This is Who I Am

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I was “born this way.” This is just “who I am.” Such overly simplistic maxims are the new moral measuring stick.

And why not? If we are unsure of an objective goodness (God), then why not use your self as the measuring stick to measure your self?

So the false logic continues, if I was born this way, then I must be okay being this way. If this is the way I am, then isn’t this the way I should be? I mean, after all, God doesn’t make mistakes right? So if this is how He made me, then it must be good and true and beautiful.

We use this to justify just about anything. It’s dangerous. We may be born innocent, but we’re not born perfect. And we are born with a stain of original sin and into a fallen world that distorts us. We battle our concupiscence – our tendency to sin – with victory and casualty. We are scarred and influenced by everyone else’s fallen nature and the imperfect world we grow up in. It’s safe to say that “who I am” is clouded in a bit of mystery and haze. It’s the great quest of our lives, really. Not who am I now with all of these bruises and baggage, but who am I deep inside and who should I be. Who is the perfect person hidden within the muckity-muck, beyond the imperfections of my body, the scars of this life and the sin of my soul?

And the great journey of life is clearing all of that away to reveal the clean image and reflection of the creator. So accepting just “who you are” in a superficial sense is not only spiritually dangerous, but it’s boring. And it’s a cop-out.

We are born large, unfinished rocks. If we measure who we are by how we’re born, a large, unfinished rock we shall remain. But beneath the flawed rough surface is a magnificent and beautiful statue, waiting to be revealed.

It’s a lot like elephants, actually:

A fool-proof method for sculpting an elephant:
First, get a huge block of marble, then chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.

And so it is with uniquely you. The idea is not to end up looking like everyone else, of course. It’s to end up looking like you. The suffering and the trials of life are what help us chip away everything that doesn’t look like “us.” It’s called sanctification. Becoming the best version of yourself. It’s what God sees when he looks at you.

But the hard part is how do we know what we’re supposed to look like? How do we discern between what makes us uniquely beautiful and what are fatal flaws? For that, we need an objective guide post. We need some standard of beauty and goodness that is outside of ourselves. We need something that is right where we are wrong.

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Craig Berry May 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Good post Matthew.

I’m no theologian, but I think the statement “born innocent” might need clarification. I believe we are innocent of ‘personal sin’, but not free of ‘original sin’. I could be wrong.

Any one remotely in touch with pop culture is familiar with the anthem ‘Born This Way’, and I suppose many people use it as a personal mantra.

What a cop out and cr*ppy philosophy! Let’s see if it holds up under scrutiny…

– It’s OK to indulge in copious amounts of chocolate – I was born loving the stuff.
– It’s OK to engage in lustful thoughts and actions – I’m wired that way.
– It’s OK to yell at and berate others who don’t agree with me – that’s just how I am.

Yes…God gave us taste buds, so that we may enjoy the fruits of His Creation.
Yes…God gave us sexual desires, so that we may “fill the earth and subdue it”.
Yes…God gave us anger and passion and zeal, so that we may rally ourselves in the causes of Christ.

It’s about self-control, self-mastery and ‘willing’ our mind and bodies into someone “God Wants Me To Be’. Use all God’s gifts in accordance with their purpose. Then, we may peacefully leave this life as mature, responsible citizens of Heaven rather than pitiful slaves below.

Matthew Warner May 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Craig – thanks for the additional thoughts! I totally agree.

And yes, born innocent means innocent in terms of personal sin and in general. That’s why I clarified afterward that we still carry the stain of original sin and its effects when we are born. Original sin is really a different kind of thing all together – albeit an important one. And it’s one that the Church – the bride of Christ – who is right where we are wrong helps us to wipe away clean.

Joey August 14, 2012 at 1:46 am

Craig, I see your indirect comments towards homosexuality. And it is clear to see that in the post itself. I’m a gay Catholic and I want to pursue a real committed relationship with another man. I do not bind myself to these slogans and labels. That’s the most common misconception people have. They assume that every “rebelling” gay person tries to justify themselves with the slogans. That is a very false generalization. I spent years praying, reflecting, meditating, and asking God about my own nature and what he wants for me. He showed me that I am the way he created me for a reason, and he that he was fine with me being in a committed relationship. Those experiences with God made me realize this, and that is why I oppose your generalized statements.

Brian May 18, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Nice one, matthew! I’ll share it in facebook!

Jordan Henderson May 18, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Matthew,

I agree that people tend to think in slogans and labels.

It’s a danger at every turn.

How many people throw around the term “Culture of Death” who haven’t read Evangelium Vitae?

Issues are complex and can’t be just shoved away with a quick bromide, a label, a bumper-sticker or a Tweet.

Justin | Mazzastick May 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Hi Matthew,
Fatal flaws could be discovered through emotional/mental pain that we receive from choices that we made.

Pain is a reminder that we have forgotten who we are.

Children are innocent but because they are “sponges” when they are young they pick up a lot of negativity from adults and even other children.

The child’s true nature get’s distorted and they forget who they really are which is a child of God born perfectly imperfect.

beth May 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Very nice. I was going to @reply a tweet about this post with “I was born this way… waaaaaah!” But you said it much more eloquently – well, and plainly really. Much appreciated!

Sharon May 31, 2011 at 10:27 am

What is it with you? Why do you hatehatehate all the time? Why do you have to pick at people, stress the negative, play comparison games, judge, control…?

What’s wrong with you? Why are you so cruel and ugly-minded? Why do you hold yourself up as SO superior to everyone else?

You’re not a good and honorable person. You are not of God. You are not a man, not a real man. Sorry. You’re not a good person, there is NOTHING Christ-like about you at all.

Theresa August 8, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Sharon, Is there an instance in Matthew’s writing that you find hateful? Frankly, I find your comments much more negative than his post. If you want to begin a dialogue, or even make a point, you need to explain why you are accusing him of being hateful.

Laura August 8, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Wonderful post, Matt. God is right when we are wrong!

Sarah August 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Perhaps in some circumstances you might be correct, but in the circumstance which you seem to avoid addressing specifically you are grossly mistaken. 
If only the world were painted in black and white…but alas God has given us many colors, so you’re black and white broad-sweeping theology falls short. 

Perhaps you should more carefully examine whether or not you chose to be attracted to women. Could you (hypothetically) change that if society told you to? Your comparison of bad choices via sin to sexual orientation is so off the mark; you are comparing apples to oranges. If you mean to address the way someone acts based on tendencies they were born with then do so. As no choice was given to the individual over a biological tendency, no more so than an individual born with a handicap, thus unfair is the argument that tendency itself is a sin. 

I will pray that you realize that you are making excuses for marginalizing some of God’s beautiful creatures before you find yourself on the wrong side of history. 

Matthew Warner October 4, 2012 at 10:45 am

Sarah, not sure what you mean by finding myself on the wrong side of history. But certainly I nowhere called “tendency itself” a sin. Just simply that if we naturally have (often through no fault of our own) a tendency to sin (regardless of sexual orientation), that we must work against that tendency, not automatically give in to it or define it as “good” simply because i have that natural tendency in our fallen state.

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