As I sat down, I noticed a sign that was painted on the wall. It said, “Are you you?” As soon as I read that question, a thousand thoughts went through my mind. I have pondered on that question many times since and have used it as a reference point when making decisions.
Who am I? That is an ageless question with more tangent answers than snowflakes in a snowball. But the basic answer refers to “what do I believe?” and “what is it that guides my feet to where I want to go?” That is what we, as individuals, get to decide. We have many external influences and competing voices that are happy to help us in the decision of who we are, but ultimately, we get to decide where to cast our ballot and which voices are the ones that deserve our time and energy. There’s a lot of power in that opportunity. What an adventurous quest we have the opportunity to be on as we use our agency to make the daily choices that determine who we are.
Spiritual pursuits are a part of this opportunity to choose for ourselves
In the framework of faith, the result of this quest could be summed up by the word “testimony.” A testimony is a statement or declaration affirming truth. It is internal, soul- bolstering evidence of support regarding a belief or principle. It is individual and personal. Because we are able to be free agents to discover and build our own testimony, it cannot be taken from us, unless we decide to let it be taken. Recently we received counsel from President Russell M. Nelson: “Take charge of your own testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Work for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. Don’t pollute it with false philosophies of unbelieving men and women” (Russell M. Nelson, “Overcome the World and Find Rest,” Liahona, November 2022).
Some of these false philosophies could refer to the contemporary intellectual and emotional climate of immediate gratification and being a “law unto ourselves.” The temptation to think that a guideline or principle doesn’t apply to us, that we know better than others, that our situation is different, or that we don’t want to be told what to do may limit our ability to see a deeper truth of a bigger purpose than just that moment. Perspective can be skewed by short-lens glasses.
King Benjamin taught this principle with great clarity in the Book of Mormon when he said: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
This natural man is often our favourite way to approach life because it requires little effort. It does not worry about the effects of our decisions on others or the long-term implications of our choice. It simply satisfies the here and now. It is a temporary framework for making choices, and can come with permanent negative consequences. It puts our own desires, thoughts, and well-being ahead of all others, even to their demise.
An example of the natural man being confronted
Years ago, our son played on a high school team. He loved playing and worked diligently to improve his skills. He found a talented older player who helped him work on his technique. He found a gym that opened at five in the morning and got himself there each morning to practice. His tenacity was impressive and we heralded his efforts.
His coach did not. Game after game it seemed that our son’s efforts were not being recognized and we were concerned about the negative environment and the lack of positive encouragement he was receiving. Pretty soon my natural woman tendencies were about ready to explode and I prepared to unleash all of my thoughts and opinions on the coach. I scheduled a meeting with him and prepared my points on paper. These sentiments were very calm compared to the thoughts swirling in my head and I was certain that a combination of the two would be the result of the interaction. The morning arrived.
As luck would have it, my mom called. She asked about my day and I very briefly shared my plan. Her response changed the entire experience. She asked me, “Is that who you really are?”
Essentially, she asked me, “Are you you?” I recognized that who I was about to be, and who I wanted to be as a person were not congruent. Changes needed to be made.
I did address the situation. But I waited 24 hours and gathered my thoughts. There was a problem with what was happening with our son, but the proper approach was critical to its improvement. The awareness of what I wanted my inner “you” to look like was created that day. I realized that being “true to you” does not mean taking out whoever gets in your way, but instead refers to building a “you” that helps others to develop their inner strengths in a positive way. Discovering “you” opens doors for others to explore their own potential rather than feeling crumbled by their weaknesses.
Becoming you, ironically, looks outward rather than inward. And ultimately, becoming you means turning to the Saviour and asking Him for help to align our thoughts and actions to our potential that is only possible with Him as our friend, advocate and team mate.
I have since put up in our home the sign that I saw in the restaurant all those years ago. “Are you you?” Each day as I walk by it, I ask myself if I am the “you” that I want to be. And, if not, what needs to happen to get there. As I take charge of the belief system that I have and feed my testimony of faith, I pray to be who I have the potential to be in Christ.
As promised by President Russell M. Nelson, miracles are possible and our potential is endless as we have Christ as our focus. “As you make the continual strengthening of your testimony of Jesus Christ your highest priority, watch for miracles to happen in your life” (“Overcome the World and Find Rest,” Liahona, November 2022).
Are you you?