satanic “gifts,” and claims to have fallen for a demon tempting you with a lie of you being the “chosen one.”

            That you cannot recognize the evil in your own admissions tells me that you are already gone. May all of your curses be sent back to whence they can and may all the demons you try to commune with be sent back to the pit.

            Crux sacra sit mihi lux
            Non draco sit mihi dux
            Sunt mala quae libas
            Ipse venana bibas
            Vade retro satana
            Nunquam suade mihi vana

          • kenneth20754

            Well, hold on. Our Lord himself told the Samaritan woman at the well that God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and truth. It is certainly true that much of the created realm is also pure spirit, but we mustn’t lose sight of the being of the uncreated God.

    • kenneth20754

      The image of God in fallen man has become defaced, shattered even, but it remains. It has not been lost. Our end in Christ is to have that image restored (repaired, if you will) to its original condition.

      • apollo


      • apollo

        2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

        • kenneth20754

          New in the sense of renewed, improved, even transformed into something greater that still has its roots in what came before. Consider Romans 12:1-2 in which Paul exhorts us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

          Genesis 9:6 reminds us of the special seriousness of murder by observing that God made man in his own image, an image that had to be retained in order for the seriousness of murder to remain. And in James 3:9 we read, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”

          • apollo

            Philippians 2:12-13,
            Paul writes, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed –
            not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to
            work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works
            in you to will and to act according to his purpose.”

            This verse has some bite to it.

          • kenneth20754

            Some bite, yes, but you’re going to have to elaborate on why you think it applies to the matter under discussion, because I’m not seeing the immediate connection.

          • apollo

            I was keyed into this verse you posted. Romans 12:1-2 in which Paul exhorts us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

            As I grow older I am very aware of how important it is to listen obediently to the Holy Spirits leading .John 21: 18

            “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and
            went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your
            hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” I now understand what this really means.

          • kenneth20754

            Ah. Okay. All perfectly true. Not much to do with the condition of the *imago Dei* in fallen man, but okay.

  • Grn724

    Following one’s own path can easily be confused with doing as one see’s fit. Doing as I want is not, in any measure, following my own path. I am being selfish and self-centered, egotistical, greedy and often very lazy.
    Deadly Sins! Katie Couric speaks of her authentic self, but does she have a clue what that truly means? I doubt she does. She revels in her security she is right about all things concerning Katie Couric and through delusion and justification spreads her authentic self all over everyone else.
    Lively Virtues! This is where one can get a glimpse of what our authentic self means. God created all out of Love. We are His image and likeness, when we follow Him. There is little to doubt when we trust and rely on our Creator to lead us to the promise land.

    • Lisa

      Die to self…that’s what my husband and I do daily to bless each other and our kids.

  • Ray

    Yes we all have a nature we could look at as being our self, yet many of us also recognize another truth, living within us. It’s the voice of reason that is true, the still, small voice that bears witness to the word of God we have heard, and that may be our true self, the new creation within us, for we are a part of him. (Christ in us, the hope of Glory) Our real self is the part of us that is connected with God. We have all betrayed that part in the past. I hope we all learn not to.

  • Ray

    One of the best pieces of advice given to me was “Listen to your body.” This in relation to whether or not I should eat something I desire, when I know I am already overweight is a good lesson to learn. Am I really hungry? Do I feel empty? Do I feel full? Does my body feel bloated? Does my body really feel weak? If so, how much so? Does my body feel like it is consuming fat, or does my body feel like it’s converting what I have already eaten into more fat?

  • Lisa

    Great article! I loved the example about his little girl before picture day being “true to herself” and doing handstands. How blessed his daughter is to have a loving, caring father who is actually raising her up in the way she should go…rather than letting the culture raise her.

  • Anne

    The enemy is so, so smart. He continues to cast doubts about the Father, and who we are to Him. In fact, that enemy is so, so smart that he cast unbelief and pride-of-self across the sheep who continue to search for their “authentic”selves. All through the late 60’s and moving forward, we were encouraged to consider ourselves supreme, above and beyond our spouses and any children we may have produced, as well as other relationships we were involved in. Wewere encouraged to “be happy”, and never mind the cost that that happiness cost others. Sadly, that happiness turned out to be an illusion, didn’t it, without Him? We made ourselves into little gods. And THEN, modeling that perverted thinking, we made our children
    into replicas of the perversions of their parents. We, in part, submitted to the enemy, rather than the Father, and we are responsible for creating this mess. Prayer and God’s grace can see us through this Sodom and Gomorrah….if we ask.

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