Did Jesus have to contend with identity issues? God said, “This is my Son…”(Mt 3:17) “Who do you say that I am?”(Mt 16:15) John the Baptist’s followers asked, “Are you the one who was to come…?” (Mt 11:3) We read that Jesus was always certain of His own identity, though that certainty is an enigma for our human natures! Let me explain.
Self-identity is, in large part, established on what others think of me–or my perception of how they know me. I may be different in public than when I am alone; whether the setting is informal or structured. Expectations, “comfort zone,” peers, competencies, “If you really knew me…,” all are pieces of the me you see.
Too often I have accepted without question these (mis)conceptions or assumptions as the real me. When I began helping foster kids work through their own fragmented identities I began growing in understanding, knowing, loving my self so that I could really love others. And I came to better recognize the fine line between nature and nurture–how I am wired with what I’ve experienced.
One method of exploring my human nature is to learn about “temperaments” based on Hippocrates (father of modern medicine 460-377 BCE) and the archaic “humors.” In 1971Tim LaHaye wrote Transformed Temperaments in which he uses the biblical characters as representative of each of the four types — Peter the Sanguine, Paul the Choleric, Moses the Melancholy, and Abraham the Phlegmatic. Each one has its human qualities. These may be seen as weaknesses until transformed by God, who revels in turning our humanness into soul strengths for His purposes!
Then, just this past year, Kay Warren authored Choose Joy Because Happiness Is Not Enough. She created a lighthearted “Winnie the Pooh School of Personalities” (See pgs. 91-93.) Easy-going Winnie, goal-oriented Rabbit, enthusiastic Tigger, and deeply emotional Eeyore represent those four types.
Sanguines (Tigger) and Cholerics (Rabbit) represent the extrovert-leaders among us while Phlegmatics (Winnie) and Melencholics (Eeyore) exhibit the more introverted qualities. No type is static. Though one may be dominant, none is singular.
Another aspect of my wiring is based on the theory of Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner, mid-1980s.) These include native aptitudes and learning preferences categorized as verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, musical/rhythmic, body/kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. An eighth way of knowing was added later and termed nature. This would be intuitive, possibly spiritual in nature.
A third aspect of wiring has come to be know as Love Languages (Gary Chapman). These five different ways of feeling and expressing relational love are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. This angle helps explain why some relationships are satisfying while others may leave us feeling lonely and even unlovable.
An important link, arguably, between how I am wired and how my environment shapes me are gender responses (Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn.) As this couple explain, such responses are not seen as 100%, but as majority and most frequently.
Now factor in such nurture-related events as birth order (Dr. Kevin Leman,) ) age, culture, and life experiences. Little wonder that the psalmist would acknowledge, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” I am uniquely “me” indeed! Yet I can cling to the wisdom that God loves me just the way I am, but He loves me too much to leave me that way.