“Who am I?” is probably one of the most asked questions in a person’s life. The most common piece of advice I have received in my life is to be myself. Well that is not as easy as it sounds, either for myself and possibly for those around me. To be yourself demands you know the answer to the question, “Who am I?”.
Children struggle with the answer. They want to be big like the bully at school, fast like the winner at sport, funny like the wit everyone likes, intelligent like the swot who always comes in with distinction, handsome like Ken or beautiful like Barbie. The profile of the ideal person is a big, fast, funny, intelligent Ken or Barbie which of course Ken and Barbie are not. They are not big, having manufactured bodies that nobody could emulate. They cannot move on their own so they are not fast. And funny and intelligent is hardly the reality for a doll with only air between its ears.
Sadly, in the child's search for identity they think they will be happy if they are like someone else. And the “Who am I” question significantly becomes the “who or what do I want to be” question. Such a question makes our children’s role models so important. The importance of the example of a mother or father cannot be understated and the place of God in a child’s thinking is crucial to their development.
The great pity is that our childhood search for identity can remain the ongoing search of our adult years. The marketing gurus understand the power of the “Who am I” questions of childhood and adulthood. And they will happily market an identity for you. The sad truth is that they will market the same identity to everyone because it is cost effective to make one size to fit all. It doesn’t display or proclaim the creative genius of the uniqueness of every individual but carries the economic genius of those who know how to make a fast buck. In fact they will go so far as to make you unhappy about who you are, in order to make you who they want you to be.
We have as a nation become obsessed with the externals. Jeans do not make the teenager, cosmetics do not make the woman, and a car does not make the man. We are as a culture dying the death of superficiality and we have moved the focus away from the question of "Who AM I", to the selling of images and the questions "Who do you want to be?" or "What do you want to be?"
Despite all the attention of the marketing world, when the peer groups rejects us, when our job is made redundant, when the skin wrinkles, the agility declines and life itself seems more important than its perfume, the “WHO AM I?” question is the one we most want answered. And a wrong starting point has proven disastrous - the symptoms of which can be seen in our insecurities, jealousies, greed, dishonesty, gossip, slander and more. And with these things comes depressions, eating disorders, poor choices of peer groups, dangerous actions that help us fit in, family breakdown and so much more.
People will determine the answer to the "Who am I?" question by their response to three factors:
What God thinks of me, what others think of me, and what I feel about myself.
All three factors are important and play their part, but if you ignore what God thinks of you, the answer to the “WHO AM I” question will never be found. What God thinks of me and what He made me to be is the very foundation to the answers regarding our identity. The removal of God from our thinking makes how I feel about myself the primary determiner in who I think I am. But what I feel about myself is very much dependent upon what others think of me. So in the absence of God, people begin to build their sense of who they are on the foundations of what other people think of them so that they can feel good about themselves. But that is not to be yourself. That is to be what other people want you to be.
I appreciate the advice of those who have told me to be myself. It has reminded me that I am a man made by God to enjoy God and all that He gives. I have never met anyone who knew who He was more than Jesus Christ. He could say things like, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the bread of life”, “I am the resurrection and the life”. At one point He says “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” I love those words because when you put God back into life, you can be yourself enjoying abundantly the life that Christ has given.
If you’re struggling with the “who am I” questions, why not start by asking God. Open your old Bible and read what God says in John’s Gospel. Get along to a good church and ask the minister to help you or just ask one of your Christian church going friends.