Growing up, if I was ever introduced to someone then my name was given followed by the tagline, “He is Terry Don’s son.” That’s how I was identified. It wasn’t a bad identity and I truly tried to live up to it. Yet, it wasn’t my only identity. I was a guitar player. I was a homeschooler. I was a Chicfila employee. We all have multiple identities.
In his book, “The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life”, Dr. Jeremy Pierre argues that there are two types of identities: Given and Constructed. The given identity is how God identifies us. This identity, of course, is the most important identity as it gives us our purpose. The constructed identity is what we have created for ourselves.
Identity is never something that just happens. It is always influenced by an external factor whether given or constructed.
In Genesis, it is not the man who determines his identity in the garden but God. God states, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Our given identity was determined by God.
Our constructed identities are also influenced by externals but are not definitive even though many times we believe otherwise. For example, my father was a musician which influenced my identity as a musician but that didn’t mean I had to be a musician. My mother was a teacher which influenced me in many ways. I always said I would never be a teacher…I am a teacher.
Of course, the issue of identity goes much deeper than the examples given. The problem lies when we begin to place more importance on our constructed identities rather than our given identity. This begins to affect what we value, place our commitments in, and desire.
We live in a broken world where bad things happen to us and by us. All these variables influence what we believe about ourselves. Yet, we must remember that we can choose if whether or not these will affect how we view ourselves. It may take time. It may take effort. We can change.
We must begin to align our constructed identities with the given identity.
There is, of course, a whole lot more that could be said. What are your thoughts?