Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.

Contemplation: Identity Matters (part 2)

I believe it is Lacan that says that our identities/perceptions are formed in the mirror of other people's minds. And so, others reinforce our own ideas of ourselves. Socially this makes sense: a father reacts positively to the child who "behaves" reinforcing the positive behavior he want to see. Tell a kid he/she is smart for a year and see what happens. If a person's action are received favorably, he/she will repeat that action. A baby smiles at another person, the person smiles back, the baby smiles. Most of the time, I believe we try to live up to the good. If a person hears negative remarks, she can choose to change behavior(accept the other person's verdict) or to continue to act in the same way(rejecting that verdict). Sometimes a person rebels against the perception/identity someone else has of them, forcing person #2 to change their perception. Either way, one (or both) of the two people involved will incur a change in perception and attitude. We react negatively to people who are not following the perception/identity we have created for them. We also react negatively to people who do not display the values and morals we trust in.

So, then, our own perception of ourselves is also constantly edited, shaped and changed by social interaction, by what we do, what we fail to do and how other people respond. We also become more like the people we choose to spend time with, emulating the behaviors we long for in ourselves. But we can never truly know another person, each of our evaluations are biased by what we can see/hear/empirical knowledge which is limited by the impossibility of being with someone constantly and the mediation between thought and spoken/written communication. We choose people who will reinforce what we like best in ourselves (whether we openly admit to those aspects of ourselves or not) including our values, morals, ethics, desires, and beliefs. The highest valued relationships are ones in which the other person best reflects our "best" self perception/identity. (Again, constantly in flux, with each person reinforcing the other)

For personal change, then, a person has to both change her own views of herself and change the response patterns of other people, editing her own perception of her-self and reinforcing other people's positive reactions to the desired change. (or responding negatively to their negative feedback) Or she leaves the others behind as their values, behaviors, desires no longer reflect her own. In new social situations, we choose how to present ourselves hoping to reinforce the best self identity/perception so that the new interactions provide the most comfortable reflection and we seek out those people we believe can help us learn/grow/change ourselves (or at least show us that our present self is acceptable.)

I think this is one of the reasons that people reject God. How vulnerable we are in the face of an omnipotent God who never changes. One who knows all our thoughts, our insecurities, our wrong doings. Rail against Him, He remains. Plead with Him, He changes not. We cannot cajole, demand, or persuade Him other than He wills. He will not be changed, we must change if we want to know Him. It is easier, safer, to reject that God, to say His way is "superstitious" or "a fairy tale" than to be willing the change our hearts to reflect Christ's way revealed in His Word. We fear might be asked to give up too much. We fear the rejections of other people, their negative responses to our relationship with a God who Knows. Especially since those other people are corporeal, empirical, near to us, and we can hide our secret hearts, our fear and weaknesses, from them.

We fear the surrender to a Way other than our own. But when we need comfort the most is often when we feel the most alone and the most cut off from human companionship. No other person knows, no one else can understand, no one else can share in our internal pain. How terrifying to be known, yet how we desire it as well. We see Him now as in a glass, darkly, the scriptures say. At first, this seems an impossible task, to see God's presence. We have to look, to seek to find evidence of His existence. Like the wind, which we cannot see, He touches the world around us. We can see Him in the action of those who know Him, and through His Word. I long not just to know Him more, but to be a good reflection of Him and His Love.

(more to come)

1 comment:

Glenn Ingersoll said...

It sounds like "God" is an important and powerful presence in your life.

In a sense "God" is an important and powerful presence in my life, too. I think it's mainly because I live in a social milieu in which "God" is talked about a lot. Not here at home, thank God, but, you know, in the American atmosphere. "God hates fags", all the Old Masters, nobody non-religious can run for elected office these days.