Who Am I, Really?
Identity simply is a perspective of how we see ourselves. We looked at this in great detail earlier in the book, but now I want us to personally wrestle with this question for ourselves: “Who am I, really?” When we were covered in layers of shame, our identity was concealed, damaged, or taken from us. We lived our lives based on lies – we believed what the people and experiences of our broken past had taught us. We believed that the measurements and standards of the world, and the approval of others who were just as human as we were, were the correct gauge of our self-worth and identity.
Here are some additional places where we may have tried to find our identity:
- Our possessions or status. We may have become attached to our material possessions or social status, using them to measure our personal worth. We can even reason that with enough “stuff” or success, we will one day find the security and confidence we need in life. We may have convinced ourselves that who we are is a reflection of what we have attained or achieved.
- Our reputation. We can strive hard to produce an outward reputation based on moral living, kindness, and other outward acts or goodness. We can find security in how we are viewed by others, including church members, co-workers, and others. That’s not to say it may not align with our character, but often we can become obsessed with this reputation, fearing that if others really knew us, they might not approve of or accept us. If we ever entered into situations in life where this reputation appeared smudged or threatened, we could be devastated. We might come from dysfunctional family systems where those around us have negative reputations. We use our efforts to create a good reputation to overcome the shameful activities of other family members. This would be a clear example of the “Equal and Opposite Principle” we discussed earlier.
- Our work. Work is an important part of our life. We carry a title and a set of responsibilities related to the work we do. Some of us find our entire identity through our work. Furthermore, we become so consumed by our work, our entire sense of worth rests in our success or failure at that workplace. This was the type of family environment I grew up in. It seemed that regardless how important the life event – birthday, holiday, milestone – my dad could not be there. The answer was always the same: “He had to work.” Others of us may have jobs or careers we chose out of obligation and need but find no joy whatsoever in the tasks. These jobs may stand in complete contrast with our temperament, skills, and talents. We feel chronically negative, detached, unsatisfied, and unmotivated as a result.
What is the common reality with all of these: our family roles, relationships, appearance, material possessions, reputation, and work? In truth, they don’t offer identity – they actually steal our true identity. By becoming fixated and secure in any of these areas, we become fearful at the thought of losing or changing anything where our identity would stand a risk of being threatened. This means that when one of these areas fails, our entire world can seemingly fall apart.
My pastor, Kyle Idleman, said recently in a sermon, “We’ll not fully discover our true identity in Christ until all of the idols in our lives have failed us.”
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