A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Identity Crisis

by Bill Lambert

by Bill Lambert

Who are you?

Sadly many individuals these days identify themselves with the watch they wear, the car they drive, their clothes, the names they can drop, or the size and location of their house. Unwittingly they are the creation of modern marketing…they’re just brands of merchandise.

Others identify themselves with their job status, the sport they follow or  the genealogy of their families. They all reflect the false values of today’s society.

Getting a little nearer to reality are the ones who identify with their skills, their taste in music, the arts or literature.

But they are all wearing masks – projecting a desired image of themselves which may be far from the real person.

So who really, are you?

One of the Greek philosophers said: “First know thyself.”

You are nothing, without God.  God created  the world, and everything in it.  You are the genes you inherited from your parents. You have the temperament God gave you as an essential part of your human personality: an outward, optimistic way of thinking and behaving…  a pragmatic and dominating personality…  the type who likes to watch life from the sideline…   or the sensitive person who takes a rather negative view of life.  (check out “The Temperaments” on the Internet)

You are the product of  your upbringing,  the affluence and social standing of your family and the kind of society you live in.

Finally, you are what you make of yourself with or without the help of God.

Thomas Merton says we will only find our true selves when we take off our masks, strip away everything worldly and die to the outward self.

For most of us that is a pretty ambitious approach to life.  So where can we start? What can we hope to achieve in seeing ourselves as we  really are?

It’s like taking off our clothes and looking at ourselves in a tall mirror.  That’s me, lumps and all.

We know that God loves us just as we are with our shortcomings and virtues.  We also have to learn to love and forgive ourselves just as we are.

Now we can start on changing that image.  We can see a more kindly and compassionate individual…. a loving spouse,… an understanding parent….  a willing servant of Christ…. and a child before the majesty of God.

But we’ll make no real progress until we strip off our masks, face up to what really matters - and start again from from there.

St Ignatius made a famous prayer which in Latin went

Noverim me, noverim te,
sed aliud cuperim nisi Te

translates as

Let me know myself
Let me know thee
But desire nothing besides Thee.  

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