I was asked to post something motivational a while ago, this site is about scepticism, the following post is about as motivational as it gets.
Many people are touting around the phrase, “be yourself” these days, but I sometimes wonder where this may lead. I’m all for individuality, but I’m not for being stupid about it. In the past, people, or so we’re led to believe, were forced to conform to certain social &, often, religious standards. In the modern day, Islamic culture still retains this, but many claim that this is to the detriment of individuality within such cultures.
Many people in the religious extreme hold that certain things are just wrong, an example would be homosexuality. As a member of a rather fundamentalist wing of Christianity, I find it sad that such points are pushed so hard. Sure, if something is wrong according to the Bible, then Christians feel they have a right to say something, but would Jesus go around “gay bashing”? Perhaps Christians who feel it is their right to persecute homosexuals (or anybody else) should consider Matthew 7:1, with careful focus on the second part. My personal opinion on this issue, is that I’m not gay, so it doesn’t bother me what the Bible says regarding homosexuality; I wouldn’t get a tattoo, so I don’t really care about what the religious ramifications are, & I am a vegetarian, so I don’t care what the Bible says about eating pork; duck; lobster or blood.
Biblically the choice as to how someone lives their lives is theirs, & theirs alone, & any changes they may or may not need to make, are between them & their god should they choose a particular religious leaning. The point is, religion does set up a standard by which people should live, and sometimes society does not hold the same standards. I’m not saying society has lower standards, just different standards. I do not believe this stifles individuality. So, nowadays, the trend is generally to say to people, “be yourself.” I have had it suggested that I do things in the name of being myself that would conflict with my religious values, & I always wonder if that would be classified as being myself, since it was me who made the choice to follow a particular path which prohibits certain activities. Choices make us, but we tend to blame circumstances for the bad ones, myself included.
Within religions people have different parts to play according to different talents, which, in many cases, it is believed that these talents are a gift from the creator. The message of being yourself, an individual, is there. The thing is, there are rules, & if you had to compare, for example, the Bible or Quran to any countries’ law libraries, you’ll notice that religion often imposes less in the way of rules than so called civilised society. These rules are not in place to deprive one of the right to be an individual, they are in place to provide a route to the improvement of the individual & to protect the right to be an individual. The key here is, self improvement, & often when people start on a route to self improvement, they have an old life which beckons to them saying, “just be yourself.” This bothers me.
Have we reached a point in society where the “be yourself” is really becoming a hindrance to the development of the individual, & possibly to the functions of a peaceful society? The “be yourselves” are getting more & more ridiculous, more & more dominant. We are teaching parents to just let their children be themselves. I’m not for beating children, even (or especially) as a fundamentalist Christian, I feel that giving your child a controlled hiding is the last resort, if a resort at all. The problem is when it comes to children, discipline is needed, rules are needed, the state throws more laws at people than parents could ever dream of. South Africa has laws that impose jail time on warning people about impending bad weather, no parent is that stupid. Children aren’t born willing to, or perhaps even capable of, obeying rules. Children are selfish & egotistical as a general rule. Adults teach them to share, not to interrupt, to be considerate, basically to acquiesce to the needs of others when the situation requires it. Children mustn’t be deprived of their individuality, but this shouldn’t come at the cost of their awareness of self improvement, & sociability.
As people grow up society does treat them badly, things go wrong, & we end up with what are deemed mental disorders. Consider a society where the “be yourself” motto is taken to the extreme. Geoffrey Dahmer; Ted Bundy; David Koresh; Jim Jones; Charles Manson; Richard Ramirez; Adolf Hitler; Kim Jung Il; Osama Bin Laden & many other people could be cited as just being themselves. I deliberately ended with one who is said to have done it in the name of religion. Perhaps Bin Laden was right according to the Quran perhaps he was wrong, I have heard conflicting views from Muslims, so I don’t know, hopefully once I have read the entire book, I’ll know. Either way, it doesn’t matter, by virtue of the choices he made, Bin Laden was being himself.
The point is, all of the people mentioned above probably felt that they were just being themselves, some possibly even felt that was the best they could be. This scares me, we are so wrapped up in being ourselves, that we seem to have forgotten that we can be better. People are happy to embrace the mediocre, or even less, in order to be themselves. Don’t just be yourself, be the best you that you can be, & that means being willing to change the things in you that you may not like, or that my stifle your own progress to being who you want to be.
I’m not touting religion as a solution, I know some atheists & agnostics who seem to have a better moral anchor than many people involved in religion. The point is to show that having standards, & rules, to live by isn’t always a hindrance to the individual, but can even allow for true development of individuality.