Word-y Gifts for Christian Faith & Life

The power of self-acceptance

A story is told of an unorthodox minister whose dynamic teaching drew crowds. Despite his challenging message, he had the ear of the politicians and celebrities of his day who found him both interesting and disturbing. He wore unusual clothes, lived on a diet of locusts and honey, and preferred to teach in the wilderness. People came anyway. Soon enough, another dynamic minister showed up. This one took things to another level. His teaching was accompanied by unusual occurrences. He healed the sick and lame and opened blind eyes. It was not long before word of the new minister spread across the region. He drew more crowds than the first and people who followed the first left him to follow the new guy in town. Some of the locust-eating minister’s assistants were concerned about his declining popularity (and, of course, their own influence) and they asked him if he wasn’t bothered that the new guy was taking followers away from him. He calmly told them that a person can be no more and no less than what God has made them to be; he knew it was the other minister’s time to ascend and his to recede. That was John the Baptist’s response to Jesus’ rising popularity (Jn. 3:22-31).

John’s story is refreshing because he gives us that rare example of a secure person who knows who he is and is happy to be who he is. His deep sense of security allowed him to celebrate Jesus’ rise. He neither felt threatened by Jesus nor did he try to imitate or outdo him. He did not disparage him or challenge his teachings simply to appear smarter. John knew such attempts would not succeed anyway because he understood that at the end of the day, we can only be who we are—nothing more, nothing less. The story is especially relevant today because we live in a social media world in which people are constantly trying to outdo each other. This type of competitive living is stressful and exhausting, and it often leads to unhealthy emotions like jealousy, resentment and depression. It also often results in an even poorer self-image because no matter how hard we try, there will always be someone who does it better, looks better, has more money and followers, and so on. But when we accept who we are and reject the nagging thought that we are somehow “not enough,” we are freed to become all we can be.

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