Identity and the Inner Life

When I was in Australia I watched a television program which featured children who had gone off the tracks and had become unmanageable. They were sent to a couple in the outback who provided a strict environment for them. Essentially, actions had consequences. No work = no food, etc. It was quite interesting to see one young girl of about 16 who had been involved in binge drinking begin to respond to this discipline. While at first the kids rebelled, gradually the young girl began to appreciate the work she had to do, the people whose home she was in, and even the sheep she had to work with.

At one point she was up early in the morning working and stated that this was the first time in 16 months she had not put makeup on. She felt differently inside and did not need makeup to bolster her opinion of herself. She had come to accept herself and could face the world as she was. This was a remarkable step forward.

This story is an illustration of how important our self-identity is. If we don’t feel secure in who we are, if we are ashamed of ourselves or feel fragile on the inside we will use all sorts of things to give us confidence- even things that are destructive such as binge drinking. We will put on all sorts of false personas to hide our fears so we can continue with our daily lives- while dying inside at the same time. One of the greatest gifts a family can give is to tell each person of the family who they are, to help them know themselves, and enable them to become free. We can only live and act out of our identities. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children all help each other to become more secure in who they are. Praise at the appropriate moments, discipline when necessary, laughter to show that life is not always a serious thing, hugs, and all the other contact we have with each other are meant to affirm us in who we are. It is only when we feel safe on the inside that we can begin to live with a sense of adventure on the outside.

May our families become places where we are able to become who we are meant to be and where we are able to help each other come into the fullness of our identities.

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