One of the most perpetuated lies of the 21st century is the mantra “be your best self.” Self-help and power of positive thinking has corrupted many in my generation, in the generation before, and—unfortunately—in the generation to come. The heart of this teaching is creative power that is in you can be released in words to create a better you. John MacArthur describes it as “words with supernatural energy to literally create the world you want.” This teaching draws on Eastern, pagan, religious beliefs, specifically the “law of attraction,” which, according to Wikipedia, holds that “positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person’s life.”
MacArthur outlines this false teaching:
Everyday I evolve into a grander version of myself. Everyday I choose what’s right and acceptable for me. I am becoming more of myself everyday, choosing in many ways to deliberately peel back the layers of my unconscious habits and limiting beliefs, so that I can continuously see myself the way God sees me... beautiful, whole & complete. (Emphasis mine.)
Five errors jump out at me in this post.
First, people, in our natural, sinful state, cannot speak or be our best self because the best self is naturally filthy rags. Indeed, it first takes the Holy Spirit to come in and work a change in our hearts before anyone can live righteously. Earlier in his Epistle to the Romans, Paul highlights that natural man does not evolve, but devolves into rebellion. If left to our own devices, people don’t get better, they get worse. To “be your best self” is to exchange the truth and glory of God for a lie, one that can be manipulated to fit sinful desires and agendas (Rom. 1:22-23,25).
Second, if we’re honest, a grader version of the self is simply more and more sinful. The popular saying goes, “the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” You could easily replace “madness” with “the human condition,” because when we do things on our own, time and time again, we produce selfishness and self-service. Paul points this out when he reminds us, “neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (I Corinthians 3:7). We need God to produce anything that is worthwhile and useful to Him. He must cause the growth. Paul later drives this home when he says, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 3:11). There is no foundation in our natural, unregenerate self, there is only shifting sands.
Third, the only choice natural, unregenerate men can make is toward sinfulness. The original poster is concerned with peeling backing the layers of “unconscious habits and limiting beliefs.” I agree about the habits. Our rote traditions can easily become cacophony to God if there is no regeneration. I also agree about the limiting beliefs. Too often we devalue ourselves. There’s another famous saying, “I’m my worst critic.” But I have a strong feeling this person is saying the “limiting beliefs” are the commands and demands for godliness. This person clearly did not listen to Paul when he said, “man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 2:16). Without Christ, any attempts to satisfy the law will fall short. Without Christ, looking at the law appears as an insurmountable precipice. Thanks be to God “we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law.”
Fourth, on this same point, we must be careful not to confuse sinful habits with structures of righteousness. Godly living is not doing what is pleasing to self but what is pleasing to God. We must strive to live as God desires and as He has designed us. Paul sternly warns Timothy—and us—to avoid people who are “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (II Timothy 3:5). True godliness has a power to transform the believer. The more we rightly obey God the more we will desire Him. True godliness is the renewing of the mind. True godliness is abiding in Christ. True godliness is seeking the fruit of the Spirit. These are not burdensome toils for the believer; rather, they are joyful acts of reverence, submission, and humility to God.
Lastly, the only way for men to be seen by God as “beautiful, whole, and complete” is through the lens of His Son, Jesus Christ. When God looks natural man, He sees people living “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air,” walking as “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Only when we are in Christ, sealed by His blood, covered in His righteous robes, only then does God see something beautiful, whole, and complete. This is the surprising and scandalous love of God: “Being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Reader, if you want to be your best self or live your best life now, then you must do one of two things. Either do nothing and continue on your path of self-help and help yourself straight into hell, or cast aside that lie and submit yourself to Christ, finding your identity in Him and imitating His life now.