Go get your own identity?

By Dave Henning / March 3, 2024

“At one time people got their self-image from connecting to something more important than their individual interests — to God, or family, or nation, or some cultural configuration of all three.  Now we have to go get our own identity.”- Timothy Keller

Timothy Keller concludes Chapter 6 of Making Sense of God as he notes the crushing burden the apparent freedom of secular identity packs with it.  Because today we believe in meritocracy.  That anyone of humble means lacks ambition and savvy.  Thus, our culture finds lack of success embarrassing.

Yet, as Pastor Keller discusses, this puts us in a fragile and vulnerable state.  Timothy writes:

“The self-made identity, based on our own performance and achievement in ways that older identities were not, makes our self-worth far more fragile in the face of failure and difficulty.  While we claim to have a new freedom from social norms, we look not to our family for our validation, but to our chosen areas of achievement, where we need the acceptance of others who are already within those circles. . . .  It is all up to you, in a way that, in traditional societies, just wasn’t the case.”

In conclusion, Pastor Keller cautions, it’s a trap to fixate on some good thing, like work, career, or love.  Because then it’s no longer just a good thing to enjoy.  Instead, that good thing morphs into you.  It forms the basis of your identity, leaving you radically vulnerable and fragile.

Above all, to bestow significance on yourself elevates your interests over your social ties.  You stay in a relationship only so long as it pleases you.

In Chapter 7, Pastor Keller explains the difference Christian teaching about identity makes.

Today’s question: Do you know people who feel compelled to go get their own identity?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Spiritually speaking – no self”

About the author

Dave Henning

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