Tag Archives: identity

I am Good

Words of Grace   


The problem with words of affirmation is that you can’t just make them up.  Telling yourself good things to believe about you might feel good for a little while, but it usually sounds phony.  Many motivational teachers use self-produced words of affirmation to move us to some change; but, if we don’t really believe those words, how can the change be real?

Real words of affirmation, those that make a difference in us, are those that come from the outside.  We might still doubt the words, but we can’t control them and we are not producing them.  You can tell yourself that you did a good job; but, when the boss tells you or the client tells you, that makes a difference.

It isn’t bad to affirm yourself.  In fact, there may be times when you are the only one and you have to believe your words to keep going.  But words of self-affirmation are most effective when they are in agreement with the words from outside.

So, when I say the words, “I am good,” it matters where I get them.  If I just produce them out of my own desire to feel good, then I remember the things I regret and know the words are not true.  If others say them about me, that feels better, but I still know things about myself they don’t know and I still doubt the words.  But when the One who truly knows me and knows the only standards of goodness that matter, when He says I am good, that’s something I can hold onto.

Yes, sin has been a part of all our lives and we were taught that sin made us bad.  That’s why we needed a Savior.  But once the Savior came into our lives, He brought His goodness into us.  He washed away the stain of the sins and filled us with His love and His life.  We are good because He is good.

The idea of goodness is hard to apply to our lives because of what we were taught about ourselves.  We feel that we must reject any affirmation of goodness in us because of what we have done.  But if our goodness is not judged by what we have done, if it is judged by who He is in us, then we are truly good.  Those who belong to Jesus, who are filled with His life, are good.


So Paul could say with assurance:

Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness… Romans 15:14 (NKJV)

I am good.

Jesus is good and He is my life.

Because He is in me and I am in Him, I am good.

God has given me goodness.

I am good.


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Ruth – take two


Several months ago I posted about a blog I had begun to read from a young lady who had left a legalist background and was now struggling to cope in the world.

Now it turns out that Ruth and her blog were phony.

We always knew that Ruth was a pseudonym.  What we didn’t know was that the story was fabricated, presumably for the purpose of gaining attention and money.  People prayed for Ruth, sent her advice and words of encouragement, and—oh yeah—money.

Well, I was duped and I apologize for passing the farce on to you.  There are real people out there struggling as they get out from under the bondage of legalism.  Ruth just wasn’t one of them.  She told a great story.  Her only weakness was that her addiction to the attention and money led her to create stories that didn’t quite work and people started checking.  Now there’s a detailed exposé of Ruth that you can read beginning here:  (http://www.truth-about-ruth.com/lets-raze-ruth-once-and-for-all/)

The author of the Ruth farce appears to be a troubled individual who has done things like this before.  That sounds like an identity problem to me.  She, like so many others, has determined that being herself is not good enough.  She will never get the attention and love she needs by being herself, so she must become someone else.  She might even be operating under several false identities.

The money doesn’t appear to be that much.  A few thousand dollars.  I know that’s a lot for any one person, but considering the amount of time and energy she must have put into research and writing and keeping everything straight, she probably didn’t make minimum wage.  It makes me think of the criminals who spend so much time and energy executing their crimes that they would have been better off just to have worked.

No, this is about identity.  Money is a side benefit that can become center at times.  It happens when someone sees love and attention going to others while feeling neglected themselves.  There is a disorder known as Munchausen’s Syndrome that has been suggested in this and other cases.  Those who have this disorder pretend to have illnesses and may even exhibit symptoms to gain the attention of others.

It is so important for us to help people understand who they are in Jesus, to find their identity in Him.  They will know of His love and care and they may find peace.  I understand that personality disorders can be caused by physical problems, but there are many people who are simply lonely and confused about themselves.  All their lives they have believed that they aren’t good enough, that no one really cares.

There is One who truly cares and He is good enough.

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In His Presence

The most important revelation of our lives, the fact that makes the most serious change in us, is the understanding that other people are real.  This happens so early in our lives that we have long forgotten its impact, yet we continue to struggle with this knowledge throughout our days.  So important is this understanding that those who fail to grasp it are handicapped in their relationships and in their daily lives.

In many ways, our television and internet culture has made this even more difficult for us.  Our feelings—emotional connections—for people are manipulated and twisted by fictional stories designed to move us to empathize with people who are not real.  Then, when we see others, perhaps on the news, we feel something less than empathy.  Someone loses their home in a fire; someone’s child dies in a war; someone is hurt in an accident—and we say that’s too bad.  But we will never meet them, never be able to help them in a personal way, and never really care.  The news is just one more source of entertainment, albeit one that isn’t fiction (or so we are told).

I suspect this is part of the reason for the increase in reality shows.  We desire relationship and we want it to be real.  Fiction pulls at our hearts, but offers no connection that will reveal our identity.  I might care about Macbeth or Jean Valjean or Jack Bauer, but I learn nothing about myself in a fictional character.  Somehow the fact that the person in a reality show is a real person seems to promise more to me.  I believe that I might actually be able to connect with the person.  Sadly, the deception of the reality show is that there is little reality involved.

You see, I learn about myself through the eyes and thoughts of others.  In fiction or television I can see them, but they cannot see me.  I need them to see me.  They are the real mirrors in which I learn about myself.

Perhaps you can remember an experience where you suddenly realize that a person sees you, really sees you.  They might have a funny look about them.  They might be looking right into your eyes.  It isn’t a bad thing, but it can be unnerving.  Something has been revealed and you are moved to understand what it was.  And you learn.

And when you realize that a personal God really sees you, you as an individual, the doors to eternity open.  Suddenly your relationship with Him holds the promise of revealing the truth about you.

In response to the last post on identity, TacticianJenro asked how our relationship with Jesus can be personal.  If that is the relationship we are to have with Him, how does it happen?  This is the question that centers our faith and rocks our world.  This is the most important question of our lives.

The answer is intensely personal, yet as simple as the development of any relationship.  Let me risk a few basic suggestions.

  1. Believe that He is real.  Not just an idea, but a Person.
  2. Believe that He has an interest in you.  He sees you.  He knows when you lie down and when you get up, as David said.  He knows what you like and what you want and what you are afraid of and what you struggle against and what you worry about.  He knows more about you than you know about you.  And He loves you.
  3. Believe that He is with you.  He never leaves you.  He is always near.  These are things the Scriptures make very clear.

He is real.  He loves you.  He is with you.  This is not fiction or deception.  This is reality and it makes a difference.

Now, live as though you believe this.  Think about Him.  Talk with Him.  Ask Him things and expect answers.  Walk through life with Him.  That’s what the Christian life is all about.  Service, sacrifice, devotion—all the things of the Christian life that we were taught—all come out of this reality of His presence or they are just more fiction.

The relationship of a young man and a young woman is about being with each other.  They spend time together and learn.  In the process they each learn about the other, but they also learn about themselves.  The more time they spend together, the more they are able to give of themselves.  The more they give of themselves, the more they see and receive from the other.  This is how a relationship is supposed to work.

Our relationship with Jesus is nothing less than the most precious relationship in our lives, but it is just as simple as presence.  Learn to live in His presence.  Let that be your prayer.  The goal and the activity of the rest of your life.

And in the process, you will be becoming who you are.

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Finding Myself

Grace 101


I am loved.  Jesus loves me, this I know.  It’s such a simple message, but it shines its light to the very core of our being.  Jesus brings the reality of God to my life.  He tells me who I am.

The One in charge of all things, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, loves me.  There is no why or how, there is just the simple fact of His love.  In relationship with Him, I find myself.  I am someone who is loved.  I am special and valuable and worthy—all because of Him. 

You see, it really doesn’t matter what I think of myself.  Most of us think worse of ourselves than we should, I suppose.  Some think too highly of themselves.  But I will never consider an identity I have chosen for myself to be valid because identity needs confirmation.  Identity is established in relationship.

When I look past others like me because their perspective is too much like my own, and I look past the untouchable ideas of the Universe or Nature or, in some cases, God, because I can’t hear their judgments of me—then I still look for a Person.  That Person is Jesus, God in human flesh.  There is so much about Him that I do not and can not understand, but I know that I can live in relationship with Him.  He accepts me and I discover who I am.

I am who I am in Him.  Chosen, loved, accepted, valued—that’s me! 

The search for identity is fulfilled in relationship with Jesus.  Please notice that I say nothing about religion or faith or performance.  When I see Him as a Person and understand how He sees me as a person, that’s when it all begins.  Religion can give rules and doctrines, but not a relationship.  Many who claim to be His don’t know Him.  That’s what He said would happen. 

But to those who come to Him, to those He gives rest.  “Come unto me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  That’s what He said.  Rest from work?  Hardly.  Rest from spiritual striving?  Sure, but there’s more.  This is rest for our souls.  Rest from the search.  Rest from the unknowing.  Rest from the fear and anxiety of wondering who we really are.  The answer is found in Him.

Please also notice that this answer is not something that can be found outside of Him.  You might discover what He thinks of you, the fact, but it will not satisfy until it is found in Him.  Identity is lived in relationship. 

In Jesus I found myself.  I finally learned the truth about who I am.  Now—if I can but remember—I can live forever in peace.

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A Person

Grace 101

One on one relationships are difficult for those with identity problems.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Narcissists, for example, often do very well in crowds or groups but struggle in personal relationships.  The famous line from Linus in Peanuts is, “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.”  We understand that.  Individual people, persons, can be very difficult for us to enjoy.  Individuals test our identity.

Basically, this means I can be whoever I want in a group.  Groups require little from my identity.  I tell them who I am.  They might not accept me, but they don’t challenge my assertions about who I am.  But individuals expect something more from us.

When I put myself out for you to see, I expect you to do the same.  But if either of us is lying, the relationship is false.  You may not be dealing with the real me.  In a group that probably doesn’t matter, but in a marriage or almost any kind of personal relationship, it matters.  People, individuals, want to know the real you or me.

I think it is fair to say that a group is an idea.  A church or a club or even a family is a structure that defines the accumulation of individuals with a certain purpose or attribute.  But a person is something real, something substantial.  Dealing with a person is what defines us.

Now, I am going to step out on a limb here.  I think it is very easy for us to keep God in the place of an idea.  God has all kinds of attributes and we can say that we relate to Him sort of generically, but it is difficult for us to find our identity in relationship with an idea.  Understand that I am not saying that God is simply an idea.  I am saying that it is easy for many to think of Him in that way.  In fact, I think that much of constituency of the church thinks of God as nothing more than an idea.  He is the source of standards, judgment, provision, protection, and more—but they don’t really have a relationship with Him.  He is distant in much the same way as a group is distant in their minds.

But Jesus is a person.  There is something fundamentally different in God presented in Jesus.  He is personal.  He is an individual.

And in Him I find my identity.  I am who I am in relationship with Him.


Filed under Grace 101, Relationship, Theology and mystery

Who is the Narcissist?

It’s Narcissist Friday!


Who is the narcissist?  He or she will never tell you.  He will do almost anything to prevent you from finding out.  She is hiding.  She presents a false identity so that you will focus on that instead of her.  He hides behind his created ego.  You will only see the image.  He wants you to admire the image, even worship it; but whether you do or not isn’t the real point.  The real point is that you don’t see the truth about him.

All your attention must be focused on the image.  Everything will be sacrificed for the image.  Relationships mean nothing in comparison.  No other person exists except the image—which isn’t real.  What a strange life!

Most people think of the narcissist as someone who must always be right, always be the center of attention, always be in control, or always be served and satisfied.  They think the narcissist is in love with himself.  But the truth is much darker.  The narcissist is the weak little child hiding in the corner making a big shadow on the wall to keep people away.  We are all supposed to look at the shadow.

So the narcissist is slave to the image he has created.  He must support it and worship it.  He must do whatever is necessary to maintain it.  If his image is smarter than everyone else, then he must be right.  He will lie to cover his error.  He will attack to defend his position.  He will distract from any evidence that suggests his image is somehow less than he wants you to think.  If her image is to be the victim, then she must be the most needy and most deserving victim.  She must oppose any other victim who might pull at your heart.  She must be the center of your attention and service.

Because the narcissist spends so much time and energy maintaining the image, he expects that you will also.  You must.  Your service to the image affirms him.  If you don’t worship the image, you frighten the narcissist.  He fears that you might be able to see the truth he has worked to deny.

Chances are that those who have been in narcissistic relationships have never really known the narcissist.  They have only seen the image.  It is something like those stories where the person has one name and identity but is really someone else, someone much different from the person they see.  There is a hidden evil, a shame or sin, that must be covered and contradicted.  There is a weakness that must be hidden.  They have never known the real person.

So, of course, they suffer feelings of betrayal when they discover the lie.  When they realize that this person has been a deception all along, they become angry.  They think it has all been a lie and they have been used.  And, for the most part, they are right.

But discovering the lie is not the same as discovering the truth.  Most victims of narcissistic relationships find that there is no resolution, no closure, after the relationship.  They learn that so much has been false, but they still don’t know what is true.  Any escape or culmination feels empty.  Victims are left with wondering why this all happened and what could have been done differently.

Sadly, the truth about the narcissist may never be known.  It is usually too hard for him to share.  Even with counselors, the narcissist will evade and deceive.  Pieces of the story may be revealed, but the pain of the heart will probably not.  Even when the truth about how she was raised comes out, she will shrug it off as though it didn’t matter.

It is important for me to close this post with a warning.  It is normal to feel some compassion for the narcissist when the sadness of his or her life is considered.  But compassion and trust must be two different things.  We may desire to understand what would damage a person so much, but we still must guard against more manipulation and cruelty.  Love and care from a distance.  The narcissist doesn’t care how he hurts you, so you have to maintain boundaries and distance.  There may be all kinds of reasons the dog will want to bite you.  You must make sure you don’t give him the opportunity.


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The Real Question

Grace 101


She is considered the most beautiful by her friends and family.  She wins contests, receives compliments, and turns heads.  Everyone she knows considers her to be the image of beauty.

Yet she knows her flaws.  She looks in the mirror with dissatisfaction.  Perhaps a little surgery will help.  Perhaps some different application of cosmetics.  Perhaps a new workout.  She cannot be satisfied or content.

He has more money than any person could spend in a lifetime, more than any family could spend.  His business success has been legendary and others consider him an example of how it should be done.  Whatever he touches, it seems, turns to gold.

Yet he wants more.  Another business deal.  Another company takeover.  Better investments.  More hours in the office, pushing for success.  Never satisfied; never enough.

These are fundamentally identity problems.  Those who have not reached the pinnacle of what they think will satisfy them often believe that they would be content if they just had enough.  Yet, those who have enough by every standard of measurement are still not satisfied.  Using our accomplishments or attributes to establish identity may work in social relationships, but there is something more.  Most people know this intuitively.  Even as they strive for more, they know it will not satisfy.

Our search for identity compels us to look outside ourselves for definition.  It isn’t enough for us to know who we are to ourselves, we want to know who we are to others.  But, even when the assessment of others is positive, something is lacking.  When I look at my fellow-strugglers, I see others like myself.  Their definition of me is important, but not enough.  I want to know who I am in relation to the universe, the creation, or God.

The real question of the ages is not, “Is there a God?”  The real question is, “Who am I?”  And the question of my identity can only be answered in relation to someone or something bigger than me.

So we have always searched for God.  Not to know Him, but to know ourselves.  And, if our search for God does not reveal our identity, we either give up and resign to our dissatisfaction or we keep looking.

It is obvious that many who claim to have found God have not found themselves.  They continue to strive for more.  They look to their performance or their attributes and are unsatisfied.  In their search for identity, they have missed something.  Some of them decide it isn’t there.  They leave God behind and search in places they have already been or in places of fantasy and imagination.

Our goal is to rest in who we are, but neither religion nor atheism can reveal the answer.  The answer is in a Person.


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Identity in Relationship

Grace 101


Identity is formed in relationship.  If you were the only person you could experience, you would think that the whole world was about you.  As it is, it can be difficult to remember that others have valid lives and needs.  We see only through our own eyes, hear only through our own ears, and experience life only from our own perspective.  It can be challenging to stop and think of others.

I think this is why we are raised in families, so that we are forced to see others and to see ourselves through their eyes.  Each person adds a little more to the picture we learn of ourselves.  If things worked right, we would grow strong and healthy and happy as we see our place and role in the group around us.

But things are not working right, are they?  We live among sinners in a world filled with sin.  Everyone is afraid.  Everyone fights for a place of value and respect.  Instead of caring for and supporting others, we use each other to get what we want.  That’s what sin does.  This is especially true in times of trauma.  It is natural for us to withdraw into ourselves for our protection.  So, when we are afraid or stressed, we tend to think more about ourselves.  And, in the world of sin, trauma or potential trauma are always around us.

The Christian context reveals that there are two types of identity.  The most obvious is the one shared by all people: Who I am in relation to others.  I learn that I am good at certain things, that other things make me afraid, or that I desire to grow in certain areas.  These things distinguish me from others.  Some are athletic.  Some are cerebral.  Some are practical.  Some are social.  The combinations of these and other characteristics give definition to us.

Much of this is learned when we are very young.  When the family relationship is dysfunctional, identity within human relationship can seriously suffer.  If I fail to adequately learn who I am, or if I form a negative perspective of who I am, then my relationships throughout my life may suffer.  This is the experience of too many people.

But there is another level of identity.  After a time, most people begin to ask a deeper question.  Life is more than being able to do something.  I am more than my vocation and there is more to me than the fact that I like some things others do not.  Sometimes we go through life changes that force us into other roles or we have to give up things we like.  The role we have played among others becomes unavailable and we wonder if there is something more.

After times of loss or times of deep introspection, we begin to ask about our place in the world as a whole, not just among our friends and family.  “Who am I” becomes “What am I.”  Why am I here and what is my real purpose?  The search for those answers changes everything.

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Identity – Hidden and Stolen

It’s Narcissist Friday!


I am increasingly convinced that narcissism is an identity problem.  Some of the older psychologists would say that is a problem of the self, but I find that uncomfortable because we usually think of the self as the center of consciousness.  So I would say that the narcissist doesn’t really reject his self, but rejects his definition of self—what I would call identity.

For the narcissist, that definition is negative.  He believes that he would be rejected if he relaxed or if he showed weakness.  If you really knew him, you would hate him.  That’s what he thinks.  For many, this was the picture of growing up.  Mom and Dad tolerated his presence, depersonalized him, devalued him.  So he learned to hide what they saw.  He became someone else.  He adopted a new definition of his self.

He knew it was phony and he still knows it is phony.  Yet, he doesn’t have a choice.  He can’t be real, so he has to have something.  And he craves acceptance.  He wants to be loved.  But, because he knows the identity he is using is phony, he can’t even feel that love and acceptance.  He can’t really receive it because it is given to a false image.

Because he cannot feel the love, he demands more and more of it.  He looks past true affection and sees loyalty, devotion, and worship.  The deeper the feelings he can cultivate in the other, the more hope he has of feeling the satisfaction of being accepted.  But it can’t ever satisfy because it is never directed to what he thinks is the real definition of his self.  This is why we call the love others give “narcissistic supply.”  It is very similar to a drug that creates dependency but never satisfies.

If the narcissist were able to come out of hiding and find the love and acceptance, perhaps he could release the false image and live again.  But few are able to do this because they don’t want to accept the truth.  They fear it too much.  When they talk with family and friends, or counselors, or even God, they promote the image they believe is acceptable.

When you enter into a relationship with a narcissist and you have a reasonably healthy identity, even as a Christian, the narcissist almost immediately sets himself against your identity.  He may do one or both of two things.  He may attempt to add your identity to his image by controlling you.  He separates you from any independent support, makes you dependent only on him, and takes credit for anything you do that adds to his image.  He may even make you the scapegoat for any failure he experiences.

The other thing he may do is seek to destroy your sense of identity.  Because he knows of the falsehood in his own heart, he assumes that falsehood in the hearts of others.  In fact, he cannot be at peace unless he shows that identity to be false.  So he may decide to counter everything you do.  He argues with you and points out your failures.  He tells you that others do not accept you.  He tells you that you are unworthy.  He projects his own falsity on you.

Sadly, the narcissist is often very good at these things.  Even stable and healthy people can be brought to the point where they forget who they are under constant criticism or manipulation.  Solid Christians begin to think they are unacceptable to God and others.  They forget who they are and lose their source of support and joy.

Identity is powerful.  When we find it and accept it, we have freedom and peace.  Once again, the struggle of narcissism and the truth of the message of Jesus are brought together.  He is the answer when we find our identity in Him.


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Can I lose my identity?

Grace 101


Suppose you decided that you were afraid of banks and you took all your savings and other money in cash and put it in a special safe in your basement.  For a while, everything is good.  When you need money, you go down to get some.  When you get money, you put it in the safe.  The system works fine.

Until you lose the key.

Something happens to distract you and you put the key somewhere, but you can’t remember where.  Suddenly your money isn’t available to you.  When you need it, you can’t get to it.

But here’s a question: Did you lose your money?  Of course not.  It’s still right where you put it.  You own it and it’s yours.  But you don’t have access to it because of that distraction that made you lose the key.

Now, can you lose your identity?  Well, there is a sense in Christian teaching that all people lost their identity when sin entered the world.  In Adam, we all lost the identity that was supposed to be ours.  In fact, much of life consists of trying to rebuild or refashion an identity.  Identity apart from Christ is part of the flesh and part of the deception.

But believers cannot lose their identity because Jesus is our life.  What He says about us is true even when we forget it.

And there’s the rub: identity can be forgotten.  The distraction comes—a relationship, a temptation, a decision—and the rabbit trail leads away from the truth.  Feelings and bad logic assert themselves and give false information.  It certainly is not uncommon for a believer to forget his identity.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that some people never really learned the truth about their identity.  Some people receive such poor teaching about their relationship with the Lord that they never find the assurance and acceptance they should experience in Christ.  They think they must still try hard to get what they already have.

But all the things you received in the package of salvation are yours to keep.  They define you.  They reveal your identity.  You are righteous.  You are free.  You are strong.  This is who you are, even when you forget.

And, yes, sometimes life gets so distracting that it is easy to forget the truth.  The lie sounds so right, so close to the truth, that it just has to lead you a little off the path.  Pretty soon you find it hard to get back.  But when you can see the truth again, you rediscover who you are in Christ.  Your identity hasn’t changed.

This is what I meant by saying that identity does not suffer when abused.  The real you is still the same person.  Your circumstances might be different and you might be a little smarter now, but all the things you found in Christ are yours.

You see, our identity flows out of Him.  Our security is in Him.  Even our own forgetfulness or distraction, even our own denial, cannot change the truth of who we are in Him.

Thanks to those who asked about this.  Let me know if this helps or if it causes more questions. 🙂


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