Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Naughty or Nice: How to Define "You" in an Era of Doing

I have been thinking a lot about identity lately.

With the Christmas hubbub all around me, there have been many people who have asked me how I am going to broach the topic of Santa with my son when the time comes. Since he is only 3 months old this year, I have some time to really consider my options.

First, have you ever really thought about the whole naughty or nice thing? It really does make for bad parenting. If you're nice to me, then Santa will get you loads of toys. If you're not nice, then you will get coal. Talk about a conditional love. This will teach my son from a very early age that whatever he does defines what he gets- but this isn't an uncommon teaching at all. No matter our age we all can get caught up in the doing of things to get on the nice list of life.

Secondly, I have found that instead of wondering if I will tell him that Santa is real or not, I have been completely enthralled by the simple fact that what people believe of someone can dictate what is true or not. Santa's identity in my son's life is totally defined by what I tell him. The power of my words will be how he views the man in red during his childhood. This isn't just the case with Santa, this is the case with all of us.

What you say or believe about a person has the power to tarnish or polish one's perspective on those whom you directly influence in your life.

This is a power that many abuse without thinking about their actions. From time to time, I have had the wrong impression of someone and used that misconception as my barometer of that person's identity. This isn't a nice way to behave nor is it an accurate way to judge a person. What we think isn't always the truth.

Have you ever had someone judge you unfairly? Have you even heard someone's opinion of you and winced at the ugly picture they have painted?

Identity is a huge factor in determining our self worth, and where that worth lies can establish a healthy or unhealthy view of ourselves.

However, the catch-22 is that taking inventory of ourselves is a near impossibility- especially if you rely heavily on others opinions to define who you are.

I had a class once that had us practice an exercise in identity. We were told to write down who we were without using things that were extensions of self- such as job, credentials, place of origin, or relationship status.

I was staring at the blank page for twenty minutes. I would write down that I was a good student. However, that didn't define who I was, that was just something I was good at. I then wrote that I was a daughter. And while I am a daughter, that doesn't mean that I am nothing but someone's child. I then wrote that I was a human. And while that seemed to be one thing I could keep on the list, it certainly didn't make me different than anyone else.

I quickly began to realize that the exercise wasn't going to tell me who I was, it instead began opening my eyes to realize that what we do isn't who we are.

That is a big idea folks.

What we do, isn't who we are.

I was listening to a favorite speaker of mine, Mark Driscoll, and he said, "who we are determines what we do, not what we do determines who we are."

He went on to say that in both religion and society "activity" can quickly become identity. But when you truly discover who you are and who you were made to be- for me I find that in my Christian walk- then I receive an identity and out of that comes activity.

It is easy for us to get caught up in the "doing" of life. It is also easy to believe what others say about us.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For those of us who have ever failed at something- you are not a failure.

For those of us who have ever lost something they loved- you are not a loser.

For those of us who have ever been beaten down- you are not beat.

For those of us who have ever been heartbroken- you are not without heart.

And for those of us who have simply been cut by the callous words of insensitive people- you are not alone.

The next time you find yourself wondering who you are in this world of constant doing, remember you are more than activity. You are a being unlike any other in this time and place. The simple solace found in having a soul makes you more than a resume or an outpouring of what others believe to be true about you.

As for Santa, since I've never met the guy I think I am just going to go with telling my son that the best gifts we can give each other don't come from the North Pole.

So watch your tongue over the holidays this year- and give the gift of a strong sense of self to those you share your life with.

Happy Holidays!

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