Articles

Identity

In Christian, Goals on July 1, 2011 by David

This week, Google came out with Google Plus (Google+) in an effort to challenge Facebook’s dominance in the social sphere. As people spend more time online interacting with other people they know in real life, the social internet has an increasingly important role in our collective consciousness. One of the main critiques of Facebook, one that Google seeks to distinguish itself, is the unwieldiness of having one all encompassing online identity.

The premise is that people act differently in different situations and with different people. You might send nerdy starcraft videos to your high school friends, share awesome pictures of surgery with your medical school classmates, and be professional with your professors, bosses, and co-workers. At its heart, I think the premise is true – our actions are products of both our environment and something internal – a fluid dynamic ‘identity’. Both in real life and online, our identity is in a state of flux, and our actions change based on our mood, social norms, and expectations.

But ultimately, what is my identity? Identity is supposed to be something that is inherent in oneself – that is constant across situations and expectations. In church, the pastor is going over a series seeking to define identity, in particular, what it means to have an identity in Christ. What is common to me? What is the whole of me, that is true regardless where I am and who I am with?

Outside of Christ, people seek identity in three main areas. They define themselves by what they do, what they have, and what they desire.

What I do: I am a medical student. I am one who has worked hard for many years for the privilege of treating people in need. I am one who has stretched oneself, and continues to stretch oneself to fit in this conforming standard of one who is compassionate, professional, intelligent, and authoritative. Ignoring Christ, I am one who is prideful – feeling that spark of pride when I wear white coat and can answer someone’s question. As a medical student, I am selfish with my time – in service, in relationships, and in many other things I am always nagging by this sense of “let’s make sure I’m not wasting my time”, “how can this help my career”, and “should I be studying now? Is this activity worth my time?”. Despite the best motivations, my career in medicine is not Christ centered, and despite my best attempts, I cannot put to death my worldly ambitions.

What I have: I am an Asian American. I come from an upper middle class household, with a strong nuclear family. I love my parents, my sister, with the fullness of my heart. Yet because of this, I am not willing to accept Christ. In Mark 10:37: it is written, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” After reflection and contemplation, I think even in the here and now, that has not changed. I do not love the rest of the world, any of it or all of it, or even God, with the fervor with which I love my parents and sister.I love them because they have loved me unconditionally. My parents would love me regardless of what I do and who I become. I love my family because they have taken care of me when I am weak, when I am broken, and when I am distraught. When I feel abandoned, tired, alone, or isolated, I know that I am only as far as I am from my family. I do not feel the same love for Christ as I do for my parents and sister. Jesus’s love has never been as real to me as the tangible love that I feel from my parents and sister. Anything anyone can say about God and why they love God, is true, infinitely more true, for my love of my family.

What I desire: My desires are selfish. I desire a girlfriend. I want someone to celebrate my victories with me, and someone with whom to share my defeats. I want someone who share my ambitions, but also someone who does something completely different that I can appreciate. To be honest, I don’t know what I want.

To be perfectly honest, in many ways, I rage against this idea of Christian identity. In the things I do and the things I prioritize, I very much want to live for myself. For me, is Christ my identity – at the core of my being – or is it just a Circle – just a shell that I put on and off when I am in certain environments?

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