One of my favorite crime shows, CSI, has a theme song that goes: “Who are you? Who, who, who, who?” Oddly enough it a song by a band called The Who.
So who are you? Are you the same in public as in private? Are you really what you do?
Basically we hide our true self while presenting what we think is a more acceptable self to others. This protects us from getting hurt and hurting others. At least that is the rationale. But doesn’t this just exaggerate fear? I mean the longer I hide myself the more I fear someone will see the real me and never ever stop slapping me. I even want to slap myself sometimes.
Fear prevents us from being who we really are, so we often hide behind performance, jobs, looks, and other things the world tells us equals success. Don’t believe me? Remember how anxious you were the last time you had a bad hair day?
This is all about your identity. Who you are is a fundamental question that causes many mental and emotional health issues. It is also a deeply spiritual question.
If you base your identity on works and performance, then this is quite difficult to do. Douglas Fairbanks, the actor, once said you are only as good as your last performance. You’re only as good as your last mistake, so we hide our mistakes.
This seems justified since people will line up around the block to tell you that you’re wrong but very few take the time to tell you that you’re right. If who I am is what I do this is a huge problem. I know a lot of men and women who when asked who they are told me what they do. I’m guilty of this myself.
It is easier to say I am a writer than to examine who I really am. Many people in dysfunctional relationships don’t have any idea of who they are since their identity is wrapped up in making their spouse happy or at least non-violent.
It takes time to figure out who you are. This is also one of the problems “empty nesters” have or people who retire after a long career experience. Their sense of identity is gone since the kids have left, and they no longer work. But doing is different from being.
This is a tough concept to grasp in a world that values doing over being. People are not intrinsically valued unless they do something. A poor person has much less value in the eyes of the world than a businessman. It doesn’t matter about character or love or who they really are. Society values success, and so we believe that who we are based on our doing something. The result of this way of thinking is that we base our identity on temporary things or what we do. Jobs end, looks fade, and mistakes ruin reputations. These things really attack our identity.
But there is another way.
What if we based who we are on something more permanent? What if I wasn’t Andy the counselor or Andy the writer or even Andy the preacher? What if I just did these things and although they help people understand my character, they didn’t define who I am?
Well, with God, I can find who I am and it is not based on what I do or how I look. It is not based on my last performance or my latest sin. It is based completely on who God is.
The Bible says that God is love. (1 John 4:8). So my identity is that I am loved. I am a child of God because of my faith. There are no strings attached. I don’t have to do anything to earn it. I don’t have to worry about being less loved when I fall, get old, or quit working.
Who are you? I don’t know but I know who you could be. You could be a child of God.
Andy Becker is lead of Lighthouse Ministries which brings God’s love and presence to the North Central area of Regina, Canada. He is also a writer, public speaker, former counselor, and former Executive Director of a Hospice.