Sheryl was distraught . She came to Robert and me for advice, because she and her parents were in conflict. She was confident we would see things her way, because her position was based on a foundational principle.
She shared that she and her boyfriend had begun talking about marriage, but her parents didn’t like him and wanted her to end the relationship. Further conversation revealed that her friends agreed with the parents and had told her they didn’t think he was good for her.
In spite of the fact that Sheryl had little or no support, she was sure she had found the man of her dreams. She wanted us to tell her how to get those who loved her to change their minds.
Sheryl had no doubt but that she was right because she felt like he was the one for her.
She insisted that she had to be true to herself. If she gave in to her parents and broke up with him, she would not be true to herself. It seemed to her it would not be honest or honorable if she weren’t true to herself.
Many people today hold similar beliefs, though few people voice it as clearly as Sheryl. Those guiding “principles” are common today, but they contain two dangerous flaws that lead to bad decisions.
First, Sheryl was being led by her feelings. Emotions are a gift of God. Without them, we wouldn’t experience love, joy, hope, and pleasure or discouragement, sadness, sorrow, and so much more. Life would be flat and monotonous. Much of motivation and meaning would be lost. Emotions are a precious gift.
However, emotions change quickly and are unpredictable. They are generally based on what is happening in the moment. Furthermore, they are often self-focused. They are positive when life is going our way, but drop when something happens to disrupt our desires or disturb our comfort or agenda.
Sheryl broke off the relationship several months later. Her feelings changed as problems between them arose. Likewise, her commitment and life-choice changed.
If we make our life choices based solely on our feelings, we face unneeded trials, change coarse frequently, and seldom reach a goal.
Feelings are not unimportant, but we need to verify them before making major decisions. We need to confirm them through mature friends, such as authorities (parents, in Sheryl’s case), spiritual authorities, and those who care for us. Most importantly, we need to seek God through His Word.
If there’s a major difference in our feelings and of those around us, we need to delay making a decision until the Lord speaks clearly—through His Word or through some other means that is clearly the Lord speaking.
Second, Sheryl’s guiding principle that she had to be true to herself is faulty. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to be true to ourselves. In fact, we are told to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus.
Jesus asks us to die to Self. We are to lay down our agenda, comforts, and desires so we can freely follow the Lord as His servants, doing His biding, not our own.
The guiding principle of being true to yourself sets Self up as god. It denies the sovereignty of the Lord to guide us and set the standards of living and relating to one another. Instead, it puts Self on the throne, giving Me the authority to rule my life according to my individual desires.
Consequently, when we choose to be true to ourselves, we are placing ourselves in direct opposition to God.
And guess what?
He’s bigger and more powerful. We will not win. It is a path to destruction. If she had had gotten married, I believe Sheryl would have had a tumultuous marriage, with many regrets. Not all self-serving decisions lead to such clear disasters, but in every case, we miss God’s best.
The Lord’s guideline for us is to be true to Him, not ourselves. To love Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. To follow Him and be as dependent on Him as the branch is to the vine. (Have you ever seen a branch be true to itself? It’s life and identity is drawn from the vine.)
Furthermore, Jesus said that we can’t love God and mammon, because we will love one and hate the other. We usually think of mammon as a thing, a material possession, but the important characteristic of mammon is that it’s something that is elevated to the same position as the Lord.
We reject (hate) God, by elevating ourselves, pushing Him aside.
We do need to be true, but our loyalty needs to be to Jesus, not ourselves. If we remain true to Him, He will never let us down and will never lead us astray. In Him we find righteousness, peace, and joy, as well as an everlasting, fruitful life.