Identity: What Defines You?


What is it that defines you?  When someone says, “Tell me about yourself,” how do you respond?

It’s not an easy question.  We are complex people, and it’s difficult to sum up our identity in a few short sentences.  As I’ve discovered over the last couple of months, the most challenging part of a guest post is often the bio!  Where do you begin?

There are so many things that could define us:

Our family: we may talk of our marital relationship, or our children or our parents, and of course all of these are very important, but surely we can’t define ourselves only by our relationship to others.

Our career or our achievements: my work is important to me, and there are certain achievements I’m proud of, but I’ve also learned the hard way the dangers of being defined by what I do or resting my hopes in the shifting sands of success and achievement.  There has to be something more secure.

Our past experiences: for good or for bad, these can shape us, and undoubtedly they will continue to impact us, but we give them more power than they deserve if we allow them to be all that defines us.

Our personalities: people who know me say that I am caring and thoughtful and loyal, and that’s a lovely way to be defined… but what about the times when I’m not?   I know these things are not true 100% of the time.  And I can also be selfish and stubborn and fearful at times, and I’d hate to be defined by those things.

Where does that leave us?  All of these are aspects of who we are, and yet none of them really work as the basis of our identity.

I like how Jesus’s disciple John deals with this issue.  Five times in his Gospel, he refers to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.”

What an amazing way to define yourself!

I admit, at first glance, it can seem a little arrogant, as if John is saying he is Jesus’ favourite, that he is the one Jesus loves more than any of the others, but I don’t think that is what he is saying.

I think he is making the choice to let Jesus’ love define him.

Elsewhere in the Gospels, John is described as the brother of James and the son of Zebedee; before meeting Jesus he was a fisherman; he and James are described by Jesus as “sons of thunder.” (Mark 3:17)

John could have been defined by his family or his career, his past experiences or his personality, but instead he chooses to be defined by the fact that he is loved by Jesus.

The same is true for all of us who follow him.

I am the disciple Jesus loves.  You are the disciple Jesus loves.

What a difference it would make if that was how we defined ourselves- not necessarily going around declaring it to everyone, but inwardly holding to that truth and basing our identity on it.

When life goes well, when we succeed in a task or see breakthrough in a situation: I am the disciple Jesus loves.

When we live well for him and show his love to others: I am the disciple Jesus loves.

When we feel alone and misunderstood and neglected by others: I am the disciple Jesus loves.

When we make mistakes and mess up, when we hurt others with our words or actions: I am the disciple Jesus loves.

In the ups and downs of the roller coaster of life, it is the always-present, ever-constant, never-changing truth.  It is a basis for our identity that is absolutely secure, a firm foundation to build on, no matter what else may change around us.

I am the disciple Jesus loves.  You are the disciple Jesus loves.

Let’s hold to that truth and let that define who we are today!

I am the disciple Jesus loves..png          Holly Barrett  

Embracing Every Day  “God-Sized porch stories


33 thoughts on “Identity: What Defines You?

  1. I love your post today. I am the disciple Jesus loves. What a beautiful way to define ourselves. I was just reading Barbie’s post about extravagant love and this ties in very well.

    I am praying we may all hold onto the extravagant love Jesus has for us and it is by this love that we are who we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful way to define ourselves: “the disciple Jesus loved.”

    I don’t know if I could say it aloud without explaining. ha. But I definitely should be saying it to myself every day. Love this. Thanks for posting, Lesley.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this image. This idea of defining myself so powerfully and so simply. Too often I get lost in my identity in the wrong things (even though they are good things). Identifying this way is beautiful. Although I’m not sure how it would play out in every day conversation 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Becky! I agree, it’s all too easy to find our identity in other things, which are often good things but don’t give us the security Jesus’ love does. I haven’t tried it in conversation 🙂 but I’ve found it helpful to say to myself!


  4. Had to laugh a bit because, yes, those bio’s …. can I ever get it to sound like me? 😉 I love where you took this and the loving reminder that Jesus loves us, as we are, where we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Lesley,
    I’ve never considered these thoughts before about John defining himself as a disciple Jesus loved and I love these deep reflections! I like to try reading familiar stories looking for something new that stands out to me and always, always there is something I’ve not noticed before. Your posts are always thought-provoking! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lesley, this question of identity is one I’ve grappled with for years. I love the conclusion you have shared here: “I am the disciple Jesus loves.” And that is enough, isn’t it? So beautifully written!!

    When we see ourselves through this filter, it’s freeing and peace-giving.

    Oh, and I agree on the writing bios. It’s tricky!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! I never thought of it this way…to define ourselves in this way is just such a precious thought! Thank you for this sweet encouragement tonight. I love the new look of your blog! And, thank you SO much for your dear encouragement and kind comment left on my blog. Your prayers for Kristen and her baby are appreciated more than I could ever say. God bless you, my friend. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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