What Is Self-Actualization and Is it Biblical?
By Heather Riggleman, Crosswalk.com
“I’m just going to be myself.”
“I’m being my own authentic self.”
“I can’t help the way I feel.”
“I’m following my heart.”
“I can manifest my own destiny.”
There comes a point when the idea of becoming authentically YOU is overrated. You’ve probably heard these comments come up in conversation when it comes to self-actualization. It’s become a popular concept in this generation in how we live, what decisions we make, and who we want to become. It’s definitely not a bad thing to want to better yourself but it depends on the foundation. Most of the time self-actualization tends to be situational and relies on how we feel or whatever we think.
Self-actualization is often packaged with reaching your full potential and there are so many people out there waiting to take advantage of it. Whether it’s a pyramid scheme that targets stay-at-home moms to sell oils, vitamins, or makeup, or self-help books teaching you how to manifest wealth, health, or self-esteem, it’s based on sending positive energy into the universe.
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What Is Self-Actualization?
What is self-actualization exactly? In essence, to become “self-actualized” is to reach one’s full potential. It’s commonly used in person-centered therapy. It is most often associated with psychologist Abraham Maslow and his “Hierarchy of Needs.” However, Karl Goldstein is generally credited with the idea of self-actualization. Maslow stated that it is, “self-fulfillment to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”
In other words, the feeling of desire is what drives us to want to better ourselves. Self-actualization is the final stage of development in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and it occurs when a person is able to embody their full potential while still being aware of their limitations which is “an enlightened maturity characterized by the achievement of goals, acceptance of oneself, and an ability to self-assess in a realistic and positive way.”
It's a way of idolizing or repackaging authenticity and defining it as being true to ourselves through our feelings. But these feelings are often rooted in our own insecurities, weaknesses, and fears—none of which are based on the truth—God’s truth of our identity in Christ. But here’s the thing: following your truth, or letting your heart guide you, doesn’t set you free. It merely entangles you in your feelings and thoughts that shift like sand.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to become a better version of ourselves. Being a better person and reaching our full potential sounds almost Biblical, but it’s not. The Bible doesn’t teach about potential. It teaches us about purpose. God didn’t call us to manifest our destiny. God didn’t call us to be ourselves. He called us to fulfill His purpose. There is a distinct difference between a ‘good thing’ and a ‘God thing.’
Is Self-Actualization Biblical?
If we were to actually become “fully” ourselves, there essentially would be no need for Jesus. So, what’s the point of Jesus actually dying on the cross if we have achieved our highest abilities? If that’s the case, then we are deceiving ourselves. Galatians 6:3 reminds us, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
Becoming our best selves happens through the leading of the Holy Spirit as we take up our cross each and every day. We die to our selfish desires, impulses, thoughts, actions, behaviors, and temptations in order to emulate Christ because we live in a fallen world that began when Adam and Eve sinned. They introduced sin to the rest of humanity (Romans 5:12). Without God, our hearts deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9). We are dead in our sin (Colossians 2:13) and Galatians 5:17-21 says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
This is the hard, painful look at our reality. It’s hard for us because we, as human beings, are not inherently motivated towards positive growth. However, the beauty of becoming our best selves is that God wants us to. We were created in His image. He stamped eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God created us to love and be loved. He created us to lay down our lives for others. Jesus set the example of how to bring the best out in each of us through our purpose of glorifying Christ.
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What Are Some Ways to Self-Actualize Our Identity in Christ?
Self-actualization in the Bible comes through sanctification. The word sanctification means to set something apart for special use; to sanctify a person is to become holy. And our word needs a lot more holy than self-actualization. God tells us to be holy because He is holy. We get the privilege of becoming holy because of what Jesus did for us. “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” 1 Corinthians 1:30.
The true self-actualization or authenticity we should be striving for is being honest with ourselves and with others about our weaknesses and just how much grace we all need. Grace upon grace helps us look in the mirror to see what God sees, to see how much He loves us in spite of ourselves. This grace reminds us that we aren’t the experts of our lives nor are we the ones writing our stories. Each day as we come to Jesus, we bring our broken selves, and He works through us. Here are 3 ways to self-actualize our identity in Christ.
We spend so much of our lives striving to become someone and to make a name for ourselves while God waits on us to wake up and realize He’s already given us a name—His Daughters and His Sons. While we attempt to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those we encounter on a daily basis, we need to remember who we are and whose we are. Spend time in pursuing Jesus above all else. The Bible describes God as being “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20) and tells us that, with Him, “nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). There is never a day when this is not true. He is always able to do far more than we could even think of asking Him, this is why we pursue Him above all else.
Be Intentional in His Word and His Truths
It’s essential to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. This reminds us to be intentional and intentional living means to live on purpose or to live deliberately with an aim or a plan.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, we read, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
In Romans 12:2 we are commanded, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
It is through a daily practice of being in God’s word, prayer, worship, and being involved in a community of believers that we begin to know the Creator of the universe on a personal level. And when we get to know God, we learn His will and purpose for us.
Live in Your Purpose
We are compelled to find our purpose. It’s written into our DNA because God’s purpose for our lives is far greater than anything you could imagine because we were born by His purpose for His purpose. To discover your purpose, turn to God’s Word. Ephesians 1:11 says, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had His eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.” Then be aware of what makes you feel alive. Ask yourself what excites you, what natural talents did God give you, and most importantly, what burdens you. Your purpose is where your passions, talents, and burdens collide.
When we have the ability to look in the mirror and take in our imperfections saturated with grace; we have the ability to reach being whole in Christ. We serve a God who not only created us in His image but wants the best for us and sees the best in us. Through Christ, we are capable of becoming who God created us to be!
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