A few days ago a conversation developed on my Facebook newsfeed about loving people even when you disagree with them. The phrase “Agreement and acceptance are two very different things” caused a little bit of a reaction, with some suggesting that disagreement about something vital to a persons identity could NOT happen at the same time as acceptance. Obviously there is a lot of stuff to unfold there, but one of the things that one of my friends took away was the question of what actually does make us who we are? What actually is vital to a person’s identity?
Having gone through a lot of change in the past couple years I found this question particularly intriguing. Some people answered their job, others their personality, still others their beliefs, or some their family, friends, or relationships to others (“Mom” etc).
For me, I have recenlty realised that my job does not define me. I’ve gone through a few different jobs in the past few years, and though some definitely provided more fulfilment than others, I’ve realised that my job does not make me who I am. Heck, I thought I’d learned this one already but it’s been hitting home even more in the past few days as I got laid off from my job and likely will not be able to get another one until I go on Mat Leave! Even having a job you hate is different than not working for income! Weird feeling! (but I digress).
As for my family, they do not define me either. Yes, they have contributed a lot to who I am, but that is not where my identity comes from. My husband and I are VERY different people. I love him to pieces, but if someone was going to try and guess at who I was by knowing him… I think they’d be surprised. My parents , who I love dearly, OBVIOUSLY had a hand in who I’ve become but they’ve definitely be able to tell you that there are parts of me that they don’t understand at all. My brother, my sister, my nieces and nephews… they all have an impact on who I am, but they don’t MAKE me who I am. Does that make sense?
It’s made even more complicated by the fact that as humans, we always seem to be changing/growing (or at least the capacity is there).
For instance, there is the beliefs factor. Do our beliefs make us who we are? What if your beliefs change? Does that completely change your identity??
Or your dreams/goals? Are THEY what makes you you? What if they change?
Or you could answer our personalities as some people have… and that makes me think of a conversation my family had one about personality traits and I remember my Mom telling my Dad that he MADE himself become more of an extrovert … suggesting that even those are subject to change as well.
So I tried figuring out who I am without all those things, without my job, my family, my beliefs… what am I? How do I define myself?
I started to think maybe my wit. I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I am intelligent, and I definitely rely on my intelligence. I do not know who I am without it. I am a quick learner, and I’m fairly proud of that fact. But then I started to think, what if even that was taken away? I thought of my grandmother, and then wondered if I got Alziehmers, would that change who I am? Would I cease to be me?
No. I would still be the same person who has impacted my friends and family, with the same successes, the same mistakes.
You see, my Mom even got in on the facebook action of trying to define our identity, saying this “We are the sum total to all our experiences, reactions, genetic make up. Our longing, desires. We are also much more than we know. For who really understands themselves.”
And I totally agree with her! But then again, I don’t believe that a person needs to be defined by their past… so I hesitate to put too much weight on how much our experiences define us. And I’ve already mentioned the fact that our longings can change…
So the biggest part I guess I agree with? We are also much more than we know. Maybe all these things that we try to define ourselves with are just not enough. Maybe we are supposed to be getting our identity from somewhere else.*
Maybe who we really are is a big mix of who we’ve been and who we are meant to be. A mix of the present and the potential. And in that I think knowing what God thinks of us is incredibly important to knowing our true identity. Everything else we try to define ourselves by can be so fluid.
For me, I’ve had too many things change in my life to let anybody but God define me. Even myself. But how about you? What do you think makes you you? What if it was taken away? Who would you be then, and how would you know?
*Also… in the course of writing this I thought of the book Searching for God Knows What. If you haven’t read it I seriously suggest it.