“Being Our Best Selves” Guest Post: Leslie Ann Little

On Friday, August 19, Dean of Students Leslie Ann Little delivered a devotional assembly about being our best selves. Our audience is 561 middle school students and 82 faculty and staff. With Ms. Little’s permission, I am sharing her assembly notes below – she provided an excellent message about understanding our two selves – our worst self and our best self – and about striving to be our best selves.

Psalm 139

New International Version (NIV)

Psalm 139

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

We, each of us, possess but one self and yet we often see ourselves as two: our best self and our worst self.

When I was your age, my best self would offer to take out the garbage without being asked, would help my sister with a project for school, though being four years younger, even my best self could have made a mess of it. But at least I didn’t set my hair on fire trying to recreate the effects of a forest fire.  Who knew Styrofoam was so flammable?!  Yes my best self consoled a friend, or spoke up when someone was spreading gossip no one knew to be true.

But don’t get me wrong. My worst self walked hand in hand with my better self, and in truth, often led the way.  My worst self snapped at my mom, “I said I would do it!” My worst self teased my sister when she developed acne first, made many a snarky comment to even my closest friends and certainly could become engrossed in the latest gossip.

I would love to tell you that I have conquered my worst self, but that would not be true. I haven’. It’s a challenge I face each day. I will tell you what I have done…I have come to understand something.

You see, we all know our worst selves better than anyone.  We spend an inordinate amount of time with our worst self. In fact, we spend so much time dwelling on our worst self you would think we were best friends. We know when we have made a sarcastic comment, we know when we should have stopped to help, and we know when we forwarded on or contributed to the rumors swirling around someone.  And if we are not careful though, we spend so much time with our worst self, fretting over our shortcomings, we can become convinced that is the only version of ourselves.

What of our best self? We see ourselves as two, but we often believe that to be our best self means we have to be perfect. And when we naturally fall short of that perfection, we can become overwhelmed by  how imperfect we are.  We spend so much time tearing ourselves down that we forget to lift others up.  We can become so worried about what others think of us that we forget to think about others. If you consider what Mr. Adams said about looking out for our herd, because we sometimes only focus on ourselves, we lose sight of others and become a herd of one…and we are not even very fond of the one.

The psalmist reminds us that God knows us inside and out, best and worst self.

You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.

While I am not proud of some of the words that have been on my tongue, the psalmist goes on to say  in verse 14 that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  My WHOLE self!

We can even go all the way back to Genesis 1. As God looks at all of creation, God declares it to be very good.  No translation that I could find said that it was perfect.

So when we catch our worst selves looking back in the mirror, we need to offer ourselves the grace that God offers us.

Micah 7:19  reminds us that You will again have compassion on us; You will trample our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

So when we catch our worst selves looking back in the mirror and see the person who lashed out at a friend, the person who sent the mean text, the person who thought she was too busy to stop and help clean up because she hadn’t made the mess, the person who laughed at someone for being different…instead of fretting in self-absorbed self-criticism because we are not the perfect self, we need to remember God’s unfailing, everlasting and unchanging love, God’s grace not just for the whole of our lives, but for each and every moment that makes up our lives.

When we do, we let our better self step forward. Our better self will have the courage to apologize for lashing out, we will stop to think about the person at the other end of the internet message before we press send, we won’t worry about who might have left the mess, we will see the person who needs our encouragement, some we can learn to laugh with and not at.  We will take care of our herd.

Yes, I am still of two selves, but I do believe that the God of grace, loves my whole self. Yes, God forgives even my worst self so that I might too…that I might better hear the still small voice that daily calls me not to be perfect but to strive to be my very best self, the same voice that calls all of us.

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