With the rise of the digital age, we have seen an unprecedented rise in several other things including depression, alternative lifestyles, and the attempt to spread different methods of self-help. Many of these self-help methods focus on things like eating healthy, exercising, and organization, all things that are valuable components to a better life. But they often get one other component completely wrong: where to look for self-identity. While many will say the answers lie inward, Brian Rosner says that we must instead look upward.
Recently on a segment of The Cale Clarke Show, Cale took a look at an article by Brian Rosner, the author of How to Find Yourself: Why Looking Inward Is Not the Answer, on the five common myths about who you are and where we can find the correct answers instead.
5 Myths About Who You Are:
1. You should look inward to find yourself. Modern culture has shed the idea that we can learn anything about ourselves from external factors like societal norms, religion, or our friends and family. “Far be it from anybody else to provide guidance, order, or basic information to us about who we are. Only we can decide that.” False. While looking inward can be helpful for self-examination, we can get lost in ourselves and easily become self-absorbed and self-centered.
There are three places that we can look outside of ourselves that will often tell us more about our life than we would otherwise know. Firstly, we should look to others around us. Look at how we are perceived and the quality of our relationships. Secondly, we should look at our life – both the past and our future trajectory. Look at the mistakes and at the successes. And thirdly, look to God. Each of us has a natural urge to expect something beyond this life. Rosner quoted Rowan Williams, saying, “Without the transcendent we shall find ourselves unable, sooner or later, to make any sense of the full range of human self-awareness.”
2. The Bible says nothing about self-identity. In some cases in the Bible, the Hebrew word for life and/or soul can be translated as identity. The cases Rosner mentions are during the Sermon on the Mount and in Chapter 19 of Psalms. “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25) It can easily be interpreted to say, “Is not your identity more than food and clothing?” We are more than earthly things.
And in Psalms it says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.” (Psalms 19:8) In other words, the law of the Lord refreshes our true identity and shows us who we were created to be.
3. You are defined by your gender, ethnicity, or culture. There is a passage in Galatians that is often misconstrued for the sake of distorting roles in society: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) What Paul is saying is that the whole of our identity is based in our status as children of God.
A common mistake by many people trying to find themselves is that they feel a need to shed everything from their past and latch onto some facet that has been deemed alternative, unique, or valuable in contrast to others. Our race may be indicative of our heritage and culture. Our gender may be indicative of our role and our tendencies. “While such markers of identity are essential for personal identity, they are not the whole story.” The whole story reveals itself in our foundation in Jesus Christ.
4. You are your own. We are not our own. We belong to Christ and the whole goal of life is to return to Him and stay with Him for eternity. The idea of personal autonomy has been championed by many in the name of independence, mainly in response to perverted ideas of belonging like slavery, abusive relationships, and political oppression.
But the idea of belonging and mutual connection has love at its roots.
When a child is lost at the store, they run into the arms of their mother or father as soon as they see them. The child recognizes that they belong at their parent’s side, and they would rather not stray from safety, care and love. When two people fall in love, one does not exclusively belong to the other, but they belong to each other. Out of love, they are servants of God and they serve God by serving one another.
In a spiritual sense, though, we are God’s. But the surrendering of yourself in this way does not lead to the eradication of yourself or an oppressive subjugation. In losing yourself and belonging to one who loves you with an everlasting love, you will find your true self.
5. Your personal story is an individual one. Today’s culture can mostly be summed up by how erratically people are sharing their personal stories on social media, often implying how important they think that story is. But your story is not an individual one.
As social creatures, all of our stories are intertwined. And things that may seem unique and defining to you may not be important or meaningful to others. That’s not to say that life-changing events should be kept to ourselves. But they should be viewed as part of something bigger than ourselves. One of the biggest lies of today is that your life is about you. At every given stage of our life, there are others to be served, whether it be our siblings, our friends, our grandparents, our spouses, our children, or our grandchildren. In serving those with Christ within them, we are serving Christ Himself.
Rosner closed, saying that our story, the story of God’s people “is both the bleakest and the brightest story on offer, pessimistic about human nature but instilled with a glorious hope.”
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT