What Do You Base Your Identity On? Is It Just An ‘Identity Thief’?

Human nature is really something.

One time someone shared with me what they had observed about a particular group of people. What defined this group was a certain physical handicap, which I won’t name since it’s not the point. The point is what the behavior of many people in this group demonstrates about human nature in general.

First of all, many of them strongly discourage those in their community from socializing with those who don’t have the physical handicap. What’s really telling, though, is their attitude toward those who are able to find treatment for the disability – if not necessarily a complete cure, then at least a definite way of overcoming and bypassing it.

Imagine that you and another person shared a highly limiting physical disability. Now, imagine that the other person has the option to receive treatment for that disability; if they pursue the treatment, the disability will no longer limit them. Can you think of any reason why you would discourage them from this?

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Well, some members of this community do discourage others from seeking treatment. Why would they do that? Because, to them, seeking treatment for the disability constitutes an admission that something is wrong with them. They consider it an insult to their pride to imply that they are in some way “broken.” This is because their disability has become a large part – even the very center – of their identity; it is something that defines them and makes them stand out from others. They would rather hang on to it, and force others like them to hang on to it as well, than to acknowledge that there is something wrong with such a large part of “who they are.”

Now, it’s bad enough when people base their identity on a disability or on some other trait that’s merely physical. But even worse, many people will take a fundamental character flaw or deep behavioral problem and make it the center of their identity, simply because it’s what stands out the most in their lives.

It’s increasingly common in our day to see people whose lives are dominated by one form or another of unhealthy or addictive behavior. And quite often, no matter what kind of trouble this behavior brings to their lives, and no matter what healthy and fulfilling things it keeps them away from, they will fight tooth and nail against any implication that they should work toward ceasing it. This is because they don’t see it as a life-controlling problem; they see it as being at the core of who they are. In their minds, to let go of it is to let go of themselves.

This is quite often seen with homosexuality, for example. Many a person with a “nontraditional sexual orientation” will speak of it as being “who they are,” as if that automatically makes the resulting behavior exempt from questioning or even scrutiny – even from the person themselves.

But whether the issue is that or something else, the principle is the same. The thing that someone thinks makes them “who they are” is an impostor – a cruel, thieving impostor. It commits ‘identity theft’ against them, standing in the way of their really being “who they are.” And until they recognize it for what it is, and start the process of sending it packing, they will not be free to discover who they’re really meant to be.

We are each called by our Creator to get away from our personal ‘identity thieves’ – substance addictions, sexual confusion, misguided dreams, selfish and futile pursuits, and so on – and start learning who he really means for each of us to be. If we will do so, we will find ourselves becoming more and more like him and yet, at the same time, more outstanding as individuals than we ever were before.

This article originally appeared, in slightly different form, at Dakota Voice.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

David Mann has been involved for many years in a Christian ministry for recovery from sexual addictions. As a freelance writer, he has also contributed to American Clarion/Dakota Voice and Life & Liberty News.

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