Monday, August 23, 2010

How do you define yourself?

I heard a sermon a few weeks ago in which the pastor said that we shouldn't define ourselves by our failures. We have to let them go, he said. Discussing it afterward, a friend asked me if I think I do define myself that way or not. I don't really think I do, and I said so, but for some reason the topic still made me a little unsettled.

Well, I was thinking about it again the other day. I agree that we shouldn't define ourselves by our failures, and I still don't think I am in a habit of doing that, but I think I do define myself by my successes. And, looking around, it seems that we're taught to do that on a social level, and more or less innately want to on an individual level (I'm not going to try to prove that it's innate right now, but it makes sense, right?).

There are two problems here.

First, if you define yourself by successes and not failures, then your philosophy of self is incoherent. It can be both or neither, but picking one and leaving the other is invalid.

Second, and at least equally important, is that we, as Christians, are not supposed to define ourselves by our achievements. I know the Bible talks about crowns and whatnot in heaven, but success does not define us as much as we would like it to. This is difficult to come to terms with, at least for me, because even within the church, success correlates with rewards and praise, good things. And I want those good things to be mine. If the success is mine, then the rewards are mine as well, and suddenly I am defining myself by successes.

Obviously the answer is not to fail at everything, but to have a new perspective. And that is the hard part...

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