I do believe that events in our lives have a significant effect on our personalities (a set of traits we display throughout our lives) and subsequently, the choices we make which forms our identity. There are those who spend their lives living for others – pleasers/givers – who never took the time to find out about themselves. There are those who believe the world revolves around them – narcissist/takers – whose sole purpose is about them. There are the rest of us who fall on the spectrum between the both.
For the last few months, I saw a recurring theme in my life and few others. I recognized that no matter how much we think we know ourselves, at times, we misplace our identities when we become desperate and in need of something we want. What I mean by this is I saw a woman who professed to have strong Christian beliefs become disparaging and demeaning of anyone very easily because she is experiencing work burnout. I heard a conservative single person accept suggestive behaviors from someone who is considered newly married with a young family and professed love for spouse. I see compromise of long held values bent to fit a desire. I see loss of self-respect due to fear of the unknown. I see a willingness to compromise on things that will not be healthy in the long term. I see putting one’s better judgment aside to cater to someone else’s selfishness. I see the wearing down of time which makes people go soft on things that would not have been tolerated.
In life we want the perfect everything. We want a perfect God, perfect families, perfect spouses, perfect children, perfect friends, perfect jobs etc. Please don’t lie to yourself if you say you don’t want perfection. However, we know there is nothing on this earth that is perfect. So, when we are saddled with less than sublime contentment, our views and behaviors deteriorate over time. We go after or accept people and situations that require us to put aside or modify our values and beliefs. This pushes us to make less than ideal choices with a short-sighted view of a moment in the rest of our lives. We misplace our identities.
How many times have we read/watched a news story and someone always says “[he/she] was a good person. [he/she] would never have done….” For Christians, David was a good boy who turned into God’s champion; however, this was the same man who arranged a murder and engaged in infidelity. Judas was one of Jesus’ 12 and he was chosen because he had a consistently good character like the others but allowed himself to be bribed by money. Samson’s strength came from his beliefs which manifested in not cutting his hair; however, he compromised for love and companionship. The Bible and real life are filled with people misplacing their identities in a short-sighted compromising view in order to find a piece/peace that was missing at that moment in time.
We all want to feel whole -emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually. We all want to wake up every morning and truly thank God without asking for anything. However, for the majority of this broken world, we wake up and say a prayer of thanks along with a request or two. Some requests have been years in the asking and others are from recent overwhelming stressors. Whatever the situation, a feeling of desperation, urgency or last resort, can reek havoc on the identities we have carefully crafted to give us strength which are grounded by certain values and beliefs.
Do not be fooled. We all know or have that gut discomfort when we stray from ourselves. We know something is wrong but we are not always ready to face it or fix it until we find our confidence in our identities again. Life is not fair buttercups and sometimes it hands us and we accept a bag of sh*t (that may or may not explode). In reaction, we compromise or stray from what we hold dear because we truly believe this is the best way to feel in control. It’s that accumulated moment of weakness, desperation, frustration, longing, tiredness, impatience, out of ideas, dissatisfaction, disappointment, disillusionment etc that can be powerful. So powerful, we forget who we are, what we belief, and what we are about. We forget our identities; we forget ourselves.
The bottom line is people make mistakes and err in behaviors. Sometimes we identify it quickly and sometimes we make it drag on for years. However, there is something liberating when you find your identity again and put yourself back on track. There is something freeing – our stomachs aren’t in knots, our minds aren’t constantly preoccupied, we aren’t always uneasy – that happens when we make those changes. This is not always easy because it means we have to undo a situation or take responsibility for uncharacteristic behaviors. When we remove the *cognitive dissonance, then our minds, bodies, beliefs and behaviors are in sync again. Life is a series of ups and downs and we all have our weak moments. We all have lost a bit of our identities in the past, currently and will in the future. However, its only tragic when we allow ourselves to be defeated and stay defeated. To err is human and you know what else is human? To change, to recognize and acknowledge that we make less than great choices in a state of defeat but we can still find and reinstate our misplaced identities.
*cognitive dissonance (partial definition): mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values.