“Mystique” is a shape-shifting character in the X-men comics and movies. She can transform into anyone by assuming all their physical characteristics. She is quite powerful but in the 2011 movie X-Men: First Class, there is a scene that depicts her struggles with her true identity. Her real body is blue and scaly with auburn red hair, but out of a desire to fit in she assumes the habit of shape-shifting and holds a form that is not hers. She adapts in order to be liked and assumes a form she believes is more beautiful than her true form.
As I consider my identity I wonder how much shape-shifting I do in order to be liked and accepted? Do I take on attributes of others that are not my own in order to be accepted and valued? Do you?
We are all tempted to shape-shift from time to time. Shape-shifting can be a good thing as we adapt appropriately to surroundings, settings and cultures. Adaptability and sensitivity to others can be wise. But shape-shifting can also be negative if we undervalue our true form and identity and lose sight of how God has created us.
Why are we prone to shape-shift for negative reasons? Here are a few possible reasons:
People-pleasing: Being a strong, opinionated, feisty and an extrovert, much of the Christian world does not always know what to do with me. By nature I’m feisty and have been described as a “firecracker”, yet the willingness to shape-shift is strong and I often succumb to it. My desire for people-pleasing and for others to like me trumps my true self at times. Sometimes it seems like it’s easier to be someone else than to be me. It’s not, it just seems that way.
Sure, I have a lot to learn about tact, waiting my turn to speak, and listening. We all have a lot to learn about who we are and how we express our true selves and respond to others that don’t know what to do with us. That doesn’t excuse my willingness to shape-shift for the wrong reasons. When I shape-shift to please others I am more interested in what they think of me than embracing the way God created me and living according to His call.
Expectations: Sometimes we use shape-shifting to meet other’s expectations. I confess that in the Christian world I, like many shape-shift to meet expectations that neither God or I ever set. To be honest, it’s sometimes easier and safer to live by other’s expectations than God’s, but that’s not living. We respond to others out of fear and what we think they want. We live by others expectations and sometimes this is easier than seeking, discerning and living out God’s call.
We don’t believe God: God didn’t mess up. We shape-shift when we believe that God somehow messed up. We do not believe that the gifts, strengths, features and talents that God gave us are good enough. When we shape-shift we’re essentially saying, “God, you messed up, I should really be THIS way.” God doesn’t mess up. He didn’t mess up when he made me and He didn’t mess up when He made you or anyone else. Unfortunately, too many of us believe on one level or another that God “messed up”.
Shape-shifting for likability, people-pleasing, not ruffling feathers (you name any reason other than transformation to the image of Christ) does not honor God. It does not honor His creativity and workmanship. You were created as God desired – He didn’t mess up.
We have lost sight: There is a deception to shape-shifting. When we adapt too often we lose sight of our true identity. We may even get positive feedback to our shape-shifted persona. The more we shape-shift the more we begin to believe and think that what we’ve shifted into is actually our true nature. We become deceived and forget who we are. We forget how we are truly shaped and God’s desire that we live into the true shape for which He created and called us.
My hope is that we would all consider how we shape-shift. Talk to good friends, ask God and listen as they remind you of your true self and welcome you to return there.