Loving our Identity is Vital
“The identity of one changes with how one perceives reality.” – Vithu Jeyaloganathan
Self-love has a lot to do with how we identify ourselves. It has been said that our thoughts affect our feelings which ultimately affect our actions. This being said, how we think about ourselves can ultimately affect how we treat others and how we treat ourselves.
In middle school, I struggled a lot with identity. As a sheltered pastor’s daughter, I could not relate to my peers—especially being in public school. I only knew of Bible stories while my classmates talked about shows they watched on cable T.V. Yes. . . my family did not have cable. It was only one of the many reasons that I felt I could not fit in.
I wanted people to like me.
I wanted friends.
I was an oddball.
So, it occurred to me that the best way to make friends was to change who I was. The perfect opportunity came in middle school. It was a brand new slate! I could be a totally new person!
I started off people pleasing by becoming a person that everyone liked. I believed that if I changed who I was, more people would like me and be my friends. Surely, this would bring happiness.
I became anorexic.
And in turn got the "love" I wanted.
or did I . . .
Obviously, this did not work. Instead, I became more insecure and wondered if the people who liked me really liked me for me—or if they only befriended the persona I created. The trap of a false identity affected how I lived in reality.
Many of us fall into this trap some way or another right? Hopefully, I am not the only one who has experienced this crisis. We all want to be truly loved. Not superficially loved; but genuinely, deeply, authentically loved. Sadly, we have experienced circumstances, relationships, and facades of social accolades that blur out who we truly are. This blur in our identity manifests itself in how we treat others and ourselves.
So the question is, what is our identity? As Christians, we believe in a God of love. This God of love rules His government with the foundation of love (Romans 13:10). In fact, Jesus states that the greatest law we can ever follow is to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and to, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31).
Our identity and everything we believe in is founded on love. Yet, why is it still so hard to love ourselves? Maybe because we live in a broken system of selfish and cold “love” that is really just flattery. But God brings in a different paradigm, one not of flattery, but of an all-encompassing and deeply warm and genuine love. God’s love just gives and in turn, because it’s so selfless, we are attracted to Him.
“We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:19
The reason why we even end up loving God is because we realize that He first loved us.
That means He loved us when we were imperfect, He loved us when we were living our life of sin, and He loved us despite us not loving Him back. We cannot love God without first understanding His love for us. This is how people fall in love with God. When we truly understand what that unconditional love is—we realize how valuable we really are.
God literally loves all of us—our entire being—our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. It is this deep understanding of love that frees us from trying to prove ourselves because Christ proved His love for us when He died for us
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
When we know what it means to know God and His love, we will know what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves, because we have experienced a love beyond ourselves. His love is a love that envelopes our entire being. Love awakens love, to know God is to love Him.
Understanding this reality of love is what solidifies our identity.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8