Sunday, October 27, 2013

“Who am I?” and why this Question Matters

Who am I? We want to be authentic and self-accepting, so we ask this question. Too often, we find that we have become so addicted to trying to be the person who others will love and respect, that we have lost track of ourselves.

Building self-esteem is just another attempt of trying to be what we think others want us to be. However, this endeavor takes us even further away from ourselves, in an attempt to be something other – something that will earn the esteem of others.

Instead, we want to return to ourselves, no matter what others might think. However, in our vain attempt to find authenticity, we identify ourselves with our desires, those that yell the loudest. Food yells loudly to me. However, does my love to stuff myself define who I am? Am I no more than a collection of my desires and needs?

Many erroneously define themselves in terms of their sexual desires. However, CNN reports:

  • “More often than not, non-monogamy leads to the demise of relationships,” said Karen Ruskin, a Boston-area psychotherapist with more than two decades of experience in couples counseling. Instead of focusing on the primary relationship, partners are turning to others for fulfillment.

  • "Even if non-monogamy is consensual, it's still a distraction from dealing with each other," said Ruskin, author of "Dr. Karen's Marriage Manual."

  • "It all goes back to choice. Non-monogamy is choosing to be with someone else instead of being attentive to your spouse when the relationship is troubled."

According to Ruskin, non-monogamy (polyamory), rather than reflecting who we are at our most basic level, represents an escape from ourselves.

Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t seem to be much help. Psychologist Miriam Grossman writes:

  • “According to the AAP, a teen boy who thinks he’s a girl and wants his genitalia removed is ‘normal,’ just different.” But, Grossman asks, what if an African American teen is convinced she’s really Caucasian? “Should her pediatrician affirm her belief, and support her wish for facial surgery and skin bleaching?” The AAP also supports finding an affirming therapist for a boy who believes he is a girl. Grossman notes. “But if my son is attracted to boys, and his urges feel foreign and distressing, you [AAP] advise me to find a therapist who will tell him ‘This is who you are, accept it.’ However, does that make sense?” (Salvo, Fall 2013, 32)

It only makes sense in terms of politics and political correctness, but are our identities no more than socio-political constructs? Is there any real answer to the question, “Who am I?” Is there a truth that transcends the changing political currents? Is “pathology” no more than being something that contradicts the prevailing culture?

How might we answer these questions? Well, how might we know whether we have put our jigsaw puzzle together correctly? If the pieces and the patterns all fit together! After following Jesus for 36 years, I find that the puzzle of my life has been harmonized. With the assurance of His love and forgiveness, I have been enabled to accept myself, and that hasn’t been easy. For years, I had fled from the ugly things I had seen in myself. Instead, I built my self-esteem, convincing myself that I was a good person, denying the bad. Consequently, I was never able to resolve conflicts with others. My puzzle remained fractured. After all, I was right and therefore could no longer see my own culpability.

How do we know when our puzzle fits? When our mind is at rest! When we no longer obsess, trying to fit pieces into slots where they don not belong.

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