The Myth of “Choosing to be Yourself”

I’m going to quoting a lengthy section from a book by Tim Keller, called Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism.  He brilliantly picks apart the modern ideas of our culture, including the myth of “choosing to be yourself.”  He begins by affirming what is good about telling people to be themselves.  I agree with him that there are certainly good aspects of being true to ourselves, such as not being ashamed of our personality, sex, race, etc.

But it was his critique of this mantra, this long passage below, that was particularly helpful for me, and I think it will be helpful for all of you who are struggling with crossdressing or transgender feelings.  Perhaps the most common argument in favor of crossdressing is this, “you must be yourself” or “only you can discover who you truly are, other people can’t decide for you” or “you must not suppress those feelings because they are part of who you truly are, your true identity.” Keller shows that this type of thinking is not only not right for a Christian, but even for non-Christians, this type of thinking doesn’t actually work.  Read this quotation from the book, and then I’ll make some more comments:

 

Many argue that the most fundamental of the late-modern narratives is that of identity – that we must discover our deepest desires and longings and then do all we can to realize them, regardless of constraint or opposition.”

There are many severe problems with the sovereign self as a philosophy of life. To begin with, it assumes that we know what we want – that our inner desires are coherent and harmonious. Modernity tells you to discover your deepest desires and fulfill them, but our deepest desires often contradict one another. A desire for a stellar career will often be in conflict with the desire for a particular relationship. And our feelings constantly shift. So an identity based on our feelings will be unstable and incoherent.”

An even more serious problem is that an identity based on expressing ourselves – without listening to outside dictates – is actually an illusion.”

Imagine an Anglo-Saxon warrior in Britain in AD 800. He has two very strong inner impulses and feelings. One is aggression. He loves to smash and kill people when they show him disrespect. Living in a shame-and-honor culture with its warrior ethic, he will identify with that feeling. He will say to himself, ‘That’s me! That’s who I am! I will express that.’ The other feeling he senses is same-sex attraction. To that he will say, ‘That’s not me. I will control and suppress that impulse.’ Now imagine a young man walking around Manhattan today. He has the same two inward impulses, both equally strong, both difficult to control. What will he say? He will look at the aggression and think, ‘This is not who I want to be,’ and will seek deliverance in therapy and anger-management programs. He will look at his sexual desire, however, and conclude, “That is who I am.”

What does this thought experiment show us? Primarily it reveals that we do not get our identity simply from within. Rather, we receive some interpretive moral grid, lay it down over our various feelings and impulses, and sift them through it. This grid helps us decide which feelings are ‘me’ and should be expressed – and which are not and should not be. So this grid of interpretive beliefs – not an innate, unadulterated expression of our feelings – is what shapes our identity. Despite protests to the contrary, we instinctively know our inner depths are insufficient to guide us. We need some standard or rule from outside of us to help us sort out the warring impulses of our interior life.”

And where do our Anglo-Saxon warrior and our modern Manhattan man get their grids? From their cultures, their communities, their heroic stories. They are actually not simply ‘choosing to be themselves’ – they are filtering their feelings, jettisoning some and embracing others. They are choosing to be the selves their cultures tell them they may be. In the end, an identity based independently on your own inner feelings is impossible.”

Here is a great cartoon illustrating the above paragraphs by Tim Keller in a simple way – http://adam4d.com/gay-warrior/

We cannot discover or create who we are. And one can easily see how this would be quite the burden if we actually had to do that.  In contrast, in Christianity we don’t have to ‘discover’ and ‘create’ who we are. We are wonderful, valuable, honorable beings because we are made in the image of God.  As Keller argues further in the book, we don’t achieve this identity through our accomplishments, but we receive our identity from God in Christ.

These arguments in favor of crossdressing or transgenderism, “you must be yourself” or “only you can discover who you truly are, other people can’t decide for you” or “you must not suppress those feelings because they are part of who you truly are, your true identity,” in the end are not really good arguments.  There is a component of cultural relativism.  It is your culture telling you who you are, not only you yourself.  But not everything is relative to culture.  The color of my skin is part of who I am and there is no relativism about it.  I did not choose it, nor can I can change it no matter what culture I am born into.  But sexuality and desires are different.  We might not choose our desires, and I do believe many of us crossdressers and many of those with same-sex attraction were in some way born with these dispositions and desires.  But we surely can choose whether to act on them or not, and what desires to act on and what ones to resist.  That makes these issues very different from something like the color of my skin.  (Unless you think there is no such thing as freewill and everyone is only 100% a product of their genetics, but I don’t believe that, and I doubt that those who profess to believe that are actually living that way).

All of us have many many desires, and some of them are conflicting. We all have to choose to resist some desires and give in to some others. Sometimes it is as simple as choosing to not eat more potato chips so I don’t gain more weight. I want the chips, but I want the better health more. Sometimes it is more serious. I want to crossdress, but I also don’t want to hurt my marriage, I don’t want to fall into addiction, and I don’t want to displease my God who I love.

It comes down to this. Many of you crossdressers out there have strong, deep, passionate desires to crossdress.  And likewise, I have deep down desires for crossdressing. I have largely been freed from them, but honestly the desires come up once in a while strongly.  But how do we look at those desires?  Well, many of you crossdressers will look at those desires and say, “that is who I am.”  As for me, I say that “those desires do not represent who I am.”  They are a manifestation of my brokenness and fallenness because of sin in this world, but not who I am now in Christ and who I am becoming. But for me, I am not basing this on the whims of my culture and experience. I base it on the unchanging, infallible Word of God that is relevant to every culture and teaches me who God is, who I am, and how he wants me to live.

Through God’s Word I learn that as a human, I am body and soul together, and so my male body is part of who I am. Through God’s Word I learn that sexual pleasure is a good gift of God, but meant to be achieved through sexual union with my spouse of the opposite sex, and not to be achieved by me lusting after myself pretending to be the opposite sex. Through God’s Word I learn that my comfort, stress relief, and hope should come from God, not from fabric or women’s panties. Through God’s Word I learn that men and women are made differently in ways that complement one another. Those differences are beautiful and because of them I can reject the various whims and movements of different cultures regarding sex/gender.  I reject the idea that the sexes are not different at all, and I also reject the opposite idea which stresses the differences of the sexes too much and stifles people who do not fit rigid gender stereotypes (stereotypes which usually do not fit what the Bible says about men and women are to be).

I do not have to discover my identity. I know my identity in God, as his child, as his beautiful creation. In this knowledge I am free. I don’t have to constantly sift and wonder about my feelings and try to decide who I want to be. I am free, knowing who I am, knowing that I am deeply loved by God, knowing that he made me with purpose, knowing that I have eternal life, and am forgiven for all my sins because of Jesus my savior.

 

There is a second problem with this mantra of “just be yourself.”  It is true that my crossdressing desires are a part of who I am, in the sense that it has shaped my identity, in the sense that yes crossdressing is one of the sins that I, personally, have struggled with.  But it is better to think of these desires as describing my old self, not my new self in Christ.  So the problem is, if all of us were true to ourselves, the world would be an ugly place!  If we were all true to ourselves, everyone would spend over half the time, not loving others, but being selfish and greedy.

The Bible teaches me about myself, that I am a sinner.  It’s true that I have crossdressing desires, that I am selfish, and am a messed person in a myriad of ways.  But in Christ we receive a new identity, our true identity.  In him we receive forgiveness and new abundant life.  We receive joy.  We become children of God.  It is out of this new identity I want to live.

So I’d rather not tell people to “be yourself.”  Because most likely they will take that to mean they should embrace their sinful self in all of its manifold brokenness.  Instead I want to say to you, and to myself, let’s not be true to our old selves, but let’s be Christ.  Let’s embrace our new identity in him and live like him.  Our identity is no longer our own but wrapped up in him.

2 Corinthians 5:17 –

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Galatians 2:20 –

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Romans 6:1-14 –

6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with,a that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

1 Corinthians 12:27 –

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Philippians 1:21 –

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Ephesians 4:20-24 –

20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

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4 comments on “The Myth of “Choosing to be Yourself”

  1. Bigguy says:

    well said thorn
    its has happen to me when I took god in my life and I have not cross dress for a long time I still get the feeling but I have not give in to it I just got rid of the paties and bras to good will store they can used them I don’t need them know more thanks thorn

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  2. Temptedsinner says:

    Almost any of us who have logged into any type of a cross dressing website have heard or read these exact words and have bought into the lies.
    “you must be yourself” or “only you can discover who you truly are, other people can’t decide for you” or “you must not suppress those feelings because they are part of who you truly are, your true identity.”
    I finally have discovered who I am. More accurately who I am becoming, in Christ. The previous version of myself spent over 40 years trying to discover, trying to nurture that self which was not truly there. Feeding and indulging that woman, who never was. All the while that I was “growing” in my self awareness, ultimately left me lonely. Lonely and confused. No matter what I did or how far I went, I was never satisfied. I was stuck, stuck in a rut of individualism. Stuck in a world all about me.
    Over the many years of being all about me one of the most hurtful things that I ever said to my wife was in response to her saying “I love you”. Just a little background information, she has always know that I cross dressed and never condemned me for it. But what I told her was “no you don’t” (love me) “you only love half of me”. “You only love the man that you want me to be”
    Obviously this wasn’t a good day. In fact it was yet another attempt of me trying to convince her to adopt a lifestyle of my cross dressing but also one of dominance over me. To make this clear, what I wanted was to be her sissy slave. And I had totally offered myself to her. On my terms.
    The point of this is that I knew (thought I knew) that this was the answer. I would no longer have to spend my free time in fantasy and masturbation on the computer. I could freely give of myself, I was sure that I had found myself. This was my true self. This is “my calling”.
    I cannot believe how flawed my thinking was. How selfish I was being. I thought that I was giving but the truth is that I was extremely selfish. That scene played out 4 or 5 years ago. It has taken most of the time since then to see how wrong I was. I am still in the beginning stages of trying to be the true self that I was created to be. That self has a lot more to do with a love that goes out to others and much less concern for myself and what I think I want.
    I pray for all of us in this search. The struggle to find who God created us to be. I also pray for those who have to put up with us as we try to find that narrow path.

    Tempted

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  3. Temptedsinner says:

    Tempted

    I wanted to come back and try to clarify a statement that I made in the above comment. I used it in an effort to be brief, but blunt and bottom line was what I was looking for. In real life I had spent months, almost a year setting up for this conversation. I was in need of control, my interactions and masturbation on the internet was out of control. That was all that I wanted to do. But I still loved my wife, I longed for intimacy with her, I wanted all of my orgasms to be with and for her.
    What I was pursuing was clearly non-Biblical. I had stumbled upon the theory of a “wife led marriage” or a “female led relationship” FLR for short. Once I got past all of the smut filled whips and chains “information” I found other vanilla sites, where either the man or the woman were proclaiming the benefits of such an arrangement. The bottom line for the male is that he will not have any type of an orgasm with out the wife’s approval. He would have to earn that privilege. I studied, I read hundred of accounts of how marriages had been turned around. I must admit that I was disappointed that almost none included any type of cross dressing beyond a flowery apron over his regular clothing.
    Much of what the women wanted was what we as husbands and fathers should already be doing. Basics like helping around the house, with the kids, running errands and such, the things that many of us leave to the woman. Which when I look at all that wives and mothers do….. You are amazing !
    OK, well, I couldn’t just blurt out “Honey, I want a FLR” Having a lifetime of experience of being sneaky I decided upon stealth submission. What I thought was my goal was to make her a princess, a goddess in my eyes. Nothing wrong with that, shouldn’t that be part of our mission as husbands? For our wives to be second only to God? Well we know that wasn’t my motivation. I began slowly, getting up early, making her a healthy breakfast, continued to packing her a nutritious lunch. She was very appreciative and expressed it to me. Sweet! it’s working I moved on to cleaning the kitchen, even doing prep work towards dinner when I had time. I was even vacuuming and picking up all over the house, cleaning the shower and bathrooms. Of coarse much of this that I did when no one was home I was cross dressed in the appropriate uniform. I took care of the more manly things around the house that I had been procrastinating on. This didn’t happen overnight, it was a build up, I kept adding tasks. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re not spending endless hours on the computer with your hand in your lap. In the evening I would try and pamper her, fetching her something to drink, eat or whatever. Rubbing lotion into her dry feet, back rubs and in the bedroom, without regard to my own satisfaction, I was making sure she was well pleased. She could not believe who this new me was that had developed over the last several months.

    Oh yeah! Me? Selfish me, well I couldn’t have been happier. Seriously! This was it, I had found the real me, my calling, my destiny. The only thing left to do was to formalize this arrangement that we were already living, or at least I was. How could she say no? I’ll tell you how. “Life is not a game” Those are the four words that crushed me, that hurt me to my very core. All of my hopes and dreams, gone. Everything that I had worked towards, gone.

    As I look back now she was right, is right (as usual) The mean out lash that I said to her about not loving me and only loving half of me was a defensive move, and one that I regret to this day. I did try to continue in my servitude towards her but it quickly faded as I made the conscience decision to turn my heart off towards her. I had no idea how effectively I could do that. We didn’t fight or anything, I just didn’t care. Soon I was back online seeking to fill that hole, that void, which really only comes from being submissive to God, but that was not the path I took.

    Now if some of you have a submissive bent to you, you may be saying to yourself, “What’s wrong with that?” I know as I was writing this a portion of me was asking the same question. I now know that I would have only been satisfied with this type of arrangement for a while. Soon I would want to take it another step forward. If we are honest with ourselves depending on how long we have had this affliction, it has always progressed and escalated. I wanted to drag my wife deeper into my secret. What secrets are truly good? What I was really asking her to do was to partake in my favorite sin. During this time I also was guilty of the sin of deception and pride. The deception is obvious in this story. But the pride….. I was patient, I was calculating every step, I was so good at setting this all up. I am so lucky that many years ago, Our Lord and Savior, picked out a prayerful woman for me. That she could see through the lies of my fantasy. The lies that consumed me on just this one of many adventures still have me scarred today. It is difficult for me to do any of those household chores, particularly while home alone with out reminiscing when the fantasy was alive.

    Getting to that good spot, that God spot, doesn’t just happen. It takes work, it takes prayer, it takes faith that someday, someday we will be saved from ourselves. Some days the torment seems unstoppable. The relentless attacks that just try and wear you down. But when my eyes are open, when my head isn’t tainted with all of the garbage that is available I can see Christ. I can see Him in people I interact with. I can see him in dozens of little things everyday. I can hear him in music that I listen to that speaks to my heart. And I know that He is happy that I am trying. Trying to be the man that he created me to be. Perhaps most importantly I can see His love in the presence of my wife, who loves me inspite of my weakness, my shortcomings and my sinful afflictions.

    Daily I pray for us!
    Tempted

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  4. Part of the idea of the “just be yourself” philosophy is that it is harmless to others, and good for you. No one says to an arsonist, “Look, you get a sexual thrill from torching buildings and so as long as you choose the targets wisely, go for it ! Just be yourself!” The Christian, however, strives to live in harmony with God and with God’s Creation. Sin is estrangement from God, without regard to whether or not others are harmed. Blaspheming in an empty house is just as much a sin as blaspheming in a room full of children. So yeah, we all fall short for sure, none are righteous, not even one; but to take a habitual and harmful sin and put it in a box labeled “Who I Am” as if that makes it not sinful if the greatest delusion.

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