|Frank Wright, Ph.D.
President & CEO
An oft heard phrase in our media centric culture is that someone is attempting to redefine herself (himself). While this phrase has some meaning in a marketing and self-promotional context, it is in truth a very curious notion implying several things.
This notion of a cavalier redefinition of identity implies that you are defined, as a person, only by a set of externalities: dress, speech, attitude, and associations, among other things. The essential you is nowhere to be seen. Your identity, instead, is seen as embodied in a set of malleable and vaguely defined attributes intended to shape other people’s impressions about you.
Tacit with this approach is that, as you reshape your outward presentation, you expect others to believe that this “new you” is consistent with who you are in reality. But in the end, you are redefining yourself for yourself, hoping that others will believe it – even if you don’t really buy it yourself.
This is, of course, upside down from any notion of authenticity. For an authentic person, what you are outwardly is the summation of your internalities: your character, values, beliefs, and your sense of who you are as a person.
Yet, the mantra of these cultural chameleons is not cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). Instead it is actio ergo sum (I act, therefore I am), producing our latter-day existentialism in which we see style without substance, broth without meat, and words without ideas. They are much like the maxim reportedly advanced by Mark Twain: Sincerity is everything; if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
This notion of redefinition, of course, demands a certain predicate. To re-define something you must start with an existing definition. Historically, we have looked to Life’s Great Questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? If one cannot answer these questions, then any attempted redefinition is intellectually pointless.
And this points to the principal disability of the cultural changeling: they have no idea who they are. When they look deep into their own souls, they find only emptiness. And so redefinition for them is not just desirable, it is essential. They are like Alice in Wonderland: I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir,’ said Alice, ‘because I’m not myself you see.’
All of this begs the question: What is it that defines you today? From what do you draw your identity and purpose? Well, how about this?
1. You were created in the image of God;
2. You were broken by sin, but not abandoned;
3. You were bought with a price – by the body and blood of the Savior;
4. You are accounted worthy for the sake of the Obedient Son;
5. You are made a child of God by faith in Jesus;
6. You are set apart as beloved by the Most High God; and
7. You are privileged to glorify God in this life and the life to come.
If these seven things are not true of you, they can be. I suggest you read the entire Book of John in the New Testament of the Bible. This will likely take you about two hours. As you read, look for the answer to this question: According to this book of the Bible, who is Jesus?
For the rest of us, we too must avoid the error of the facile persona. In the face of the cultural onslaught, we need to be reminded that we cannot define ourselves in front of a mirror. The Christian is defined by identification with the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It is in Him we live and move and have our being.