French Archbishop François Fénelon (1651-1725) knew that some Christians were not authentic for fear of being rejected or the target of laughter. The problem is if you keep trying to hide who and what you really are, no one will ever get to know the real you. And the longer this goes on, the more miserable a person becomes and starts avoiding personal or intimate contact with others. So, the Archbishop has a few words of wisdom for those caught in such a trap.

There is a simplicity that is merely a fault, and there is a simplicity that is a wonderful virtue. Sometimes it comes from a lack of discernment and an ignorance of what is due to others. In the world, when people call anyone simple, they generally mean a foolish, ignorant, gullible person. But honest simplicity, far from being irrational, is almost sublime. All good people like and admire it. They are conscious of sinning against it, observing it in others, and knowing what it involves, yet they could not precisely define it. One may apply to it what blessed Thomas Kempis says in The Imitation of Christ about the heart’s sensitivity: “I would rather feel it than know how to define it.”

We could say that simplicity is the uprightness of the soul that prevents’ self-consciousness. It is not the same as sincerity, a much humbler virtue. Many people are sincere but are not simple. They say nothing but what they believe to be accurate and do not aim at appearing anything but what they arc. But they are continually in fear of passing for something they are not, and so they are forever thinking about themselves, weighing their every word and thought and dwelling upon themselves in fear of having done too much or too little. These people are sincere, but they are not simple. They are not at ease with others or others with them. There is nothing easy, frank, unrestrained, or natural about them. We feel that we would like less admirable people better, people who are not so stiff! This is how people think, and God’s judgment is the same. He does not like self-absorbed souls and is always, so to speak, looking at themselves in a mirror.

As opposed to simplicity, one extreme is to be absorbed in the world, never mining a thought within, as is the blind condition of some who are carried away by what is present and tangible. The other extreme is to be self-absorbed in everything, whether it is a duty to God or other people, and as a result, making us wise in our conceits – reserved, self-conscious, uneasy at the slightest thing that disturbs our inward self-complacency. But, despite its earnestness, such false wisdom is hardly less vain and foolish than the folly of those who plunge headlong into worldly pleasure. Their outer surroundings impassion worldly obsession. Their self-absorbance by what they believe themselves to be inward. But both are in a state of intoxication, and the last is a worse state than the first because it seems to be wise, though it is not really – and so people do not try to be cured. Instead, they pride themselves on this state and feel exalted above others by it. It is a sickness somewhat like insanity – a person may be at death’s door while claiming to be well.

Those who are so carried away by outer things that they never look within are in a state of worldly drunkenness. Those who continually dissect themselves become affected and are equally far from simple.

Absolute simplicity lies in a happy medium, equally free from thoughtlessness and affection, in which the soul is not overwhelmed by external things so that it can look within. Nor is it given up to the endless introspection that self-consciousness induces. On the contrary, the soul that looks where it is going, without losing time arguing over every step, or looking back perpetually, possesses true simplicity.

But what does the Bible say about such an individual? First, God wants us to live a simple life. Not a life that lacks abundance, but with fixed hearts and minds on all He has for us and not what we can get for ourselves.

The Psalmist David stated that the Lord’s teachings are perfect, restoring the inner person. The Lord’s rules can be trusted. They help even the simple become wise.[1] Then, later on, we read that the LORD protects the simple and the childlike.[2]

King Solomon certainly learned from his father, King David. He wrote about Wisdom, saying, Wisdom has built her house; she has made it strong with seven columns.[3] She has cooked meat, mixed wine, and put food on the table. She has sent her servant girls to announce from the highest hill in the city, “Whoever needs instruction, come.” She invites all the simple people and says, “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have prepared. Leave your old, foolish ways and live! Advance along the path of understanding.”

Even our Lord Jesus had these words of wisdom for His followers: Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.[4] And the Apostle James added this: The wisdom that comes from God is like this: It is pure. It is also peaceful, gentle, and easy to please. This wisdom is always ready to help troubled people to do good for others. This wisdom is always fair and honest.[5]

No matter what you think of your real self, don’t be ashamed to be yourself. That way, you can learn and grow more mature into the kind of person you really want others to see in you. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul who said, we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in the Anointed One, Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.[6]

[1] Psalm 19:7

[2] Ibid. 116:6

[3] In ancient Israel, a good house was one that had four main rooms with seven columns to support the roof.

[4] Matthew 23:11-12 – The Message

[5] James 3:17

[6] Ephesians 2:10

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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