With the new year beginning today, I’d thought about making some New Year’s resolutions. Pausing for moment to reflect on this, it occurred to me that we tend to use resolutions as layers of band-aids to put over other layers of band-aids, which ultimately cover cuts and wounds we’ve been licking our whole life. Every year, we find new things we don’t like about ourselves or in our lives that we wish we could change, and attempt to cover over them with these fresh bandages we call resolutions. The problem with this is that we stay the same old, wounded, tattered person and underneath all of these layers is just rotting flesh.
This year, I’m doing something different.
I’ve actually started doing this a while ago, as a matter of fact: I’m pushing reset. I’m taking back control of my identity and who I really am, and I’m just going to “be” it, rather than try to patch the old self up with more bandages. There’s no real reason, in fact, that you can’t do this too, and more often; daily, if need be. The reason people generally don’t is that they tie their identities up in their past, instead of assuming the identities of the people they were designed to be, and who their hearts tell them they should be in the future.
Each of us has two people living inside of us: the person we are, and the person we want to be. Over time, we come to accept the fact that we are whatever person we’ve been, and allow our past successes and failures to dictate our identity to us, rather than us being the ones to dictate our identity into our future actions. Some call it course correction, but I think that’s an understatement. Deciding to live in one’s true identity is to reject the notion that there’s a trail of waves behind us at all, and deciding to assume the personality of the person we know we already are deep down. The biggest lie you can believe is that you have to “arrive” somewhere: you already know who you want to be, so stop acting like someone else, and just start being who you we designed to be.
Sociology teaches us that we are products of the society around us, and ultimately products of our own past decisions. Most people blindly accept this, which is why sociology works: without purposeful living, everyone really is a machine, and makes the same types of decisions a computer does, based on historical input. It’s only when you reject the notion that you need to follow in suit of your environment (and your past reactions) that you can break free from simply being conditioned by those around you, and begin to define yourself.
Modern sociology rubs against many of my own personal beliefs. My take on it is this: we are empty vessels, like mason jars. What we choose to fill those vessels with ultimately defines what we are on the outside. An empty mason jar can be filled with a number of things. It’s only after you fill it up with pickles that it becomes “a jar of pickles”. Sure, you could make some New Year’s resolutions. you could scratch off the label that reads “pickles” and write something different, or even make it a jar of “diet pickles”. That won’t change much. You can also spend the next year being angry at the pickles in the jar, or the people who put them there. You can even withdraw and put a lid on the jar, so no one can smell the pickles… but it’s not going to change the fact that you are a jar of pickles.
The only way to reclaim your identity is to pour out whatever’s in your life, clean the jar, and start filling it with what you were designed to be. There are two things that stop most people from doing this. The first is that they’ve come to like the taste of the pickles; they like who they are, even though they know it’s not who they were destined to be. They simply accept the fact that, by continuing to compromise their true identity, they can continue having the things they want in life. In reality, you’re just cheating yourself though. While that true identity that’s deep down in you may not seem as appealing, there’s a reason it’s engrained on your heart: deep down, you’d be a lot happier if you were your true self. And even if you like the taste, you’re a lot better than that. You’re a better person than you realize you are, and there’s more depth in you than you care to acknowledge: so stop pretending you’re anything short of the incredible human being you were destined to be, and let your true identity start to come through. You’re better than pickles.
The second reason people don’t live who they were designed to be is the label on the jar. The people around you tend to stick labels on you and who you’ve been in the past. Whether it’s good or bad, if it’s not in tune with your true identity, those labels can cause a lot of trouble when you try and live a life more true to yourself. I’ve been given a lot of good labels and a lot of bad labels. I learned the real secret to getting past this from, of all things, a children’s book. The secret is this: the labels only stick if you believe them. The people we’ve been in our past don’t define the people we can be today. Life has consequences, and a good man will make things right where they need to be set right… but we don’t have to buy into the notion that our identity is defined by our labels, which really means our identity isn’t defined by others (or even our own critical opinion of ourselves). You can choose to lay down your demons and start living today as the man or woman you were designed to be, and if anyone tries to convince you that you are something different, find better company.
Society doesn’t believe people can change. I think deep down, this is true: our true identities were wired in us from birth, and they don’t change… but they also aren’t what needs to change. As a Christian, I believe in sin at work in the world; sin doesn’t change: it’s been around since the beginning of humanity. A great man once said that we aren’t defined by our sin, because it’s not our true identity: it’s just the sin working in us, pushing it’s way out to eventually manifest itself in our bodies. Sin doesn’t change, but the amount of sin we allow into our life can change, and that’s not beyond our control. To put things more simply: don’t let your past mistakes define who you are. Your identity isn’t wrapped up in the poor decisions you’ve allowed into your life. Your identity runs much deeper than your imperfections.
Similarly, the good labels are just as useless. I’ve accomplished a lot of great things in my life, and am considered a lot of good things by a lot of good people. These are all great, but again if they don’t line up with my true identity, then what value do they have? At the end of my life, I want people to remember me for who I really was – what my true identity was, and who I was called to be as a man. The labels people have assigned to me won’t matter: whether I lived up to my true potential, and lived as the real man that I am is what’s going to ultimately decide if I’ve had a good life, or if it’s been a waste.
You can’t live your true identity while you believe in the bad labels, or the good ones: because both will distract you from who you really are.
Realizing that we’re all shooting stars, and that we all burn out quickly is a great reason to stop putting up so many pretenses and to just live and be who you are. Because you will, some day, burn out. The illusion of “your past” is a waste of time. Use this new year to embrace your true identity, whoever that is, rather than try and patch the old person with resolutions.