A Question About Identity
February 23, 2011 by Bob Regnerus
The question after lunch went like this, “Why do you think they’re so invested in this thing?”
I initially responded, “I have no idea”.
Then…all of a sudden…I said, “Wait, I know EXACTLY why. Because their identity is so wrapped up in this that if it ever failed or if they left, they would lose part of themselves.”
It was so powerful that I couldn’t even believe I said it – I just didn’t understand this before that moment. It’s all about IDENTITY.
I’ve heard Jim Robbins and John Lynch write/speak about this. I’ve read other authors that touched on this, but not directly.
The reason we defend something so fiercely, the reason we hold on to something to strongly, and the reason we spiral into a depression when it’s no longer there – is that we attach our personal identity to a THING or a PERSON.
Here’s the danger – THINGS by nature cannot last forever. PEOPLE are certainly mortal, and they have the propensity to let us down because they are not perfect. So when we attach our identity to a PERSON or a THING, we are on a collision course that ends up in a fireball.
Here’s how I know this…because I do this.
- I am a business owner and an entrepreneur. When my business is good, I am happy. When my business is not good, I’m not. To go deeper, when my business tanked in 2009, it sent me to the hospital eventually with panic attacks. I haven’t hit a home run, let alone an extra base hit in like 3 years. I have this voice in my head, that won’t go away. It tells me I’m a failure in business. I had my shot. I blew it. Success is for someone else. This paralyzes me sometimes. What’s the truth?
- I was a member of a church for 40 years, and a leader there for 20. When I resigned from leadership, I was lost. When I left the church, it was traumatic. Even though Arlene and I clearly heard God call us to do this, the little doubts from others that we are quitting or just bitter hurt me and instead of thanking God for doing something great in our life, I obsess over the handful of doubters – not the people that cheer us on. Can’t I just trust God in this? I’m missing the blessing because I’m focusing on the negative?
Here’s some more…
- I was a coach for 24 years. When I stopped coaching for a season, I felt lost.
- I am a pleaser. If I sense, or know that a person doesn’t like me for some reason, it’s powerful enough to derail my other friendships because I will obsess about the one person that doesn’t like me.
- I am a provider. When I could no longer provided income for my family, when I had to lay off staff, it caused me to go into a mild depression. Hell, it still bothers me that I had to lay off people that did good work and I loved deeply. Sometimes it totally takes a productive day away from me.
- I need to know I’m right. So I enjoy when people agree with me and validate my thoughts and beliefs. There’s safety in numbers, right? If 10 people agree with me, but 1 disagrees, I’m toast. I will obsess over the 1 person.
- Silly, but I am a White Sox fan, and believe it or not, some days my mood is based on the fact the Sox won or lost. Is this normal behavior?
- I am a father. When I have a bad day as a father, and I let my kids down, it bothers me. I then begin to believe I am not a good father at all.
- I am a husband. There are days when I really screw up as a partner and I let Arlene down. It makes me think I am a bad husband.
There’s more, but I think you get the point. Attaching my identity to someone, or something has no positive value to me.
Many of the things I am believing are lies – maybe it’s my enemy, but mostly it’s my own mind.
Yes….this is a battle over my mind. Not my heart. That battle is over. My heart is good. It’s my mind that needs to be renewed. Until I start to live out of who God says I am, I can never really live well. Until I stop obsessing over what other people think about me, I can never really love all people well. Until I begin to separate my identity from my outcomes, I will be paralyzed.
It’s all about identity. Once I understand this in myself, and in others, I can start living a more peaceful life.
When people defend their truth, when they defend their institution, when they question me – it’s not personal. They’re defending their identity. Can I be strong enough to live out of who God says I am? Can I go one step further and see people as God sees them – looking past their behaviors and words and into what’s really happening?
What have you discovered about your identity? Have you experienced trauma yourself in regards to ‘losing your identity’ when you no longer had that thing or person in your life?
I’d love for you to share your thoughts and pass on to friends too.