Who am I?

19/03/09 | Posted by Poppy

I’ve been thinking about identity a lot recently. I’m going back to college part time in the autumn and it has raised a lot of questions for me as I start studying again after a 25 year gap.

image
 Masks

There are lots of ways of looking at who I am. Where I was born, my ethnicity, my age, gender, my position in the family, my education all affect how I behave.  Then there are the roles I have; mother, wife, daughter, sister and these roles change through time as my children grow and my parents age. Part of my personality is set by genetics so I have my father’s temper and my mother’s clarity of thought. Other parts seem more elusive.

There are tools to look at and try and understand ourselves more deeply. I’ve looked at Myers Briggs and the Enneagram and they have been very helpful.  I’ve been reading Steve’s module on the Pisces personality here with great interest as the traditional Scorpio type is fairly accurate description for a part of me. I’m not a believer in astrology, so that was a bit of a surprise.

Looking at identity isn’t just about how I understand myself but how other people react to me. That is one of the really facinating things about tools like Myers Briggs. It helps me understand why I get on with some types of people and why I find it harder to relate to others. The bottom line is that I get on better with people who think in the same way as me but there are no right or better personality types. Just different ones. Unfortunately there is a lot of judging of others that goes on. It seems to be part of human nature, even Jesus came across this when he started preaching and teaching.

He came to his home town and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?’ And they took offence at him.  Matthew (end of chapter 13)

Here is a group expectation of how someone should behave and it can be difficult to break away from that. There was something in the news this week about how girls learn better when they are taught with other girls and the report is here. Group pressures are subtle but powerful and it takes a deal of confidence to move away from the norm and what peers expect. Sometimes that pressure from others is so strong that people put on a mask or persona and pretend to be less academic, or tougher, or harder or wealthier or more popular than they are just to be accepted and liked. It can be hard to put away the masks and the expectations of others and be who we really are.

I have met a few people in my life who have appeared to be so secure in who they are that they don’t appear to have public and private faces; who are comfortable in their skin and don’t need to prove anything. They don’t respond to society or group expectations of how they should behave or be. They are good people who have an integrity about them that seems to shine through very ordinary and often aged bodies. There is an intelligence that isn’t sharp, but sees the world and people as they are and cares for them and they aren’t afraid to speak the truth, but kindly, knowing that hearing the truth can hurt. They have warmth and compassion. They don’t wear masks.

I get the impression from reading accounts of Jesus’ life that he was a man like this. That he was one of these special people who are completely themselves. People were drawn to him, they followed him and they listened to what he had to say. There were many things about him that they didn’t understand and a fair few projected their own need for a messiah and revolutionary leader onto him, but he seems to have that quality of putting himself and his needs aside and being completely for others.

So what would he say to me about my identity wobbles? He would probably tell me to stop stressing about being a student again and get on with it because all will be well.

If you could imagine meeting Jesus, maybe taking those qualities of clear sightedness and compassison that come through the gospel accounts of his life, could you picture yourself sitting with him and him looking at you, and seeing the person that you really are behind the roles and responsiblities and masks you wear? What would he say to you and what would be your response? Maybe take some time to think about it and add a comment below.

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