I’m reading a novel about a guy who doesn’t know who he is. He was shot in the head and survived, and there are people trying to kill him but he doesn’t know why. Trying to piece together who he is and what he has done in the past, he gets clues from what others tell him, but what if they’re lying?
And I’m thinking about how easy it is sometimes to fall for the lies people tell us about who we are.
Who am I? I hang out a lot on social media and it’s so easy to accept people’s praise when you’ve sounded witty or cool or wise, but then if I take my identity from people’s comments on my posts or let it go to my head when someone retweets me, then what will my identity be when they don’t like what I say? I remember someone who applauded me loudly and commended me to her followers on Google+, gushing over how wonderful my posts are, and then later on – for reasons unknown to me – blocked me. If my answer to “who am I?” depended on what this person said, I’d have been crushed when she blocked me. But I didn’t let it go to my head when she gushed about what a wonderful person I am, and, while I was sad to see that a person who had been friendly towards me decided to cut me out of her life, it didn’t affect my sense of identity – of who I am and what I’m worth.
People say all kinds of things, some more true than others. Sometimes the lies are even well intentioned – they think they’re doing you a favour by paying you compliments to build up your self esteem, they think it’s good to make someone feel better and why not tell you that you’re smart, beautiful, kind and caring, or whatever adjective it is that they see as positive and think you want to hear. I posted a photo online today to show off my grey hair, and had people saying no, you’re not grey – I’m pretty sure they meant it as encouragement and reassurance, because, well, everybody knows that women like to feel they look young, right? Well intentioned, but I do have a mirror, I do know what colour my hair is, and I don’t have a problem with looking my age.
I also know what the state of my heart is, which is why I refused to accept the compliment when another well-intentioned person told me that I’m a kind person.
I know who I am.
I know the bad stuff, and the good stuff. I know that there is plenty of bad stuff in my heart and in my mind. God calls that stuff sin, and he hates it but instead of holding it against me he decided to help me with it! So the answer to “who am I?” is ultimately: a sinner saved by grace. A person who is just as evil as everyone else, who is loved by God and made ok through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
The good stuff in me? That’s all from God, so I have nothing to brag about.
What other people say about me? That’s neither here nor there. Compliments are nice but they don’t define me. I look to God for my identity, I look to the Bible and this is what I know, no matter what others might say:
- I’m a human being, made in God’s image
- I’m a sinner, deserving hell
- I’m saved through faith in Jesus
All the rest is detail.