Identity is the Foundation
Who am I? It is the fundamental question every human has asked since time began. It is the first question we ask on our quest to find meaning and purpose in our lives and looking for where we fit in the world. Identity, the result of asking the question, can be likened to the foundation built by the wise man upon a rock, versus the one built by the foolish man upon the sand because he didn’t ask the question. Upon which foundation is your identity built?
In the introduction to his book, “Spiritual Roots of Human Relations,” Stephen R. Covey quotes Henry David Thoreau. “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil there is one striking at the root.”
We believe that the root of many, if not all, of the “evils” we face today, and our ability to withstand the “floods and winds” spawned by those evils, will eventually lead us back to an identity built on rock or sand. Our goal at Discover Identity is to help men, women and couples to build powerful foundational identities that will serve them throughout their lives, and in turn be a blessing in the lives of others.
Identity matters, now more than ever!
We live in a dynamic time where our identities and our ability to form foundational identity is under attack. While the way human beings form identity has not changed, our technology has made the world smaller and the individual experience far more complex. We carry in our pockets access to more information than we are designed to process and are surrounded by a rate of change that exceeds anything experienced by previous generations.
Our ancestors did not face their identity challenges in the same way. Most of them died not far from where they were born. Long distance travel was far less common. Ethnic, racial and cultural diversity was rarely encountered. Communication was slower and access to information and external relationships extremely limited. Our ancestors lived in a more stable and predictable environment in which to discover, create and maintain their foundational identity.
Our “modern world” has left us as individuals and a society wondering who we are and thus vulnerable to the “loudest” (most confident) voice or the latest trend. So, what are we to do?
At Discover Identity we aren’t advocating going back to a simpler, less technological time. We are however suggesting that like skyscrapers in earthquake prone areas, whose foundations are built on bedrock and include rubber shock absorbers, our 21st century identities must be both fixed and flexible, so we can withstand the seismic impact of the circumstances and technologies of our day.
We believe that lack of identity is at the root of most problems and that until the missing self is found, we will turn repeatedly to false connections which have typically provided escape and a false sense of self. Thus, our conviction is that identity is foundational; the root that needs to be struck.
The benefits of an established foundational Identity
The individual in possession of a firm and flexible foundational identity is:
more likely to be secure in themselves and thus more tolerant of identities that are different from their own
more likely to build mature, healthy, intimate relationships
more likely to serve others unselfishly without neglecting themselves
more likely to withstand the challenges that are an inevitable part of life
more likely to successfully navigate the inevitable transitions of life
more likely to be confident in their decisions and relationships
more likely to give their life to God or a higher purpose
Aspects of Identity
Abuse is one of the most significant impacts that can be perpetrated against one’s identity. Anyone who experiences physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse before they have achieved foundational identity is going have a diminished sense of self. This is because abuse is a direct assault on one’s personhood; even those who have a reasonably well-established foundational identity can lose their sense of self at the hands of an abuser and begin to question who they are.
Addiction offers an escape from the pain of lacking a foundational identity. The opposite of addiction is connection. Connection begins with a sense of self. In fact it is impossible to experience mature connection with one or more people, without a foundational sense of self. A lack of meaningful connection is emotionally painful and often leads to addictive behaviors. Ironically addictions can become an identity of their own when we perceive ourselves as victims of our addiction(s).
What we do can define who we are. Historically this has been particularly true for men. Identity crises are often triggered by the loss of one’s job, a career change, as well as at retirement. Do our jobs define us or is our identity well enough established that we define our job?
Do our religious practices and associations define who we are? What happens to our sense of self when our faith is challenged? How do we hold on to ourselves and a relationship with God in the face of opposition, doubt, the words and actions of others, and the challenges of life? Is our identity built upon a “firm foundation?”
Significant roles and relationships in our lives can have a significant impact on how we define ourselves. We can be seriously impacted and see ourselves differently when a change occurs in our roles and relationships. Whether due to unexpected loss or planned transition, it can seem like a loss and our sense of self can be impacted. The challenge is to hold on to a sense of self, even as relationships and roles change. Some significant and common identity challenges related to loss in today’s world include:
Single to married or Married to divorced
Student to Employee, Employed to unemployed or Worker to retiree
Parent to empty-nester
Leaving behind a significant and public role