You know those nifty little adhesive nametags you stick on your chest when you attend a function? We’ve all had to use them at one time or another. Anyway, I’ve often thought it would be fun to switch name tags with someone and take on a new identity. I don’t know the real reason why, except I’m tired of just being plain, old me. I’d like to have a new and exciting identity, like being a backup singer for a rock band.
Now, you may think I’m crazy, but do you know that we constantly change our names and identities all throughout the day, everyday? Yes, that means you! The big difference is that when I want to be a rock star, that choice is conscious, and it’s entirely because I think it would be fun. So what’s the problem? The problem is that all during the day, depending on the circumstances, you and I internally change our identities according to what we think others will think of us.
We bounce off of comments other people make to us, their body language, their hesitancy to be with us, and on it goes. We feel judged, inferior/superior, better than, less than, acceptable/ unacceptable, and valued/under valued. In other words, how we feel about ourselves as we are in relationship with others, convinces us to name or rename ourselves all day.
It’s as if we wear around a little erasable name badge in the form of a miniature whiteboard. That little badge can be constantly erased and written over. So, one moment when I feel confident, I might have the word “capable” invisibly written on it. But, if I encounter a relationship or even a brief conversation with someone who runs circles around me, then unconsciously I erase the word “capable” and replace it with the word “doofus”. That’s how it works.
For example, I was checking into a hotel recently. I thoroughly believed that I could do that with no problem. So, as I was approaching the check-in desk, my invisible name tag surely said “competent”. But, when the young clerk behind the counter asked me to swipe my credit card, I inserted my card in the machine upside down and backwards more than once. This error was due, in part, because I have vision issues, due in part because I just get confused, and due in part to the fact that I’m short and cannot always see the slot properly. Nevertheless, I was embarrassed, and to make matters worse, the clerk never humored me, or even smiled. So, do you think that if I had looked at my invisible name tag then, would it have still said “competent?” Nope… it loudly screamed “stupid” at me.
Here’s the key: If the clerk had been nice enough to say something like, “Oh, that happens all the time!,” I would have laughed it off, but instead, he was looking at me like I had underwear on my head. (Whatever happened to actually handing the credit card to a clerk?!) Consequently, I gave that clerk the power to rename me at that moment, even though he wasn’t aware of it. WE GIVE OTHER PEOPLE THE POWER TO NAME US ALL THE TIME.
Now, think of all the places you go or the people you meet during the course of a week. You may walk in a fitness facility, where spandex and muscles reign. Have you named yourself fat and ugly? Or, perhaps fit and trim? The name you have given yourself is because you have compared yourself to others’ opinions…. they either approve or disapprove. This gives you a sense of who you are and how you fit. Scenarios like this breed arrogance (“I’m doing better than you”), or inferiority (“I’ll never measure up to you”.)
Arrogance breeds judgmentalness. When we believe we’re “better than”, we use that as a yardstick to measure others. When we believe we’re inferior to others, we use that to beat ourselves up. Neither one is a biblically accurate view.
There are a zillion examples of this internal conversation we have with ourselves, as we compare ourselves to others: academics, job performance, parenting skills, financial success, decision making, appearance, popularity, etc. In any case, we use other people’s opinions, attitudes, comments, and looks, to tell us who we are. We give them the power to determine what identity will be written on our name tags, like the one I allowed the hotel clerk to write on mine.
Want to know how to get out of staying forever caught in this trap? By seeing yourself as God sees you…. no more and no less. What God has to say about us, as believers, is the truest thing there is, unless you believe that God lies!
I love this quote by Mother Teresa: “Neither your praise, nor your criticism changes me, because I know who I am. ” To paraphrase: “Your opinion, whether positive (which may be true) or negative (which may be true), doesn’t tell me who I am. It may tell me how I perform, but it doesn’t give me my true identity. This realization can become a truth you can take to the bank because it’s true! As soon as you fall into the trap of letting someone else “name you”, whether positively or negatively, you can immediately be reminded by the Holy Spirit that the name permanently given to you as a believer, is “His“. It cannot be over-written, it cannot be erased, if cannot change. You belong to Him. No person or circumstance can change that, and realizing this should give you the confidence to quickly over-write whatever is temporarily blurring the truth. (Read Romans Chapter 8 for a full account of belonging to Christ. )
It’s called Turn Around Time. It is possible to happen more quickly and more often. God calls this repentance. Changing your mind about the way He sees you, and the way you see yourself. So, now, the question is not: “Who Do You Think You Are?” but,” Who Do You Know You Are?”