Such penetrating reflections we ask ourselves when we come to times of deep penetrating self doubt when we are face with circumstances that beckons answers. This question was the title of Dietrich Bonheoffer’s famous poem which he wrote while he was in prison, charged with association of a group that worked to assassinate Hitler.
What is it that defines as who we really are?
I know by default that all of us try to eradicate the notion of being defined by others. I for one dislike this with a vengeance. But thinking through some of other people’s observation about us might have some truth in them. While not ascribing them to be true in their whole designation, they bring about some fragment of who we are. I have been branded myself as a rebel, an obsessive brute, judgmental, jerk, fool, prideful, only thinking about myself and many other things. That has been other people’s observation about me. Yes, these designations hurt, but in someways I do not deny that I might have these traits in me. I mean, the people who know us, who have experienced being with us, have their right to make their own views about us. What they bring, although having some good information for us for self reflection, are merely fragments of who we are. For I believe that we can’t be only those things. For me those are fragments of who we are in some parts. There are other fragments of who we are based on other people’s observation about us.
I study in seminary and have had some share of good comments from friends and teachers as well. They somehow boost my self esteem. Some joke around and call me scholar. This must be because of my love for books, my love for writing and the constant conversations that I have with my fellow collage mates talking about ideas from this scholar or theologian. Or maybe it might be the other way round, come to think about it. It might really mean that I’m just boring. I was chatting the other day with a girl in whom I had a crush on before and I was apologizing because of something I said when it didn’t work out between us. She said she vaguely remembered about the whole thing but said I was a nice guy. I get that most of the time, being called nice. Some have said that I’m a good listener. Now I’m happy that some think of me in these positive ways and I’m happy for that. I know all of have good traits in us. Our friends and family also have truth in them, but I must say they are just fragments of who we are. If we get puffed up in all these good designations that others tell about us, we’d be prideful brutes.
Now those observations above are what others have said about who we are as they see and observe us. When it comes to personal evaluation, what we think of ourselves, it can sometimes be different. We also have some fragments of truth to bring to the picture. I know for a fact that I’m somewhat antisocial. Not that I hate being around people, but it might be the case of my personality. Melancholics tend to gravitate towards that stream. I’m not good when it comes to talking, so that is why sometimes I’m quiet. Well, mostly that is. I’m also indecisive in making decisions which is largely because I’m a pessimist. But with all that explanation, I’m still bringing fragments of who I am to the fold of unravelling who I am. We can’t really trust our judgements of ourselves 100%. This is because we can give a comprehensive objective to the front.
Since my musings are mostly Christian in nature, the God factor, in knowing who we are is also an important determining factor. The bible does tell us that we are sinners and people in need of grace. In Christ it states that we are no more our old self but new creation. These are important designations. But sometimes I think some of us overly rely on these and in turn make ourselves spiritual brats. Which to me is something unhealthy. Of course it is important of what God thinks about us, but to disregard what others think of us is plainly absurd. If we disregard this fact, the ethical dimensions of how faith reconstructs our character is neglected. Did not Jesus himself had good rapport from other people as well? I think it is simply unhealthy if we say that it is only God’s view about is is the most important thing.
So coming back to the question that we all ask, “who am I?” I think at best we will never know for sure. Not in a way that knowing this is beyond our reach. But what I do know is just fragments of what others have said and know about me. We are constant learners in getting to know us. I guess for me, I how I see it, I’ll never graduate in knowing myself. I know myself in fragments and try to piece these fragments together to get a viable and realistic image. I guess what I’m trying to say is, let’s have a humble attitude of who we are. Let’s not be overtly put down by other people’s negative observation. Let’s not be overconfident of the positive traits that our friends and family tell about us. Let’s not be defused by our own self reflections. Let’s not be only spiritually infused and forget our relationships with others. Let’s not be moderated by extremes but see ourselves as a learning canvas, having negatives as well as positives. For we know that we are not perfect, all learners and still have in us traits that make it capable for redemption. Whether it is in God or in just being human.