A lovely lady in Starbucks allowed me to take a picture of her shirt, which quotes the performer Lady Gaga: “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.”
Saint John Paul II spent his pontificate saying the same thing. Now, I know there’s only so much you can fit on a T-shirt and I don’t want to be unfair to Lady Gaga, but she neglected to say who decides who I am — so that I can be that.
John Paul famously said, “Be who you are!” He didn’t leave out how and why we know who we are, or who decided who we are long before we were born, in fact, before time began. And he didn’t leave out in whose image we are created: God who is love — sacrificial love, to be exact.
We are created to be “gift” to each other, which means helping each other grow in those strengths of soul called virtues:
Justice: Giving people what good is rightly theirs.
Courage: Patience with each others faults; standing up for what is right.
Self-control: Treating others as a gift, not using others to get what we want.
Prudence: Stepping back to consider what’s the best action in the long-run.
Faith: Using reason to more fully believe what God has revealed about who we are.
Hope: Trusting that God is able to welcome us into heaven, if we say yes.
Love: All of the above, blended together in a good life.
We truly know who we are when we let the one who created us in love tell us. You might enjoy some words of Saint John Paul II about that:
“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”
“True freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace.”
“It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman.”
“A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use.”
“There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.”
““Love consists of a commitment that limits one’s freedom — it is a giving of the self, and to give oneself means just that: to limit one’s freedom on behalf of another….Limitation of one’s freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful, and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love.”
“Ask yourselves, young people, about the love of Christ. Acknowledge His voice resounding in the temple of your heart. Return His bright and penetrating glance which opens the paths of your life to the horizons of the Church’s mission. It is a taxing mission, today more than ever, to teach men the truth about themselves, about their end, their destiny, and to show faithful souls the unspeakable riches of the love of Christ. Do not be afraid of the radicalness of His demands, because Jesus, who loved us first, is prepared to give Himself to you, as well as asking of you. If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.”
Echoing John Paul II, Lady Gaga gets the first and last word: “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.”
For the whole text of Love and Responsibility by St. John Paul II, click the image.
And if you want the mother lode of “who we are,” check out JPII’s Theology of the Body. It’s not exactly quick reading, but it will blow you away. Talk about feeling good about yourself — this book will make you feel your worth and dignity more than ever before, or even more than you thought possible. Highly recommended.
If you purchase, Virtue Connection may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I recommend these books because I believe in them.