Have you heard the expression “I was beside myself”? Have you used it? What does it mean? What are the implications? I need to lie down to contemplate the enormity of this enigma!
I found some definitions: “To be ‘beside yourself’ is an idiomatic expression indication extreme levels of emotion, usually negative ones such as frustration, anger or grief.” Or, this one: “It means experiencing extreme joy. ‘Beside’ was formerly (15th through 19th centuries) used in phrases to mean out of a mental state or condition as ‘beside one’s patience, one’s gravity, one’s wits.’”
So there is a good ‘beside yourself’ if it means joy, and there’s a bad ‘beside yourself’ if you’re really ticked off. When’s the last time you were ‘beside yourself’ and how were you feeling?
It’s interesting (at least to me) that there is a biblical reference with this phrase. In Acts 26, Paul appeared before the Roman governor, Festus and King Agrippa. As Festus listened to the impassioned witness of Paul, he exclaimed: “Paul, thou art beside thyself!” (KJV)
Festus evidently thought that Paul was crazy. To the worldly mind of the governor, he wondered how anyone could risk so much to gain so little. Paul didn’t see it that way. He had written to the Philippians: “For to me, to live is Christ; to die is gain” (1:21). In some of his final words, he told Timothy: “I have fought good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. And now the prize awaits me …” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
If you’re going to be beside yourself, shouldn’t the reason have high stakes? Can you think of anything more critical than setting your sights on eternal goals? If I’m going to be beside myself, I want it to be worth it.
William Wilberforce must have been ‘beside himself’ His holy discontent was the slave trade. His campaign to abolish the horrid blight of slavery took twenty years before the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. He wasn’t finished. From 1826 until 1833, he invested so much effort and energy that he had to resign from Parliament due to his failing health. The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 abolished slavery in most of the British Empire. 3 days after learning of the passage of this landmark legislation, Wilberforce died. He, too, kept the faith.
The next time you feel like being beside yourself, make it a worthy cause.