A STRONG IDENTITY, PART 3
I have spent the last couple of weeks talking about how to develop a strong personal identity and how that benefits us personally. Today, I want to talk about how it benefits our relationships.
It might help to first look at how a poor self-identity could play out relationally.
Internally, if we don’t know who we are or have a poor version of who we are, we are confused when we end up in relationships that don’t quite work well. But think about it. If we have a negative belief about ourselves, when people come and go in our day to day existence, our communication with them (verbal or non-verbal), will line up with this belief system. So, if you believe you are not worth much, this will come across to others and, unfortunately (I have seen it time and time again) you attract people who end up treating you poorly. Most people with poor identities take this as proof that they are truly worthless not realizing that the issue of worth needs settled before we enter into relationships. The One Who made us did so in a manner that reflects His image. If we are like Him, how on earth can we be worthless?! He also illustrated our worth by how much He paid for us to redeem us from the sin we were born into. If we were worthless, He would have left us in our mess!
Let’s look at one more issue that occurs when we have poor self-identities. Not only do we attract people who will treat us according to what we think we are worth, we also attract people who truly care about us, but the things that they say or do are filtered through the belief, “I am worthless”, “I am ugly”, “I’m dumb”, etc. and we misinterpret their words and actions. A woman I greatly admire illustrated how she used to do this. She would cook dinner, but then wait to clean up the dishes until the next morning. When her husband, got up, he went ahead and did the dishes for her. He was trying to show her he loved her through this act of service, but because she felt bad about herself, she thought he was doing the dishes begrudgingly and with the belief that she was a bad wife. Thankfully, she renewed her mind about this and not only receives his love, but believes it as well. We all have our own versions of this and would be wise to identify our negative belief systems about ourselves and ask God and others how this plays out in our relationships.
Issues of rejection, judgment, and misunderstanding play out over and over simply because we don’t have our identity settled using His Word as the standard. If you are using any other standard, there will be problems!
So let’s think about what our relationships would look like if we got the worth issue settled BEFORE we entered in.
When I believe what God says about me and I know I am loved, worthy, accepted, protected, and safe, I will not misperceive others as much. I will have a basic trust in people knowing that ultimately my protection is in Him. I love how Graham Cooke put it once. He said, “I can stick my neck out there in my relationships knowing that if someone lops my head off, I know the Healer.” That gave me such courage to go ahead and stick a toe or a foot into vulnerability. I believe that if something goes wrong, I can go back to Jesus to get his final word on the matter. Sometimes He says, “Melanie, this is your issue from childhood. Remember when this was said to you? That caused you to misinterpret this person. If you hand that feeling and belief to Me, I will give you what I intended you to have for that situation.” Sometimes He says, “Yeah, that hurts. They should not have done that.” When He validates that I was truly hurt, He gives me His eyes and heart for the person and enables me to forgive them AND stay in relationship with them just as He does with us. This strengthens them and me and therefore fosters what He intended our relationships to be. The truth is, none of us are going to be perfect and when we have a weak identity, we only get wounded further when we encounter this imperfection. If we get our identity solid in Christ, we have the strength and resources in Him to handle our own imperfections as well as those of others. Then, if we really are rejected, we can remember He will never reject us. If we really are misunderstood, we can remember He was too. If we really are judged, we can ask Him if what is being said is true and feel grateful if He says it is because we have the opportunity to be further refined. If it is not true, we can stand confident in what He says is true and it doesn’t have to rock our world.
Just like we need a physical skeleton to stand up, protect, and provide strength for physical things we must withstand in this world, a strong identity in Christ is like an emotional and spiritual skeleton. We need an internal emotional and spiritual infrastructure that helps us withstand living in a fallen world with imperfect people. Jesus was the only perfect person and, guess what? Because He is in us as believers, we have access to all He is and has! Amazing!
Author of this post: Melanie Connell