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Circumstances don’t have to determine your identity

today5 Aug 2022 31 2

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Circumstances shouldn’t determine who we are because circumstances change, yet we often allow it to dictate our identity. Most of the time, we find our identity in things, places or people. However, this can be tricky because what you choose to define your identity could cause you harm over time without you recognising it.

Defining identity through poverty or riches

Many find identity in what they own (or don’t own) – money and possessions—riches, or whatever people perceive as looking rich. The general notion is that abundant money and material possessions add more value to your life and your state of being. Because of your riches, you would likely view yourself as a person of greater importance. It is easy to identify who we are with what we have or lack. It is comfortable to know you have all your physical needs and most of your material needs met. However, you feel shame and worthlessness when you lack the same. Which also, in turn, defines your identity.

It’s easier for someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to live in poverty or lack to tell you that you are not defined by the poverty or lack you live in.

While they utter these words, an inevitable sting hits your heart that causes it to swell up in resentment, dislike and distrust towards the privileged speaker.  It is hard to take to heart the motivational words of someone who doesn’t know and cannot relate to your current struggles. They do not know the pain and shame of not having enough to eat, not having a decent roof over your head, access to toiletries and other basic needs. Unfortunately, an ungrateful stance is a default reaction when we think of our difficult circumstances.

I must confess that at the peak of my life in poverty and lack, the thing that ached even more was hearing people tell me about how Jesus endured suffering and went through everything treacherous for my sake. And might I add, while kind of not complaining about it. That is like pouring salt and vinegar on an open wound, guys. It is tough to hear and even harder to accept because you tell me my difficult circumstances don’t matter. Or at least, that is how I understood it for the longest time.

Listen to the podcast: You are not defined by a life of poverty and lack

Where is Jesus in all this?

These people’s intentions are mostly good because they want to glorify God and teach us that He is greater than whatever we face. The pain is in the way they deliver the teaching. Like it only mattered that Jesus suffered – my current sufferings are child’s play, and I should be more grateful. It has taken a lot of maturing, reading and testing God’s Word for myself to get to the point where I could understand that God is not heartless. So, I explored more and found good teachers of the Good News and discovered that Jesus endured difficulty and got through it because His mind was set on something greater; His Father.

Throughout his confrontations with the Pharisees, Jesus often said things that brought to light Who He was – His identity. In arguments, while on trial – in good times and bad, Jesus knew Who He was. [I encourage you to read the books of Mark, Luke, Matthew and John for the juicy ndabas of Jesus’s encounters with the Pharisees].

The wrong places to look for identity

What does that look like for you and me in our current circumstances? Amid our dissatisfaction – lack or poverty? Let’s block out and forget:

  • What you have seen on social media.
  • What you have posted on social media to portray yourself a certain way.
  • What you have.
  • What you don’t have.

Who are you now? You can take your time. Write it down. It’s ok if your list consists of good and bad things / just one sentence / one word. If you want to discuss this with me, drop a comment on the I AM Youth Facebook page or send us a PM.

Where to now?

What you can achieve in life should never define you, just as much as what you lack right now does not define you. There is a balance as we experience the good and bad in life. Circumstances do not define you – you live through them.

Finding oneself and all that that entails (things like purpose and identity), has to start with the One that created you. We’ve talked a lot about misplaced identity, and in the follow-up article, we’ll discuss where to go from here. So let us first shed the skin of what should not define us. If you need to talk to someone, you can contact us on the Youth Hotline page.

Written by Dineo Phadimenyane.

Written by: Han

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