Sermon for August 26, 2018
Have you ever had someone tell you to “just be yourself”, as if they have you figured out, and expect that you do also? It seems simple at first, “Yes, I’ll just be myself” - until it isn’t simple at all. Sometimes we get a quick peek behind the curtain and notice there are many characters backstage. Even more than that, in these moments, we might also begin to wonder which character really is the ‘me’ who can just ‘be myself’?
This week I want to have a practical exercise that we can all complete on our own, and together if you’d like to share. I’ll start it off by giving a small bit of direction, however, I want everyone to take that start and go wherever it takes you. There isn’t a right or wrong way to explore these things so let go and just try it, even multiple times if you like. Compare what happens each time, compare where you started and where you end up- both for each time you explore things and as compared to each session versus another. Most importantly, just let go and watch where you take yourself.
Start with that phrase above- “Just be yourself”. Ask yourself what that means when you actually try to be who you think you are. Be general about it and just explore that idea. What does it really mean to you to be one hundred percent yourself. What does that person act like, think, feel? How do you go about changing from not yourself to being yourself? Who is it that makes that change and is that really yourself? See how thing are already starting to get strange?
Now, try to imagine all the different people you are in your life- think about this as roles you play, who you are to each person in your life, who you are to yourself depending on your mood or situation. I’ve listed some examples below. As you try it yourself, you may find this list is nearly infinite if you really get into it- take it as far as you like.
Who am I as a-
-person feeling alone
-person who sees myself as fat
-person who sees myself as skinny
-on my deathbed
-person looking at Facebook/Instagram etc
-entity before birth
-entity after death
Notice that the list doesn’t need to be limited to who we are to other people. It can also include the numerous people we are to ourselves, or just states of being. Sometimes we are confident, other times anxious or hyper-critical of ourselves. The key is to explore ALL the permutations of the person we might commonly take as a consistent, identifiable person named _____.
What might happen if you took people from all the different areas of your life, from all the different eras of your life, and had them sit down and describe you? What would happen if all the different people we have been, throughout different times in our life, described who we were at those times? What would the 5 year old you and the 50 year old you say? Would you recognize each other?
If you really put some time and effort into this, you may find that depression and anxiety have a hard time surviving when your idea of a static ‘you’ begins to dissolve. Which of the many people who make up you are depressed and anxious? Why is it that you identify more with the versions of you that are depressed and anxious, or sad and confused, or whatever, rather than the versions that are free, happy, child like etc?
Even beyond identifying with the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ versions of yourself, what happens when we begin to see through ALL the versions of ourselves? What lies beneath every single conception of ourselves, our lives, and the world we see? Have you found any one thing that clearly identifies you? WHO ARE YOU?
I won’t try to give you any of these answers. Words will just create another version of yourself to try to grab onto. As I said in the beginning, just allow. Allow yourself to go into all these pictures of yourself. Allow what happens.
This is about your own exploration so I’ve purposely left things quite vague. If, during your own experience of this exercise, you find that you’re having some type of difficulty, be it increased anxiety, or other types of distress, please reach out to me, or someone else you feel comfortable with, and discuss what you’re feeling. It isn’t uncommon for someone to feel some type of unease or discomfort even when they are in the process of feeling ‘better’. The important thing is to understand that you don’t need to feel, whatever it is that you feel, alone.
I am going to do this exercise right along with you during the week so if you’d like to share your experiences via email, please feel free- I’d love to hear different perceptions of the process. Don’t ask me which ‘me’ wrote this sermon- I have no idea!