The I’s Have It: A brief look at self-denial and identity.

“I” is one of those interesting homonyms. “The ayes have it” is probably the most common use, which is used in parliamentary procedures. “The eyes have it”, I’m not sure how commonly this is used, but it’s fun to think about — especially if you love eyes. “The I’s have it”, however, is not one heard very often at all. While amusing myself with this homonym, I ran across this one. Immediately selfishness popped into my head, but essays on selfishness are difficult to write — mostly because it is written on so much. So rather than write a boring essay, I decided to write a delightfully interesting, fascinating essay. (This is why I don’t write on selfishness. ;))

Self-denial is a practice that is becoming more and more common in the fundamental Christian and patriarchal worlds. Once upon a time, I could think about it in a positive light. That has become jaded lately, but I’ll try to explain both sides as clearly as possible.

By self-denial, we mean something deeper than the usual meaning, “denying yourself things you want.” Rather, we mean “denying that you have a ‘self.'” 1 Corinthians 6:19,20 tells us what we do not belong to ourselves, but have been bought with a price. Matthew 10:39 says, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” We often hear people talking about “being true to yourself,” “finding yourself,” saying things like “That’s just not ‘me,'” “I need to follow my heart,” or “I’m special because I’m me.”

The natural “us” deserves to spend eternity in Hell. Being true to our natural selves and “following our hearts,” which “are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), condemns us to spiritual death. We have no “selves” that are worth being loyal to.

So Much More by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, pp. 77-78

To keep this in context, this is in the chapter “Daughters, Fathers, and Virtuous Womanhood”, under the section titled, “How can I be more worthy of my father’s protection?” I’m still not sure how self-denial makes one so, because I find trampled, beaten people to be very unattractive. They have no sense of worth.

Anyway, I’d like to refute the phrase “Rather, we mean “denying that you have a ‘self'”” with Psalm 139:13-16.

13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. 15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

God knows what He’s doing when He creates us in our mother’s wombs. He instills personalities and a self. We are not robots. We are not clones. We are individuals. We are created different and unique. If you do not have a self, you do not have much. You are nothing more than a body. A self is what gives us personalities. Wikipedia has a fairly simple, basic overview of “self” here. Some aspects of your self can be wicked and of the ‘natural man’ (Vices and Harmful traits and practices), other aspects are obviously healthy and normal. Some are Godly.

The mindset I’m afraid this is instilling in girls during a critical stage of self-esteem (that’s another topic, one that I will likely touch on soon) is “You did not make me uniquely. I am just like everyone else. I am wicked. I reject who I am. Instead I am going to be a clone of another’s ideals.” Some girls are naturally gentle and gracious; they need to be taught how to defend themselves and not be trampled on. Other girls are naturally aggressive and sharp-tongued; they need to be taught how to be gentle, feminine and gracious. They all have personalities that need to be treasured. Some “traits and practices” aren’t Godly; these are the traits we learn to use appropriately or not at all. We do not remove the entire personality. A sin nature is not a self. Removing self is removing all that is lovely and wonderful about a person. It leaves an empty robot or clone, one who smiles because she has to, one who is gentle and gracious because she’ll be attacked if she isn’t, one who works herself to death because it is Godly. She denies herself until she has nothing left to give. Until you take care of yourself, you will never be able to take care of others. This is why it’s so important to have your own life right with God before you go to someone else for their sin.

The second paragraph in the quote from So Much More starts with “The natural “us” deserves to spend eternity in Hell”. Why are these young women so stuck on our natural selves? Have they not felt the transformation of Christ in their lives? Have they not been affected by His love and forgiveness? Can they only feel His judgment? They seem to find such joy in denying that Christ transforms lives and makes them beautiful though broken. May I point your attention to 2 Corinthians 5:17?

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to argue with that. Personally, that passage makes me cry. It tells me that God is willing to erase all of the baggage in my life and create a new creature. One that is in Christ, one that is lovely and loved. Most of all, one that is redeemed, reconciled, forgiven. I am no longer the enemy of the God of the Universe. I once was His enemy. He could crash the world around me, if He pleased. Yet, He’s holding out for me. Waiting, just waiting, for me to run to Him. To repent of my sins and allow Him to create in me a heart that’s clean (Psalm 51:10). It is my self that chooses this. And it is my self that God created and adores. He delights in me and I in He.

There. Now I feel totally and completely loved and lovely. 😀 It is my hope, my prayer that everyone comes to realize this. Their self is not evil. Their sin nature is. They do not deserve to be in God’s presence because of this sin. Yet He welcomes them with open arms. If they will run to Him with repentant and worshiping hearts, He will heal them, make them both loved and lovely. Because, as you must know, a loved person is a lovely person.

Now, on the other hand, self-denial can be good. For example, I deny myself the pleasure of being looked at because I love my brothers more than myself. So, I guess my description would be something like “denying yourself sinful pleasures”. I can deny myself overeating because it is a lust for food. (How appropriate considering tomorrow. :P) This is the good self-denial. Pretty obvious one too.

As an interesting sidenote, the idea of “no self” is a Buddhist concept called Anatta. I encourage you to look it up. I find it a little odd that the Botkin sisters landed on this same idea as the Buddhists did. I certainly hope it wasn’t intentional. 😛

Looking forward to hearing your opinions. 🙂

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~ by neverxxforsaken on November 25, 2009.

One Response to “The I’s Have It: A brief look at self-denial and identity.”

  1. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, why should God have created so many of us if we are all to be alike? Perhaps God likes diversity.

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