An Identity Formed
John Eldredge, author of Wild at Heart once said: “Identity is not something that falls on us out of the sky. For better or for worse, identity is bestowed.” We are who we are in relation to others.”
Think back to the people who had the biggest impact on your life. Either positive or negative. What did they say to you? What did they say about you? How did they treat those around them? Deep down, the heart of every man is to be impacted by others and to have an impact on the world around them. We long to know that we make a difference in this life. A man that thinks his life isn’t worth much at all is hardly alive. To know that we matter, that our presence cannot be replaced by a car, a possession, or even another person. The awful burden of the false self is that it must constantly be maintained.
We think we have to keep doing something to be desired. Look at TV commercials geared towards men. Do this to get that. Use this razor for a beautiful woman to hang all over you. Drive this truck to be accepted. Once we find something that will bring us some attention, we have to keep it going or risk the loss of the attention. For many men, that false identity is found in daily work. So we work hard to get that false identity affirmed by a company or entity that will discard us when we are no longer “valuable” to the bottom line. It's no surprise that depression and loss of identity are a large concern anytime a man loses his job.
We all live with the fear of not being chosen for the team, or the job and the burden of maintaining whatever it is about us. We develop a functional self-image, even if it is a negative one.
The other day my son was so proud to show me how he had decorated my SUV with sidewalk chalk. I remember saying to him "What do you think you're doing? You've made a mess!" My son dropped his shoulders in shame. And it nearly brought him to tears. I quickly recognized my mistake and tried to tell him I loved his artwork but use a piece of paper next time. But maybe the damage was already done: the boy forms an identity: “My art is bad. My impact is awful; I foul good things up. I am a fouler.” And he forms a commitment to himself to be afraid of fouling it up again. Years later, his wife wonders why he’s afraid to be more intimate; his colleagues wonder why he turned down a big job. The answer lies in his identity, an identity he received from the impact he had on the most important person in his world and his fear of ever being in such a place again. I am learning as a young father that the words we speak over our children carry a lot of weight.
But the good news is that the words Christ speaks over us carry much more weight if we allow them to sink into our hearts. God created humans to have unique characteristics and purpose. However, he designed us also to have a commonality of contentment with our lives through His will. We discover our true identity the more closely we are drawn to Him.