Editor’s Note: This article was written by guest author Dave Hernandez.
I’ve shared a few thoughts about ‘identity’ on this blog, obviously because that’s one of the main ideas of my book “I AM! The Blueprint of Humanity!” But what do I mean by “identity”? Ideas about ‘identity’ are tossed about quite frequently and offered in many different variations. And often times people’s understanding of ‘identity’ do not exactly coincide with mine. Hence today’s post purposed to clarify the concept.
So what do I mean when I use the word ‘identity’?
It’s obviously a sense of understanding “who I am”: most of us would agree with that. It also encompasses ideas such as self-esteem and self-worth, confidence and assurance. In that we all concur. So where’s the divergence?
It’s in this: the majority of us seek identity through ‘self-elevation’!
‘Self-elevation’ is about making a name (identity) for myself by myself. There is a deep need for recognition or ‘identity’ in all of us and we seek to fulfill that need through our own efforts.
‘Self-elevation’ uses things such as ‘talents’, ‘achievements’, ‘abilities’, ‘appearances’, ‘possessions’ and most above all ‘the things I do’ to create a sense of identity.
We seek to satisfy the identity quest by positioning ourselves above the crowd in one-way or another. We create our status: our identity. The problem is that we revert to mimicking what the crowd has and does in order to be ‘accepted’ and we try to do ‘better’ and ‘greater’ things than others in order to find our unique place. It gives us a sense of identity. But, it engenders all sorts of competitions leading to jealousies, criticism and rivalries. We use our ‘talents’, ‘abilities’, ‘belongings’, the number of Facebook friends, people we know who are considered high achievers, … etc., to make a point: “I have what it takes to be somebody of a certain stature above the crowd!”
It’s what happened to Adam and Eve. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil leads to death. ‘Tree-of-Self-Significance’ is the subtitled English name you can give to the tree. It led to jealousies, broken relationships, and murder: read the story of Cain and Abel to start with.
There’s another problem. What happens when you lose your status? If your identity is in what you do, what happens when you can’t do those things anymore? If your identity is in what you have, what happens when you lose those things? Will you become depressed, suicidal, or will your loss express itself in anger and frustration? Think about it and answer the question honestly!
Identity must come from something or someplace deeper than what we do or possess. It must find a deeper source than position and status in society we create for ourselves.
I am not against possessing, achieving, doing, and position. I am simply flagging the fact that these things can be lost and therefore can’t become the foundation of our identity. A person with a true sense of identity will not change when their circumstances in life vary. This person will not lose their ‘self-confidence’ when they can’t prove their value because they’ve been demoted, or cannot be counted among the wealthy, or whatever the change in conditions.
Paul explains to the church in Corinth that “if any man builds (his identity) on the foundation (of Jesus Christ) with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work (1Corinthians 3:12-13 NASB)”.
‘Identity’ and ‘value’ go hand in hand. But one’s sense of value and worth cannot come from anything that can be taken away: burnt in the fire. The intrinsic value that makes me “who I am” cannot come from anything that can lose its value in the first place. A job can be lost; money can vanish; abilities can fade away; people with greater talents can show up on the scene; and you can be demoted and rejected! Anything external to me, that can be removed from me, must not become the basis upon which my identity is formed! The things you use to build your sense of identity will be tested by fire.
Gold, silver and precious stones won’t lose their value when the test comes – and believe me everybody faces the fire!
Identity that cannot be destroyed is built on things that will never lose their value even when you find yourself losing everything this world values. What are those things?
I would point out three valuable truths that affirm my sense of identity:
- I am a Child of God and the Trinity’s love for me is based on that fact alone (not on what I do for them!);
- I am a Free-Moral-Agent and my decisions belong to me;
- I am the incarnation of God’s thoughts, plans and emotions for me in physical form.
These three ‘pillars’ are the gold, silver and precious stones that will not burn away in the furnace of life. It is once I have a firm understanding of these three things that a true sense of identity is formed in me.
I’ve seen too many people caught up in their doing and success stories, their works for God, even the miraculous works they claim for themselves as if their anointing is better than someone else’s… all trying to affirm their identity and yet they are so off the mark: that, perhaps, is the worst kind of sin!
The only way to identity is through ‘self-emptying’: you must stop trying so damn hard, just give up and surrender, lay low and become a nobody, a servant, a child… then you will find yourself in possession of everything that money cannot buy: security in the knowledge of who you are found in the only authority who can affirm your identity: God!
Dave Hernandez is an author, speaker and blogger. He has been a student, preacher and teacher of the Bible for 30 years. Dave is married to Laurence and has two sons. He is a lover of all cultural expressions.
Editor’s Note: Would you like to submit an article for consideration to The Raven Foundation? Find out how in theguidelines of our new section, “Your Voice.” Articles published do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the staff at the Raven Foundation, but are selected primarily because of the way they enhance the conversation around mimetic theory.