Have you ever wondered what it is that motivates people toward extreme behavior? What drives a successful athlete to sacrifice his body for the sake of a trophy? What compels a celebrity to say and do almost unspeakable things to be shown on film to millions of people? Why would a woman stay in an abusive relationship with a vengeful, unstable man? What causes so many of us to live beyond our means? Why do so many young people take their own lives? What about the inner city violence and mass shootings of our day? What in the world compelled Adolf Hitler to take the lives of tens of millions of people?
Believe it or not, there is a key thread in all of this—one that has influenced the actions and motives of all men and women ever since the beginning of time as we know it. The issue is identity. In so many ways identity is everything!
What is an identity? The collective set of characteristics and connections which define a person as an individual.
What is your identity? Obviously a much more difficult question to answer!
Almost from the time of conception our gender becomes the first order of identity. “Is it a boy or a girl?”
We’re then given a name, hopefully in relationship to a respectable family. Both our first and last names serve to define us throughout the course of our lives.
But identity isn’t just about gender or even family. It’s about significance! How we need to feel valued and important! When we sense that never-ending search for significance is being fulfilled, we develop a positive self-image—sometimes to the point of arrogance. The other side of the coin is a negative sense of insignificance, which always seems to be lurking behind the next bend in the road; just waiting to beat you down.
From a natural human perspective, the path of self-esteem almost always involves performance and approval. The better you perform, the more you are approved by others, the better you can feel about yourself. If you have to put others down in the process, then so be it. After all, shouldn’t your quest for significance be your top priority in life?
Such a humanistic line of reasoning produces an almost nonstop stream of conflict. Trust me (as I know from firsthand experience) there is a much better way. Unfortunately, far too few people grasp the significance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as an identity message. There is much, much more involved than memorizing a handful of who I am in Christ Bible verses.
In the coming weeks I’ll be writing about the issue of identity from a Christian perspective. The issue of the ages can only be solved through the message of the ages. At this point I’m really not sure how long I’ll stay on this theme, but I suspect there will be no shortage of material. Some of my thoughts will come from The Search for Me Identity Series, while others will hopefully flow from the Holy Spirit’s inspiration as I seek to walk with Him day in and day out.
In the meantime, can you identity any extreme behavior in your life resulting from your personal search for significance? As painful as some of those past experiences may be, the Gospel is an amazing message of hope for all who choose to respond!
“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.'” Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NASB)