Identity is significant. Who we are shapes what we do, but what we do also shapes who we are. If we lack a healthy understanding of the concept of identity, we will wander through life uncertain about what to do with ourselves.
What, in general, is identity?
Who Am I?
Identity is a simple and complex concept. On a rudimentary level, identity has to do with who we are. As such, it addresses a fundamental philosophical question: “Who am I?”
Identity is also complex and multifaceted. Numerous influences contribute to shaping our identity, including our family background, ethnicity, cultural environment, vocational inclinations, religious adherence, moral choices and more. If we are unable to establish a healthy identity, confusion and unhappiness usually result.
Identity is important, but knowing who we are is not enough. Within the framework of God’s calling, we need to act on our identity in order to make a meaningful moral difference in our lives, as well as the lives of others.
Over the course of our lives, each person’s identity is being formed and shaped through individual experiences, relationships, culture, media and the world around us. We are constantly seeking to define who we are in any way that we can.
Defining our Identity
David Benner, a psychologist and author of the book The Gift of Being Yourself, defines identity as “who we experience ourselves to be – the I each of us carries within.” Often, we feel the pressure to define ourselves through our jobs, financial status, successes, grades, appearance, what other people say about us and many other means.
But what happens to our identity when we experience failure? Or lose someone’s favor? Or become burnt out in our jobs or place of service? The very foundation of our identity is shaken and altered, resulting in us hustling to define ourselves by something or someone else. A stable sense of self cannot fully exist when we place our identity in external things. When circumstances change, our identity constantly changes too.
We may receive an overwhelming amount of messages telling us to define ourselves by external measures, but what would it look like to base our identity on the way God sees us? Benner states that “an identity grounded in God would mean that when we think of who we are, the first thing that would come to mind is our status as someone who is deeply loved by God.”
How would viewing yourself in this manner change the way you live? What are some obstacles in doing this?
How God Sees Us
First, we must know how God sees us. One of the richest passages about identity in the Bible is found in Ephesians 1:3-14. In this passage, Paul addresses the church in Ephesus, explaining the new identity given to a person when they are in Christ.
According to Ephesians 1, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing; we have been chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, grace-lavished, and unconditionally loved and accepted. We are pure, blameless and forgiven. We have received the hope of spending eternity with God. When we are in Christ, these aspects of our identity can never be altered by what we do.
Often times, however, a gap exists between intellectually knowing these truths about who God says we are and living them out. This can be affected by how we see ourselves, life experiences, and the ways we allow the world to define us.
In order to live out of the fullness of our new identity, we must determine what is hindering us from doing so, which varies from person to person. Many times, a false belief has wedged itself between how God defines us and seeing ourselves in the same light.
For example, the opposite of “pure and blameless” would be “impure, stained or guilty.” Perhaps a life experience has caused you to feel impure, so you believe God sees you this way. You then create and live out of an identity based on your actions, which is contrary to how God sees you.
In order to fight against these false beliefs, we must discover the exact belief we are allowing to form our identity.
Viewing Yourself as God Sees You Matters
If we lived out of an identity based on how God sees us, we would no longer feel the need to find our worth in our external circumstances.
It’s certainly a battle as we live in a world that seeks to define us by its own standards. But it’s a battle that, when we engage in it, could impact everything about us!
What we believe about our identity change the way we live?