Identity or Image?

When I look back over the decades at the old photos I was in, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry! Maybe you have had the same experience, especially when you look at the different styles of clothing and hair you tried out. When you got tired of your current look, you changed your appearance.

I was first conscious of my appearance in my early teen years and went for the hippie, rock-and-roll musician look. Then the disco era started and I began wearing silk shirts, plaid pants, and platform shoes (fortunately, not for long). Then in college I went with the farmer overalls and flannel shirt look. Being a poor college student, that one lasted for some time. My hair grew long. I parted it, let it grow in bangs over my eyes, wore bandanas and headbands, tried a hat for a while (that didn’t last either).

Images … appearances … presentation …

Eventually we do the same with our cars, homes, jobs, friends, vacations, possessions–anything and everything becomes useful for image management.

So, let me ramble for a few paragraphs …

We spend a lot of time attending to our styles, appearances, and possessions so we can make a statement to others. The statement is: This is who I am. We hope others will like, value, respect, and want us to be a part of their group. Image is an appearance you want to show. Image is a projection of what you think others are impressed with. Maybe you are trying to impress yourself as well, but your appearance is not who you are. Trying to appear to be someone you are not will never lead you to a place of happiness, security, and confidence.

We construct unreal, false images of ourselves.
We put those images out to others, thinking they will like what we show them.
We photoshop our images to make them even more attractive.
We are highly selective with what we reveal and disclose.

All of the above is considered image management.

Then life becomes a game of image comparison because everyone else is doing the same thing.

Social media platforms, like Facebook, have created a monster problem for us because everyone is creating images and putting those images online. We are all trying to impress everyone else. We are all desperate for likes on our posts. We are all craving followers for our pages. (Well, maybe not all of us, but a very high percentage of us.) We are all vying for the limited amount of attention and approval available.

This is a sure path to unhappiness. Craving attention, notice, likes, friends, followers, and admirers is a craving that is never satisfied sufficiently. Tomorrow you will need to get their attention again. Heck, you will probably need to get their attention a little later in the day!

Identity is who you are. Identity is the real you. Identity is who God says you are. Identity is your essential status and standing in the eyes of God. It is your dignity and your glory. By God’s grace, the church is a community where we do not need to impress others with unreal images. Instead, it is a place where we live in our true (and mutual) identity.

I don’t know exactly when it happened. I think it was sometime in my mid-40s that I finally became secure enough in my identity that the need for admiration, respect, attention, etc. began to wane. I discovered more fully who I was in Christ. I discovered how loved I was–unconditionally! And I discovered how much freedom there is in identity rather than image. The comparison game and the competition contest have really diminished (they’re not entirely gone, but certainly much less prevalent).

Once you are secure in who you are, you are even more free to value, love, encourage, and serve others. That, in turn, makes it possible for others to live in their identities and not through images they have created.

Okay, that was my ramble. I just had these musings and miscellaneous thoughts to throw out in this rough form.

May you be exceedingly secure in your true identity in Christ. And may the church be one of those places where we can be who we are with others: authentic, vulnerable, and real.

Pastor Brian


Brian Rice

What I love most about my job:

Having the ability to empower and resource leaders to bear much fruit that lasts. Being a part of a team of friends and missional servants committed to changing the world.
Brian Rice

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