Lately I’ve been writing about “labels“,“us versus them“ mentality, “validation”, “apathy”, and being “here together”. I’ve been considering how much of the troubles in our world, our society, our homes is tied to an identity crisis. It seems a great deal of it can be traced back to the question of who we are. Or even who we think we are.
In an earlier post I linked to a news story about a four-year-old who ended up in state care. When officials asked her name, she replied “Idiot”. It is a heartbreaking story.
I started wondering: Are we any different? Have we, at some point, accepted someone else’s opinion of who we are? It seems we are all too willing to believe someone else knows us well enough to define us. Sometimes words aren’t even used: we accept the identity we think someone else has given us.
Years ago I attended a recovery meeting in which the speaker told the audience that she did not give a $#*! whether we liked her because she finally liked herself. It seemed a bold and unpopular thing to say. The more I’ve thought about it, I realized the speaker probably wasn’t trying to offend us; she was trying to educate us. Perhaps her language offended us but even there she emphasized her point. Whether we were willing to validate her was of no significance. She had found her identity and our opinion was moot.
A phrase that has become one of the cornerstones of the foundation of my life:
It is none of my business what other people think of me.
Can I actually live with no interest in what other people think of me? Not yet. At least not consistently. I am closer than I used to be; I realized there is Someone who will tell me truth about myself without prejudice or influence. That’s the sticking point, really: true acceptance from someone that knows me completely. But if they know me completely, then all bets are off, aren’t they?
If I were to use my influence so others would approve of me, aren’t my motives impure? I’m not talking about dressing up for a meeting or church; I mean manipulation, subtle though it may be. Tit for tat. Making others feel good so maybe they will make me feel good. Baiting compliments.
What I want – what my heart desires – is to be acknowledged, accepted and favored just as I am. But if I am not fully known then acceptance is meaningless, right? So who is fooling who?
“I don’t want to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” – Groucho Marx
Only God knows me well enough to validate me (or not), and dressing up in fancy clothes doesn’t impress Him. The human heart knows a scale where a pure and holy God weighs an impure and unrighteous human has doom written all over it. The heart fears and resists, so we lean away/back away/run away from God. Yet I am miserable away from God. What I need, desperately, is to be accepted by God even though I may stink as a human.
A thing about Jesus: He did not need people to give Him an identity. He got it directly from His Father.
Another thing about Jesus: He also was not impressed with fancy clothes. Or titles.
And another thing: He had compassion for the sick, the broken, and the marginalized. I am happy to report He still does. Jesus loves us with such intensity it is beyond my comprehension.
And one more thing about Jesus: He spent a lot of time with God.
Here’s where I landed after all these mental gymnastics: we have value because God says we do. Not only are we valued, but valued enough for the gift of Jesus. Anytime I choose to ignore that and seek my identity from other people, I might as well pencil in “mood swings ending with depression” on my calendar.
So back to the beginning: would our world, our society, our homes be warmer and more peaceful if everyone knew their real identity in God? It seems to me that’s exactly what Jesus was saying to everyone He met. You are loved and treasured because God says you are, and you cannot change His opinion. Jesus showed us just how much.
“Because you are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you…” Isaiah 43:4