I Wanna Be Like You

Do you remember the number from Disney’s Jungle Book in which King Louie sings, “I wanna be like you. I wanna walk like you, talk like you do.”? It sums up the fatal flaw in the human condition. Beneath all the world’s vanity, ambition, greed, lust and violence there is a kink–something twisted and a distortion in the way we’re wired.

It can be summed up as the desire to be like someone else. “I wanna be like you…I want what you have. I want your success. I want your wealth. I want your good looks. I want your connections. I want your power. I want to be you…” The root of “I wanna be like you” is a deeper conviction that I don’t want to be me. I’m dis-satisfed with me. I don’t like what I have. I want more. From this root desire to be someone other than who we are comes all possessiveness. “I not only want to be like you, but to be like you I want what you have.” From that root comes all crime, violence, lust and greed.

This gnawing discontent drives our relationships. It drives our economy. It drives our politics. It drives our love life. It drives our whole fallen society. It’s humanity’s default setting. It’s the way we’re wired. It is there in the story of the garden of Eden. Our first parents were content with who they were and their relationship with God and with one another. They lived in harmony with all things, and they knew their rightful place; but the tempter made Eve aware of what she lacked, and the temptation was to eat of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil and thus “be like God.” So he got Eve to see God and say, “I wanna be like you…I want what you have…”

All of this is fairly simply and straightforward, but there is another distortion. There is a mirror image of this fallen-ness–a form of this twistedness that is even more perverted and sick. It is when we say not, “I want to be like you” but “I want you to be like me.” Now the fallen son or daughter of Eve does not wish to be like others and have what they have, instead they want the other person to conform to them and their wishes. This person does not desire to be like God, he has already made himself God for he expects all to say to him, “Thy Will be Done.” This is the person who is not only right about everything, but expects everyone to fall in line behind them. Read More.


  • Guest

    Interesting perspective! You make a great point in the continuation of this article that the saints become more fully themselves by leading holy lives.

    However, they achieved this by following, imitating, and trusting. The same desire that makes us discontented with ourselves is the very desire that led St. Augustine to reject a godless life and that caused the apostles to abandon their fishing nets to follow Christ. The desire can be used for good! “I wanna be like you” is the attitude of “The Imitation of Christ,” the little way of St. Terese, and the Church herself. If Catholics do not strive to follow Jesus and to do the will of the Father, as He did, then what is Catholicism anyway?

    The irony is that we become our fullest selves not when we branch out on our own, but when we reflect the Holy Face of our Creator.

    • Paddy Prunty

      It is more all encompassing than I want to be like you. I want to be you. Knowing about you is not enough. Its only when I am you that I am me

    • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

      I agree with the main thrust of your comment. We should be like Christ, like the saints.

      For me, however, the question is whether their sanctity was one of mimesis or theosis. Were they imitating Christ, or becoming Him? It’s the latter, of course, in both cases. Imitation implies it’s something of mine, and in the end, it can’t be maintained (as van Zeller points out in his little book on Holiness).

      Did not many see ‘the Holy Face’ in Marcial Maciel and John Corapi, for example?

      Imitation is something merely external, a thing of appearances, rather than reality. To my mind, saying, ‘This is my body’, over a wafer – if it remains a wafer – is imitation, irrespective of how many genuflections and elevations, and how ever much incense and bell-ringing in front of it there is, for example. One can see why that mentality would see the consecration as ‘hocus pocus’, as magic, as many of the Reformers did.

      If it’s to do with imitating, then the doctrine of ex opere operato is false, or plain stupid.

      Lastly, in their heart-of-hearts, is the purchaser of a fake Rolex as happy as they would be with a real one, however indistinguishable it is from the real thing? I might be wrong, but I suggest they aren’t.

      For me this is probably the biggest difference between me and my Protestant friends.

  • Paddy Prunty

    The more you become like Jesus the more you become your real self.

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    I hope your readers get to the second half of this. Shame it’s on a second page. It is spot on, and sums up perfectly the issues behind the recent ‘tensions’, I feel.

    Do they not know why Extreme Traditionalism has always been condemned by the Church? Why did Augustine have a run in with Donatus and Pelagius? For the very reasons you outline. One has to understand Psychopathology as well as Theology to join the dots.

    Developing the theme of your last couple of paragraphs – ‘the way out of the trap’ – is beautifully outlined in Hubert van Zeller’s little book on Holiness (republished by Sophia Institute). It expands and follows very much along the lines of your diagnosis and cure. He starts off by stating that we simply can’t do holiness by ourselves or else we get exhausted or distorted out of shape. We can’t simply emulate – want to be like – the saints, we have to be who God is calling us to be.

    History shows how a ‘Pelagian Rigourism’ has constantly bedevilled the Church, replacing healthy mortification with scrupulosity. The more modern ‘Donatism’, Jansenism, and it’s Protestant equivalent, Puritanism, seem to be still alive and kicking, especially in the ‘Church of Nasty’. Their resentment about what they’re having to undergo ‘for their faith’ is simply projected outwards onto those they think are ‘getting off light’.

    This comparative mentality is exactly what I think St Therese, in particular, points to as being completely misleading. If one suffers a cross without love, it turns into bitterness. She is the supreme example of ‘getting on with what I should be getting on with’, and all crosses accepted in love for Jesus. Without grace, that is simply impossible. Dare I say one becomes like those who have Voris Syndrome?

    Her life shows why Donatism and Pelagianism are errors. They’re not simply errors of doctrine, but being. It should be the whole thing. To separate Epistemology or Ethics (doctrine and morals) from Metaphysics, is to make the Protestant error. It necessarily leads to schism. Paradoxically, tribalists jettison Being, and thereby, jettison the Oneness of the Church. In other words, they seem to be unintentionally ‘destroying’ the Church through the very act of trying to defend her.