I came across the concept of “Self-achieved Identity” in a quote by James Houston. “What we face in the world today is a self-achieved identity. As Christians, we believe in a given identity, not an achieved one. The Christian is found in Christ. The self-achieving identity is very fragile because we have to sustain it. Nobody else is going to sustain it for me when I have built it up myself. The result of this is a tendency toward narcissism, because there is a depleted sense of self. This is not what God ordained that we should have for an identity.”
I see myself in this “self-achieved identify. It is not easy to admit after all these years on the spiritual journey. I hope my reflections can help some man reading this blog caught the darkness of a depleted self
First, my true identity is in Christ. The old is dead. I am new in Christ. I have a new ego. Scott McNight’s translation of Gal 2:20 tells us: “My Ego has been crucified with Christ. My Ego no longer has a life, but instead Christ is alive as my New Ego. The physical life my Ego now lives is a life of faith in the Son of God who loves this new Ego and gave himself for this new Ego. The Message reminders to me: “Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer in control. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Remember, Al your new identity is a gift, not an achievement
Secondly, it take a lot of work to keep up a self-achieved identity. It is fragile, so I have to continually maintain my image of self. I can be sensitive, insecure and defensive about my image. My focus in on myself and not Jesus and his kingdom.
Thirdly, no one is going to be able to help me sustain this self identity. To my shame, I have at times even expected my wife to sustain me in my efforts to prop up my own image of self. I need to continual ask myself, “In who and what are you looking for affirmation?” Remember you will be disappointed by those around you. They can never give you what you want.
Fourthly, this will always involve narcissism, a turning inward to analyze how I am doing on my self making project. C. S. Lewis described this self-enclosed movement well: “…..your thoughts merely go round and round a wearisome circle, now hopeful, now despondent, then hopeful again – that way madness lies.”
Finally, the futility of living with what Houston calls “a depleted self.” Instead of being alive and present to the indwelling presence of the Lord, I can get caught in an endless circle of self-deprecating with endless self- loathing thoughts. Cluttered thought continue in a closed loop, moving downward, as I sink downward in shame or prideful self-justification. This is not a pretty picture of my depleted self.
To brake out of this downward spiral into self, I need to daily repent of the idolatry toward my old self, from pride, self-loathing and self- sufficiency and turn to Jesus who is the light and the truth. I invite the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of truth, to be lamp of the Lord searching my inward self and leading me out of darkness into his light and freedom. I keep looking up and out, to receive the healing Word that God is sending into my soul.