Posted by Rick Chrisman
There are many facets to one's identity: gender, class, ethnicity, education and so on. But perhaps the most telling aspect of our identities is our behavior. After all, we are no more than the sum of the decisions we make throughout life.
Judging our identity from the perspective of our behavior has its pros and cons. On one hand, it provides an objective and clear indication of what sort of person we are. On the other hand, the decisions we make are permanent and don't always speak well of us.
We are historical creatures. Human lives have a beginning, a middle and an end. Nature itself is cyclical: the sun rises and sets, and summers come and go. All of our days are named and numbered sequentially, and we tag our summers with memories, associating them with the time "when I went to France," and "when I lost my virginity" and "when I underwent surgery."
Our kinship groups are historical, too. In the West, we trace our origins not only to natural beginnings (the Big Bang), but to social beginnings. As the Jews say, "A wandering Aramean was my father." The Christians date their calendars from the birth of Jesus Christ and Muslims chart the progress of Islam.
Human time is measured by important and unrepeatable events such as these. Similarly, the decisions we make stick with us, even our secrets. This can make life quite the adventure. We learn day-by-day from the decisions that we make, and in turn, we make new decisions in response to what we've learned. Brave people say "I'll try anything once." Most risks are rewarded with revelation. But making the same decision again and again with the same negative consequences is self-destruction. Either way, we're always making history.
Our sexual history, the most private part of our private lives, illustrates this best. We divide these experiences up into categories: "what I did for love" and "what I did without love," and "I want more of that" and "I'll never do that again." Our sexual encounters are our history, our identity.
Every decision we make is another ornament on an individual tree with our name on it — that's the glory of life, as well as its downside. Making love is making history. So is waging war, and history is indelible.
When we have doubts about our identity, when we suffer because of our social identities and our tangle of feelings therein, it would help to look at things in a new light, or under a new lens, in order to see our own personal history. Others may not know us this well, but God does. God, the divine creator, calls us out of nature into history. Ultimately we do not belong to this or that SES group, or to Skidmore or to the U.S.. We belong to God. So, as Koheleth says, remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the silver cord is snapped and the golden bowl broken.