Identity (un)known

Published on: 1 May 2018

How well do you know yourself? In the midst of experiencing a heart-breaking life situation a year ago, James Shelton realised his answer to this question was ‘not well enough’.

Since then I’ve made changes in my life to create the time and space needed to really get to know my identity. You could call this a journey of self-discovery.

During this time I’ve experienced some big realisations, about myself and about the importance of exploring both the inner and outer dimensions of life as a human being.

We all have an ego; it’s our way of viewing ourselves. The health of our self-esteem is linked to our minds and the way we think. And the way we think is hugely influenced by everything we see and hear around us in the outer world. The way we look, the job we do, our relationship status, our material possession and our social standing can impact on our sense of identity.

But here’s the thing.

If we fail to develop an adequate level of awareness about this, there is a danger that we begin to believe that the ego of our mind is our identity. By extension, we make these forms of the outer world our measures of a successful life and equate these with our value as human beings.

Sadly, this seems to be a reality for many people. We’re living in a world that is increasingly fast-paced, focused on doing and overwhelmed by noise. It’s all too easy to miss our prompt to detach from the outer world and explore our inner dimension.

In previous issues of The Magazine, this page has explored the opportunities to access contemplative prayer, Christian meditation, stillness and space to be at Norwich Cathedral.

As well as through these kinds of activities, I find posing the question ‘am I at ease?’ a good starting point for going inwards. It engages a level of consciousness that allows me to observe what is actually going on at that very moment, in my mind and in my emotional state. Once you start to see the ways in which thoughts and feelings contribute to reactions, they gradually begin to have less of a hold. Living with greater presence comes more naturally.

The amazing revelation for me has been that, as I’ve grown in this awareness, I’ve started to understand that the peace of God is within us all and that we each have a unique identity. The way we are connected to creation and one another has suddenly taken on a new level of beauty.

An older (and far wiser) friend wrote to me last year. In her letter, she said: “There is no-one in the whole world like you and your presence makes a difference.”

I wish you well in your journey towards presence. Like me, in it, you may find the truth about your identity in Christ.

This article is from...

Articles in this issue...

Talk Calling

Anna Walker unpacks a new resource from CPAS aimed at helping 14 to 18-year-olds explore the God possibilities for their lives.


Five journeys, one destination

Bishop Alan confirmed five adults, ranging in age from late twenties to early seventies, in All Saints, Chedgrave earlier this year. Two of them were also baptised. Five people, five different journeys. The Revd Alison Ball describes the journeys that they local church family have walked with them for several years.


The homecoming: a life-long journey of faith

The Venerable David Hayden describes his journey back to his roots in Oulton Broad and the faith that has formed the path.


Who do you think you are?

Sixty per cent of girls opt out of everyday activities because of how they think they look. Around half of adolescent boys are unhappy with their bodies, and young people's happiness is a its lowest since 2010[1]. Jonathan Richardson explores what shapes our sense of identity.


Living out the gospel by word and example

Archdeacon Steven explores how our faith influences the way we look at ourselves and how others view us.


Vocation and identity in Christ

Jennie Cummings-Knight examines the different calls on our life that can shape our identity.


Cursillo – Christian living

Biddy Collyer listens to the experience of people whose lives have been transformed through Cursillo; a useful way of exploring one's identity in Christ.


Why look anywhere else?

Will Warren takes a look at what the apostle Paul says about our identity in Christ in the book of Ephesians.


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