At what age do we lose our inhibition, the care-free inclination and desire to be authentically ourselves? At what point did you begin to care what other people thought and felt about you? When did you first allow another person’s words or behavior to begin shaping how you see yourself?
Have you ever asked yourself why other people’s thoughts and opinions matter?
For many, this is beyond the scope of your memories. The words of others began to shape your identity from the moment you were born. For others, this may have happened differently – maybe a comment from a teacher, classmate, celebrity or coach took root in your heart and began to grow.
When and how it started might differ, but for all of us, the search for the answer to “who am I?” has ebbed and flowed throughout our lives, digging deep and contributing to the shape of our identity.
Whether consciously or subconsciously, many people define themselves by one or more of the following statements:
I am what I do.
I am what I have.
I am what I feel.
I am what I think.
I am what others think of me.
This is evident by our resumes, social media profiles, number of “likes” or comments on a selfie, ice-breakers, or conversation starters in social gatherings.
But what happens to our identity and who we believe we are when [one of the above] ends, fails, or fades away? We cannot be stable or have a solid sense of who we are when our identity lies in external things.
Many of the young women I have the privilege of working with in my counseling practice are picking up on this. Hard as it might be to overcome, they are becoming less concerned about others’ opinions on their careers, people disagreeing with their opinion, and much less concerned with social media likes.
Identity in Christ Alone
But a bigger problem than external identity issues is presenting, especially in the Christian clients I see and within the Christian Church.
I am my sin.
I am my temptations.
I am what I do in secret.
I am what I have done in the past.
I am my pornography addiction.
I am my relationships status.
When our identity is linked to any of the above habits, sins, or temptations, our inclination is to hide, as Adam and Eve did when sin entered the Garden. They hid from God and hid their fullness from one another. They pointed fingers and made excuses. Sound familiar? Guilt and shame have taken over your thoughts and you begin isolating yourself from community, pushing others away, keeping secrets, avoiding God’s truth. So what happens when we struggle with sin and temptation? Are we still “good?” Is God still good?
Romans 3:10-12 states, “as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
Our identity is for the sake of making known God’s identity: Who we are points to Who He is.
God is not surprised by our sin or temptations, for we have all sinned and fall short of His glory. What’s more is that Christ was also tempted, though is perfection personified in that He did not sin. Yet we find peace and comfort in a Savior who looked upon Creation and loved us enough to walk amongst us, experience what we do, face temptation, and ultimately chose to take our sins upon Himself. All for Love.
It is not true to the Gospel of grace when we place our identity in the sins of our past or in the temptations of our present. Our ultimate identity is found in Christ, what He has done for us by facing temptation and defeating it.
We can rest in our Salvation and who Christ says we are, because who we are points to Who He is.
Brielle Hibma, MA, LMHCA