A Struggle for Identity

There exists in me a troublesome dichotomy. Who am I? What is my value? While one can be their own harshest critic, you yourself often have the most information available to you, having direct access to the self, one’s feelings, one’s mind. When I turn my mind’s eye inward, I see but a small flame, enveloped by darkness. For me, as I have looked inwardly over the years, that flame has waxed and waned, but over time, grown weaker. It is a sobering idea to think that I am much less of the man I use to be.

But what if I don’t see things correctly. Perhaps, I am an inaccurate critic, despite the immediacy of my observation. Perhaps I am unfair? This past weekend, a good friend of mine, a priest and my confessor, suggested that I take an Ignatian examen of my day, every night before I should sleep. He wanted me to see the good things in my day, not in the spirit of self-congratulation, but in the hopes seeing perhaps what God sees in my daily life.  The idea was further corroborated by a dear friend who said in prayer “Allow him (me) to see, what I see.”

While I have to admit that this was extremely touching, I have found the concept to be surprisingly difficult to grasp. I find, that it is easy to joke about my feats, usually embellished by myself or by others, but to actually consider, internally, that I did something good an meaningful, is not easy. Inside, I don’t feel like I’m capable of any real good, or that I cannot hold that credit. It is confusing, because such feelings are simply illogical, because facts would show that at least, from time to time, I have done some good. Yet I refuse to feel pleasure or identity in such things. I’d rather consider that it is never enough.

I may have mentioned it in previous confessions, but the closest analogy I can think of, in regards to my inner reflections on this, is that of a tool. A tool, whether it is a hammer, a drill, a calculator, or a super computer, does not appear to have any intrinsic value in it’s ability to do good. It simply does that as a result of its design and its purpose. It shall never feel good, nor will it decide that. It simply functions as it should. The analogy is incomplete of course, since I make decisions about good and bad all that time, but when I act in coherence with good, I think it nothing more than my purpose – thank me not for doing what I ought to have done, for it is simply my purpose.

I have faced this thought before, and it is difficult to shake. Part of my tells me that I must not shake the simplicity of  being an instrument. But if I am a creature forged by God, if I am a man in that image, than reducing myself to a tool is not only destructive to my true purpose, but it is ultimately blasphemous to the person of God. The Lion King, oddly enough, breathes a little life into that idea, when in the clouds Mufasa tells his son, Simba: “You have forgotten yourself, and in so doing you have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become.”

I must embrace my identity, and I must not forsake my own place in the whole.

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