Forging an identity – traditional

By Dave Henning / March 1, 2024

“The traditional way of forging an identity through connection with something outside the individual made sense.  But if your identity is in your desires, they are going to be changing all the time.  If in every situation you seek your own self-interest, responding in ways that get the approval and control you want at the moment, then identity essentially disappears.”- Timothy Keller

In Chapter 6 (“The Problem of the Self”) of Making Sense of God, Timothy Keller notes that your identity consists of at least two things.  Hence, your identity consists of:

  1. a sense of self – you live in many spheres at once.  To possess an identity means you sustain something that’s true of you in all settings.  Otherwise, you’d wear a mask for every occasion, but there would be no actual face behind your masks.  No real you.
  2. a sense of worth – an assessment of your own value.  It’s one thing to possess self-knowledge.  Yet quite another to have self-regard.  Thus, you must know what you’re like as well as appreciate it.

Above all, Pastor Keller observes, every culture pushes identity formation on its members in a powerful and pervasive manner.  A process that’s invisible to us.  In addition, we may have no idea that other means to obtain a sense of self-worth exist.

Consequently, Timothy offers this summary of our current culture’s message:

“The cultural message is: Don’t try to get affirmation from others.  Affirm yourself because you are doing what you want to do.  Be who you want to be, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks.  That is the heart of Western expressive individualism.

In traditional cultures the heroic narrative is self-sacrifice. . . .  In Western cultures the new heroic narrative is self-assertion.  You are your individual dreams and desires . . . not by self-giving to something outside but through self-expression of something inside.”

In truth, we need to connect with the Source outside us: Jesus Christ.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you in forging an identity as a child of God? Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Get to the bottom of ourselves”

About the author

Dave Henning

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