I am an “A” student.
I am a husband.
I am a mother.
I am single.
I am a leader.
I am successful.
I am thin.
I am beautiful.
Maybe your list is from a negative perspective.
I am not a parent.
I am not married.
I am divorced.
I am not popular at school, work, or church.
I am a college dropout.
I am unemployed.
I am overweight.
I am not handsome or beautiful.
The list looks different for everyone. Take a moment and think about your list. Then, see if you prioritize particular ones above the others. If you lost any of the items on the more positive list, would you feel insecure or lost? In extreme cases, would you want to stop living? Does your list pretty much summarize your sources of confidence and life purposes?
If anything on the more negative list changed, would you be content? Perhaps, confident or happy for a moment. Most likely, your contentment wouldn’t last. You would create a different list of “wants.” For instance, maybe you lose weight, but then you want more clothes. Maybe you received a promotion at work, but you want more respect. Maybe you improved your school grades, but want an “A” in all future classes. None of these desires are bad in of themselves, but become dangerous when they define our lives.
The lists above are descriptions, but, for some people, their list serves as “the” self-defining list. Our roles, responsibilities describe us to an extent, but they do not define our identity. The problem is that we often confuse descriptions with our identity. Notice that “descriptions” is plural. We can describe ourselves with many adjectives and nouns, but, for Christians, there is only one identity—children of God. Praise God that nothing, whether it’s a job loss or weight gain, can change our identity. Sure, we could feel better about ourselves when we have a successful job or wear a size 00, but they are temporal and cannot change the “real” us.
Worldly Standards and God’s Perspective
Let’s look at how Paul introduces himself in several of his letters: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Ephesians 1:1; cf. Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1). Paul had a prestigious background, but he doesn’t mention it in his introductions or base his confidence on it. Repeatedly, Paul was criticized, persecuted, and even judged for how he looked and talked (2 Corinthians 10:10). He wasn’t tall, handsome, or eloquent—typical worldly standards. How did Paul not allow these worldly standards control him? As stated in his introductions, he identified himself foremost as a Christian “by the will of God.”
Like Paul, we need to see ourselves and others from God’s perspective. Sometimes, we don’t need others to criticize us, because we do a good job criticizing ourselves. We constantly compare ourselves to others. On an ongoing basis, we question our choices—past, present, and future! We want perfection. We want to be liked by all. We want to be better than others. How tiring and unending!
How Do We Change?
Stop comparing ourselves to others! It requires a right view of ourselves and God by meditating on God’s Word to know His mind (Ps 119:15, 48). We need God’s standards, instead of worldly standards that don’t matter at the end of life. It’s a daily battle in our minds. Spend time with people who have an eternal mindset and are redeeming their time for God’s kingdom (Ephesians 5:15-21). Watch them. Ask questions. Learn from them. Pray to God that you would obey him. Remember that the Holy Spirit is always with you, helping you.
I don’t know what heaven will be like, but I doubt that everyone in heaven had straight A’s in college, earned six digit salaries, looked like models, or were married with children. Why? Because, such things are not eternal. It won’t matter in heaven. So, let’s stop defining ourselves by what doesn’t matter in the end. Whether you’ve started a dream job or retired from your job, remember that your worth as a person is not based on “the list.” Whether you’re single or married, same application. Either way, what are you doing for God’s kingdom? Are you living for self or God? If we remember our purpose in life and what is eternal, then I doubt we will focus on ourselves so much.
Every morning, when we look at ourselves in the mirror, let’s identify ourselves this way:
I am a child of God “by the will of God.” I may not like how I look. How I feel. My job. My circumstances. Today, I can choose to live my life in light of my identity and work on the areas that I don’t like. Or, I can waste another day by living for me and dwelling on what’s wrong with my life.
If you are struggling on an ongoing basis, do not hesitate to let a godly, Christian know. It’s time to change!
Join the Conversation
How do you define yourself?