Who Am I?: A discussion of what defines a human

By: Daniel Finegan

Who am I? It is a question that we spend our lives trying to answer. We grasp for identity wherever we can find it, whether it be in our jobs, our hobbies, our countries, our political affiliations, our families, our cultures etc. These are certainly all aspects of who we are, but they do not fully define us. When someone thinks of me, I want them to think of me as who I am, not necessarily as the sum of my interests or opinions. So: who am I?

There are parts of your identity that you have no control over, even if they are part of who you are. You cannot change where you were born, and you cannot change your genes. These are essential aspects of your identity, but they are not up to you. Perhaps the only thing in life you have full control over is your choices. I cannot and should not worry about the things that I cannot change; instead, I should focus my attention on what I can change.

Am I an American by birth? That is something I cannot change, because I was born here. But the content of my character is something I can change through my actions. I am what I do, whether that be in thought, word or deed. Am I a generous person? If so, that is who I am. Am I a greedy person? If so, that is who I am. What you do is the most important part of who you are, the good and the bad. 

My actions and words show what is in my heart, but they can also change my heart. If I claim to be a loving person, yet hate those around me, I am a hateful, and deceitful person. But, if I practice love, I will become a loving person. C.S. Lewis says, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

I must acknowledge my vices in order to overcome them; self-deception is immensely dangerous because it greatly inhibits our ability to become better people. Do not surround yourself with people who flatter you. Find those who will challenge you to be better.

Our vices are part of who we are; our human nature is fallen and inclined towards sin. We should not glory in our evil, but instead, utterly destroy it in ourselves before it destroys us. I cannot hope that who I am will save me: I need to look no farther than a mirror to find my worst enemy. I am meant to be so much more than I am right now.

I was made in the image of God to do good, and yet here I am, fallen so far. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer has a very famous quote that eloquently speaks to who we are meant to be: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” When Christ calls me, He calls me to die to my former self. What does it mean to die to myself? Galatians 2:20 states  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” If I am to become the man that I ought to be, who I am now must die. But it is only through dying in Christ that we start to become who we are truly meant to be. Josef Pieper said it well: “We are not yet what we already are.”

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