All of us have an idea of what success in life looks like, and we strive to do what it takes to achieve our full potential. But does it mean that we have to change who we are to fit the ideal image of a successful individual? In this article Jason Webb – a Milwaukee-based pastor and public speaker, explains what it means to be authentically yourself and accept yourself for who you truly are.
I don’t remember much from seminary. I spent hundreds of hours learning Greek and Hebrew, yet most of that knowledge has long since left me. I read dense theological treatises on issues I didn’t even know were issues. I couldn’t recall much of that now.
But there is something I will never forget. It came from a professor who spent more time in the church than in the classroom. He was semi-retired and taught classes like mine just because he loved the students. Each day he would start the class with these words:
“Be who you is because if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.”
I wish I would have known then what I know now: this was the greatest lesson I learned from seminary. Most of my life I tried to be someone I wasn’t. I tried to be the person people thought I should be. I played the role.
I would make hard decisions for the church because that’s what leaders do and I would tell people that I didn’t care what other people thought of it or if I hurt people along the way.
It was a lie. Even the thought of firing somebody on the staff, even someone who deserved to be fired, left me sleepless at night. I would think of their family and the ramifications of my decision.
I would cry.
I even convinced myself that I had a different personality than I really do. I thought I was an extrovert. I thought extroverts were the ones that made it in the world. I thought I had to work the crowd, be the center of attention, be “the guy” that everyone was drawn to in the room.
I played the role well. People were drawn to me. I could tell the punch line. I could work the crowd with the best of them.
It just wasn’t me.
And it was exhausting.
Then one day I was with some colleagues of mine on a ministry trip and they said, “I thought you said you were an extrovert.” I immediately became defensive and said, “I am!” They, who are both extreme extroverts, laughed and said, “You know you haven’t said a word this entire trip. You are not an extrovert!”
I didn’t want to believe them. I had spent my whole life convincing myself I was somebody I was not. I had spent my whole career trying to fit into a role that was not me.
Like David trying on Saul’s armor for battle against Goliath, it just didn’t fit.
Over the last few years I have discovered who I really am, not who I wanted people to think I am.
I am an introvert.
I am a thinker.
I feel deeply and hate seeing people hurt.
I am me.
For the first time in my life, I am beginning to celebrate that. As I step into who I am, I realize that I find a freedom I never had before. I don’t have to apologize for being me. The world needs me to be me. Fully me.
The best gift I can give to my kids, my church, my friends, this world, is a fully realized me.
And the best gift you can give to your family, your job, your friends this world is a fully realized you.
Not an imitation. Not someone you think you are or should be.
Be who you is, because if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.
About Jason Webb
Jason Webb is a Milwaukee-based pastor and public speaker. Currently, he is a Team Manager and Groups Director for Great Lakes Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Before this, Mr. Webb has established and led multiple churches and non-profit organizations, both domestically and internationally. Jason Webb is an experienced entrepreneur, movement leader, and an advocate for racial reconciliation.