I confess that I’m somewhat of a self-improvement junkie. New ideas for how to live “better” always seem to capture my attention. So when I became a Christian, that kind of thinking came with me. I figured I had discovered the ultimate self-improvement guide in the Bible.
At the same time, I’ve always rather liked the way God made me. All go-getter. High achiever. Goal setter. I once had to choose one word to describe myself, and the word I chose without batting an eyelash was “productive.” And it felt good. Like I was leaning into the truest part of me.
But when I became a Christ follower, I started hearing things about being meek and waiting on God. About not making plans. Not depending on my own strength to get things done.
I looked around at other Christians I admired and thought, “Maybe I should try to be more like them.” You know, less of a Martha. More of a Mary.
But I resisted. Because it felt wrong to think God might be wandering around heaven thinking, “Wow! I gave her some great raw material to work with. Now if she could just figure out how to improve on my design, I might be able to use her for some of the things I need done.”
I’m learning that my job is not to improve upon what God created. It’s to become who He created me to be.
Each of us is wonderfully made by a Creator God who planned good works for us long before we ever launched our first self-improvement campaign. He gave us the unique personalities, life experiences, and spiritual gifts we need to accomplish those assignments. So something tells me that “self-improvement” isn’t on God’s to-do list for us.
Instead, God invites us to know Him and to be known by Him. When we begin to know ourselves as God knows us, and see ourselves as He sees us, we gain a better understanding of who He created us to be. And how He wants us to grow.
Not to improve ourselves but to become ourselves.
So how do we take a break from self-improvement while gaining the self-knowledge we need to allow God to transform us? Romans 12:3 offers some guidance.
We are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to.
This addresses the discomfort some of us feel over the idea of “finding ourselves.” Sometimes trying to figure out what makes us tick can feel a little self-centered. And that’s something Jesus plainly teaches against. We are not to think more often or more highly of ourselves than we do of others. But without some self-knowledge, we can’t fully understand or grow in our relationship with God. So we approach self-discovery first and foremost with humility.
We are to think with sober judgment.
That means we take in all of what we discover and examine it seriously.
We can’t just hold on to the things we like about ourselves and discard the rest. The things that make us feel like a welcome guest to the party won’t give us the whole picture. To see ourselves truthfully we must remain open to all parts of us. The light and the dark. God will use it all to grow us and challenge us. Because God loves our whole selves. Not just the pretty parts. And when we grab hold of that truth, we’ve reached a new level of understanding God’s grace.
This all happens according to the measure of faith God has given each of us.
Here is where we can choose from the many tools available for examining our motivations, personality types and communication styles: Scripture and prayer. Talking with those who know us well. And utilizing self-assessment tools like the Enneagram (currently my favorite), Myers-Briggs, or StrengthsFinder to name just a few.
Since God uniquely created each of us, it’s not surprising that we might each hear from Him differently. So listen for the way He is calling you. And remember that the end goal is to know Him more, not just to gain a better understanding of ourselves.
Whatever tool you choose to use, always keep the salvation equation in mind:
Truth About Me + Truth About God = Good News of Salvation.
When we take the time to look carefully at the truth about who and where we are in our lives, we open the door to welcome in the amazing grace of Christ.
And it’s by His grace that we are free to take a break from self-improvement and become the people God has created us to be.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14)