"Instead of fearing, as I ought, to be held back by all that encumbered me, I was frightened to be free of it."
Story of my life. I bet it's the story of yours, too.
I read a similar thought in a more contemporary book a few years ago, and the insight was helpful. As much as we hate our sins, shortcomings, addictions, and quirks, those are the things that we use to define ourselves to ourselves. "This is who I am, this is what I am like." If the alcoholic stopped being an alcoholic, who would he be? If the brainy guy stopped being so intellectual about everything, who would he be? If the emotionally inhibited man stopped repressing everything, who would he be? If the hypercritical woman stopped being so negative about everyone and everything, who would she be? If YOU stopped ______________, who would you be?
Even in our new lives as Christians, we become comfortable with our inadequacies, and even though we don't like them, holding on to them is preferable to giving them up and losing our identity.
Eventually, push comes to shove. It may happen at a crisis point, but it will more likely be a long series of little decisions. We either grow in Christlikeness by accepting the significance, security, and transformative power that Jesus offers us, or we continue to hold back the ugly but comfortable parts of our personality and identity.
In VIII.7, Augustine says to God, "You brought me face to face with myself..., forcing me upon my own sight so that I should see my wickedness and loathe it. I had known it all along, but I had always pretended that it was something different." Why call it wickedness if we can call it preferences, or weaknesses, or personality, or "Just the way I am"?
Ultimately, Augustine came around. Ultimately, he says to God (VIII.12), "You converted me to yourself." No other conversion, no other vision, will be strong enough to convince us to deny ourselves and follow Him.
"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily
entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12.2,3)