I recently considered the markers we use to identify ourselves when meeting someone new. The most common descriptors seem to include what our work is, where we are from, what our race/heritage is, what religion we belong to, and what our family situation is. Of late, there has also been an increase in identifying oneself by one’s sexual and gender identity.
But why are these the sorts of markers that we use? Do these really represent the most fundamental qualities of a person? If I told you what I do for work, does that really tell you much about how I think and feel? If I disclosed my sexual preferences, would that really give you an accurate window into my soul?
I don’t think so. In my experience, most of these categories have little, if anything, to do with who a person is at their core. Really, I think we only use these because they tend to represent the smallest minorities that we belong to. The mentality seems to be “if you know what is most unique about me, you will know who I really am,” but I think this is a false assumption. Sometimes, it is the broadest of definitions that actually get the closest to the truth.
For example, the identification that I am “a son of God,” hardly puts me into a minority, but it is much more fundamental to who I really am. Descriptions like “I am a Software Developer,” or “my family is from Norway,” put me into smaller buckets, but those buckets are pretty shallow. Being “a son of God” has me in a bucket that is very wide, but also very deep.
I think it is therefore more useful to take those broader, wide-bucket categories, and then go deep with them. If I really wanted to introduce myself in a way that gave people a window into my soul, I might say something like “I am one of God’s creations, and I, in turn, share my Maker’s passion for creating new things. And not only am I a creation, but also a re-creation. I am one who has been redeemed by Christ, brought back from an addiction and loneliness that I thought I would never see the end of.”
Would this be an awkward way to introduce myself? Well, given that awkwardness is defined simply by whether it is how most other people do things, then yes, I suppose this sort of introduction would be unique and strange. Even so, I truly feel it would give a far better explanation of who I really am, it would point you to the parts of my soul that are most integral to who I am. I really think it would be a better, more interesting society if we all gave these sorts of introductions to who we are. Of course, before we could have a society where we all introduced in this way, we would first have to all know ourselves at this deep level, and that’s easier said than done. Lack of knowledge of self is probably the real reason why we fall back on the simpler, but shallowed definitions instead.