gotta be me

‘I Gotta Be Me’ – A Road to Ruin

8 May 2023

6.7 MINS

Being ‘true to yourself’ is often the worst thing you can do.

Often music can capture the way a culture thinks and feels. It can reflect both helpful and not-so-helpful things. For example, a popular song performed by various artists in 1967 and 1968 was “I’ve Gotta Be Me.” Sammy Davis Jr. was one of those who made it popular. The opening verse goes like this:

Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I’ve gotta be me
What else can I be but what I am


We hear so often nowadays folks saying quite similar things such as: “I have to be true to myself;” “I have to be authentic;” “I cannot deny who I am;” “I must affirm myself,” “It feels so right,” and so on. This fits in quite well with a me-first, truth-starved, and relativistic culture. But it has absolutely nothing to do with the biblical worldview.

Indeed, how often do we hear this being said by the trans activists? How often do we hear about someone who dumps his wife and children who has used a lame excuse such as this? How often do we hear of people doing all sorts of rather ugly and selfish things in the name of being “authentic”?

Speaking of the trans insanity, one meme making the rounds is fully to the point. It has this as its headline: “Here’s what REAL ‘gender affirmation’ looks like”. It features a little girl saying to her mother, “Mom, I think I’m a boy.” She looks at her daughter with a smile and says, “Well, you’re not.”

But this nonsense of the trans movement is just a reflection of the broader cultural decline in which we have people making excuses for sin and bad behaviour by claiming they just gotta be themselves, or they have to be real, regardless of how it impacts on others. Plenty of examples can be offered here. This is just one recent case:

Shakira’s ex Gerard Piqué finally break silence over allegations of cheating on Shakira. He broke it all down during one of his interviews with a Spanish publication El País. He started the chat by addressing the cheating allegations and said, “It is not like that. The problem is how people perceive it or how the press sells it.”

“I keep doing what I want,” he also said. “The day I die, I will look back and hope I have always done what I wanted. I want to be true to myself. I’m not going to spend money cleaning up my image.”

But sadly there can be plenty of Christians who also talk and act this way. I know of one fellow who used to be active in the church and Christian activities. He was married with young children. But he seems to have undergone a ‘mid-life crisis’. It seems he was no longer happy with his situation and wanted out.

So he found a new young chicky babe to hang around with, bought himself a motorcycle, and split, leaving behind a devastated and traumatised wife and kids. Those children who once loved their dad ended up saying they hated him. Imagine that! Yet this guy would insist that he had to be true to himself.

Baloney. He was utterly and completely living a lie – a selfish lie at that. He dumped his God and his wife and children to be himself. Yeah, his old self, the kind that Jesus said to the Pharisees reflected their father the devil. Sin and selfishness always bring with it great deception.

This guy thinks he has liberated himself when instead he has simply re-enslaved himself. The Christian faith he once knew and proclaimed he has now rejected. He has bought the lies of the devil while telling God and his family to get lost. Talk about major deception.

And what does Scripture say about this? Their state is now worse than their former condition. As we read in 2 Peter 2:19–21:

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

The Bible makes it crystal clear how easily we can be deceived. As Jesus said in Matthew 24:4: “Watch out that no one deceives you.” Paul put it this way in 1 Cor 3:18: “Do not deceive yourselves.” Or as James wrote in James 1:16: “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.” There are so many more passages like this.

And Scripture also tells us how corrupt and blind we are without God breaking through and changing us from within. One famous passage is Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” So relying on your heart or inner voice and the like can be the most dangerous thing you can do.

In this regard one example from the Old Testament might be of some use here. I just read this passage, and it is worth quoting at length. In 1 Kings 12:25–33 we read about Jeroboam’s golden calves:

Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.

Note that this had been “devised from his own heart”. Yep, it felt good to him. It seemed right to him. So he did it. And it was sin, and God judged him for it as we read about in the following two chapters. This ‘I gotta be me’ nonsense never ends well.

We never need to be me. We need to renounce me. We need to deny self and crucify the flesh. We need to realise that our natural man is utterly contaminated by sin, falsehoods and deception. That is why we must be born again. That is why we must never lean on the arm of flesh. That is why trusting the god within is an exercise in folly.

like what Philip Graham Ryken said about this passage:

It is instructive to see what happened to Jeroboam when he stopped trusting the word of God. His disbelief led him into disobedience – in particular, the sin of false worship.

The way the Bible describes the king’s decision to commit this sin is very revealing: “Jeroboam said in his heart” (1 Kings 12:26). Jeroboam did not seek the will of God through prayer; he simply followed his own personal inclinations. In this respect, Jeroboam sounds a lot like the young nurse that Robert Bellah quoted in his book Habits of the HeartHer name was Sheila, and here is how she described her religion: “I believe in God. I’m not a religious fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice.

The trouble with listening to our own little voice is that our sinful heart desires to lead us into sin. John Calvin aptly described the human heart as “a perpetual factory of idols.” If we listen to our hearts rather than to the Word of God, we will end up worshipping anything and everything except the one true God, which is exactly what happened with Jeroboam.

Too many people really do think they are the centre of the universe and they do worship the god within. But the god within always proves to be a false god and a dead end. As G. K. Chesterton rightly stated in Orthodoxy:

That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon, anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within. Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.

Moral of the story: stop trying to be you. Stop looking within. Start trying to be who God wantyou to be. And that can only happen when you come to the end of yourself and say yes to Christ and his work on the cross to save you from your sin and from your self.


Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo: Screenshot via YouTube.

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  1. Warwick Marsh 8 May 2023 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    Another fantasti article Bill!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Bill Muehlenberg 8 May 2023 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    Thanks Warwick.

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