Be Who You Are: Embracing Your Own Kind of Sanctity

August 8, 2014


“Be who you are, and be that well.” – St. Francis de Sales

Have you ever admired someone? I mean to the degree that you want to be just like them.

For years now, I’ve admired, even venerated, G.K. Chesterton—and I don’t mean just his writing, as brilliant as that is, but Chesterton as a man. Chesterton is what I would like to be, if I had my way: joyful, witty, hilarious, humble, brilliantly insightful, imaginative, poetic, an effortless writer, childlike, prolifically productive, encyclopedic, a friend to all, even his intellectual and spiritual enemies—and the list goes on.

And because I admire Chesterton so highly, I have often found myself striving to imitate him in daily life. Recently, though, it’s dawned on me just how different we are. He was tall and fat, I am short and thin. He was perpetually exuberant, while I tend to be more melancholic and introverted. He could toss off a book effortlessly, while I have to work at every word I write. He had a voluminous mind, while I forget the most basic details.

The point is, I am not, nor will I ever be, G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton had a natural genius, a unique charism of sanctity that I will never have. Of course, he also had his own sins and shortcomings that I may not struggle with. The same goes for many of the saints I venerate—they were fundamentally different people than I am, and that’s alright.

The reason I bring this up is that I find quite often that veneration can subtly turn into envy. We admire someone so much that we grow discontent with who we are, with the unique gifts and personality given to us by God. Instead of wanting to be holy in the way that God has called us to be holy, we want to be holy in someone else’s way. In other words, we can succumb to the temptation to admire a person more than their sanctity.

The truth is, the body of Christ is made up of many members, all with unique gifts and unique functions. While all the saints shone with the same virtues, they often displayed them in different ways and degrees, shimmering with the virtues that God had called them to put most gloriously on display. St. Paul makes this  point abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:

…there are different kinds of gifts, though it is the same Spirit who gives them, just as there are different kinds of service, though it is the same Lord we serve,  and different manifestations of power, though it is the same God who manifests his power everywhere in all of us. 

The entirety of chapter 12 is an extended meditation on this point, and I highly recommend you read the entire thing. Interestingly, however, immediately after this meditation on the multiplicity of gifts in the church follows the famous chapter on the primacy of love, 1 Corinthians 13. If you follow St. Paul’s train of thought,  you will see that he is exhorting the Christians at Corinth not to envy one another’s gifts, but rather to seek first and foremost the best gift of all, true charity, which is the one gift that will draw us closest to Christ and make us most like him.

It is good and right to allow the saints to inspire us to greater holiness. We must simply be careful that we seek above all to imitate Christ, as it is to him that the saints ultimately point us, like sign posts along the road. And above all, we must learn to be content with who we are, cultivating the unique gifts that the good God has given us in his abundant love.

Sam Guzman

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Reader Interactions


  1. AvatarDominic Vieira says

    You have produced another insightful article, Mr. Guzman. We do tend to admire the gifts more than the person who governs them; and for that reason, I think we may say that one admires the sanctity rather than the person — sanctity being another “power,” as St. Paul puts it, another attribute that we may covet in a person. We wish to be that person so as to possess his gift, but we would not take his corresponding burden. Not for the life of us. We are not jealous of persons, but of personal possessions, of gifts, of powers in the Spirit. You chose an excellent quote from St. Paul to illustrate this very point.

    Thank you for another wonderful bit of writing. Even Chesterton would admire it.

  2. AvatarCuff of Coppee says

    How true – we also tend to get frustrated when we fail at such endeavors of imitation. That said, Grace and the practice of virtue will round out our predominate temperament within our own individual being & personality. The melancholic introvert will be required to come out of his shell in charity to others thus slowly acquiring attributes mostly attributed to the sanguine temperament. The sanguine, in true charity, will need to spend time in contemplation and meditation thus giving him characteristics of a melancholic and so on…

    I know a Priest who was very outgoing, friendly, smart and witty. He revealed that he was of a melancholic temperament that grace had worked on over the years. You would never have guessed!

  3. AvatarLuke says

    I think you have hit on something here Sam, I think it is so true we need first and foremost listen to the God within, isn’t that the real challenge rather than be a copy of another saint. What are we copying? Words? The Holy Spirit may say ask us to be merciful to others and offer a even deeper level of understanding of a situation where the words of a saint may relate to them at that time, inspired but temporary…

  4. AvatarJoanna says

    This was really good! I truly admire st paul I really liked this article especially since I’m going to choose him as my confirmation saint


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