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Posts Tagged ‘identity’

There is no doubt that life is a long journey, made up of a countless number of moments. Most of them, good or bad, eventually dissolve into a mist of vague memories.  But there are others which distinguish themselves in such a way as to become watersheds, where the very flow of our lives can be altered.  These instances ultimately come to define our journey, and often times can significantly impact the way we see ourselves and/or the way we are perceived by others.  Such an occasion is commonly known as a “defining moment”.  Just as significant as the moment itself, is how we interpret it in real time, and the lens through which we choose to view it in retrospect.

 

An example of interpretation can be found in an experience I had in elementary school. As the youngest of three boys, I struggled mightily in school, while my older brothers were both model students.  My beleaguered parents were constantly being called in for Parent-Teacher conferences, which isn’t something they had to deal with previously.  So when I managed to go for an entire 9 week period with no significant issues, and brought home a solid report card (A’s and B’s), they decided to reward me with a new Harlem Globetrotters lunchbox.  All they were trying to do was acknowledge my progress and encourage me.  Unfortunately, I was keenly aware that both my brothers had straight A’s on their report cards, and that they were getting nothing for their efforts.  Thus, I interpreted my parent’s gift as an implicit acknowledgment that I was their stupid child, which completely diffused the virtue of their intent.  Instead of encouraging me, the lunchbox became a symbol of my inadequacies.

 

This faulty reading of my parents gesture was rooted in both my habit of comparing myself to my older siblings, and the conclusion I had already drawn about myself, which was that I was in fact stupid. Because that was the lens through which I viewed the situation, it clearly colored my perception of reality.  Though my parents never openly compared me to my brothers or belittled my intelligence, I felt woefully inadequate whenever I was around them, and thus I came to that judgment on my own.

 

There is no doubt that what we believe about ourselves is far more consequential than what others believe about us, and once we draw such a conclusion, it becomes nearly impossible for anyone else to change our mind. For me, it took becoming an adult, moving away from my family, and learning to stand on my own merits, before I could gain a new perspective.

 

While we are not in control of many of the things which befall us in life, we do bear some responsibility for how we choose to respond, and we do have a choice about which moments will ultimately define us. Remaining focused on the most painful moments of our lives, pursuing people who reject us, while ignoring those who value us, seeing ourselves through the lens of our greatest weaknesses and failures, holding on to bitterness and unforgiveness for those who’ve hurt us… are all recipes for misery.  People will define us by whatever measure they choose to use, but they do not have the power to control how we define ourselves.  When we blame everyone else for our present condition, we have unwittingly forfeited the power to change it.

 

No one gets through this life without some amount of adversity, pain, and struggle. We can see ourselves as a victim, or a survivor, or maybe even an overcomer.  I believe that we have far more control over this than most of us understand.  If we don’t like the moments that have defined us thus far, it is up to us to change our course.  I have a sister-in-law who was once an addict, a convict, and judged by the courts to be an unfit parent.  She made the decision to change her life, and though it took some time, she is now a sober, loving wife and mother, raising her family.  Not long ago she was seen as being beyond help, but today, she is an inspiration.  She is living proof that if you don’t like your story thus far, you can rewrite the ending.

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It is a blindness to the beauty, with a clarity on the flaws 

It is the impulse to manipulate for what’s already been freely given

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It is the urge to compete with those who are dearest to us

It is the voice that taunts us from behind the mirror

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It is the compulsion to tear people down to what we unconsciously perceive to be our level

It is the willingness to trade our values for the approval of others

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It is the frequency that muffles every compliment, while amplifying the slightest criticism

It is the apprehension to speak for fear of sounding stupid

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It is the drive to control what was never ours to govern

It is the tendency to exaggerate our accomplishments, while denying our weaknesses

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It is the fear that if they really knew us, they wouldn’t love us

It is the unspoken sense that it would be better if we were someone else

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It is ultimately an identity thief

and

Its name is insecurity

 

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When you don’t know who you are, you unwittingly rely on others to show you, which ultimately turns you into a slave to what other people say and think about you.

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If we could comprehend the significance of who we were created to be,

we wouldn’t be so prone to invest our identity in other things

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If we could understand the position we’ve been given in Christ,

we wouldn’t feel the need to fight our way to the front of the crowd

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If we could grasp the magnitude of what the Savior accomplished for us,

we would never need to be afraid of the future

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If we could accept what God says about us as truth,

we would be immune to the sharp and hurtful words that so often pierce us

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If we could fathom the depth of our Father’s love for us,

we wouldn’t be so willing to settle for superficial affections

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If we could discern the nearness of God’s Spirit,

we would never feel alone

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