Who are you?
You are more than just a name, so the question is not as easy
to answer as you might think. When I asked that, you might have started
thinking about your name and address, or about the relationships that are
important to you, or maybe about your job. But many of those things change
over time, so is that really your authentic identity? And is it ONE of
those things, or all of them that really defines your authentic identity?
So, again, I ask, who are you? And if you think it is hard to
answer that question to your own satisfaction, just imagine how hard it is
to explain your identity to someone else. To illustrate, Shirley and I
will do a little skit.
Shirley: Hello, sir, is this your first time at the Bridge? Welcome!
MK: Yes, this is my first time. Someone told me to ask for someone called
Shirley: Great! Well, [pointing to her nametag] I’m Shirley!
MK: Prove it.
Shirley: I beg your pardon?
MK: Well, I don’t know if you are really Shirley or not, so prove it. I
want to be sure I’m talking to the authentic Shirley, and not a pretender.
Shirley: Well… [reaching into her purse], here is my passport. This proves
I’m really me.
MK: Wait a minute, this has a Chinese name. I can’t read Chinese, but I’m
pretty sure it doesn’t say “Shirley.”
S: Well, yes, I have a Chinese name, but I also have an English name. Lots
of Chinese people do. In fact, my English name is on my student ID. See?
MK: I’ve read about lots of people with fake student IDs. I’m not so sure
this one is authentic. And I really have to be sure.
S: Here is a copy of my college graduation certificate.
MK: A copy? copy? I want something authentic.
S: Well, sir, you can ask my friends. They will tell you who I am. [Just
then, somebody walks by, and Shirley asks him/her] Hey, [Friend],
would you please tell this gentleman my name?
Friend: It’s Shirley. Her name is Shirley. [and then he/she walks off
MK: How do I know he/she isn’t lying? You could have paid him/her to say
S (perhaps a bit sarcastic): Well, how about if I call my mother.
She can tell you my authentic identity.
MK: On the phone? There’s no way to know she is really your mother. You
could be calling …that girl, and she could be lying too!
S: What if you talked to my workmates?
MK: How would I know they are trustworthy? Or maybe you’ve deceived them
Shirley [with sincerity/compassion]: Well, honestly, I… I just don’t know
what else to say. I’ve tried my best. I am really Shirley, and I’m
very friendly, and I’d love to be your friend too. In the
end, I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it, won’t you?
MK: I was hoping for something more convincing. [sigh] I’ll think about
it… [they both walk off in different directions]
Turn to your partner, and tell them something else
Shirley could have done to convince me. [hear a few]
Before I became a Christian I wondered who I “really was.” In
English, we can say “I had an identity crisis.” (自我认同危机)
Unable to figure out my true identity, I was often depressed and lonely (I
even considered ending my own life, and boy am I glad I didn’t do that—for
just a few years later I discovered things that brought unexpected joy and
peace into my life). Maybe you sometimes feel depressed, or unsure about
your real identity—if so, stick around because I’ve got good news for you.
Today I hope to help you understand the things that define your true
At the Bridge, our Life Talks these days are about things that
are “authentic,” because we all know that we are surrounded by fake
things, or things that don’t measure up to the standards of something
real. And while many people just don’t understand their authentic identity
(like I didn’t for a long time), others actually try to establish a “false
identity” for themselves, or at least an identity they cannot attain.
I’ve heard of women who always picture themselves as a
mother, I mean, they REALLY want a baby, even though they aren’t even
married yet! At this stage in their lives, they have taken on a false
identity, and it might even keep them from meeting “Mr. Right” and
actually becoming what they want to be.
Another example is the person who sees himself as a successful
entrepreneur or rich businessman, even though they don’t have the training
or mindset or capital needed to become one. We need to be realistic about
who we are.
Others strive to look like a model or star athlete, even if
they just weren’t born with the raw material. Let’s face it, most of us
don’t look like movie stars or jump like professional basketball players.
That is why THEY are stars, and we are not. I like what a famous Olympic
coach once said: ‘I can’t get out what God hasn’t put in, but if
you work with me I can help you run faster.’ We can all “run
faster” but it isn’t wise to deceive ourselves about an identity that we
I met a man in Taiwan who sees himself as an American. He eats
American food, listens to American music, and even flies an American flag,
but the truth is that he is Chinese and until he moves to the US and a
judge says otherwise, he is not really an American.
I’m not talking about goals—we need to set goals, and we need
to work toward achieving them. Maybe your goal is to speak English
fluently; you are here today, working to achieve that goal, and that is
very good! But I’m not talking about goals. I’m talking about identity.
I’m talking about who we are, when everything else is stripped away. Be
honest with yourself. Because an unrealistic self-identity can be wasteful
or dangerous, and it isn’t necessary. I believe we were all born with a
“mark” that cries out: “You were designed to be special!” Your authentic
identity is, so to speak, stamped on your very hands.
But before we get to that “mark,” let’s look at some things
that DO affect our true identity, at least at one stage of life or
another. When you seek an answer to the question “Who am I?”, here are
some things you might want to look at. (We already hinted at many of them
during our skit.)
Birth, or adoption, affects your identity. Shirley said, “My
mom can tell you who I am,” and she was right. We don’t choose our
parents, or the economic status of our family during childhood. If you had
good parents, be thankful. If you were abused or otherwise suffered during
childhood—and many people are—then you need to work extra hard to redefine
your identity by becoming part of a different “family” now that you are
older. This new “family” might be a spouse or new friends, but choose
wisely. Many “hurt” people choose a second family like the first one. It
is a sad psychological reality. Don’t do that! If you want my advice,
instead choose a church family as your new family. I’ll say more about
that in a moment. For now, let’s move to number two.
Marriage is next. In America, women generally take on their
husband’s family name. The day before I married Vivian, people at work
called her “Miss All,” but after our honeymoon they called her “Mrs.
Krigline.” I know this isn’t the custom here, but married people
nonetheless become part of a new family—both a new family with your
spouse, AND the old family he/she brought into your life. Your identity
will certainly change as these relationships affect you. You cannot have
complete control on just how much they affect you, but you can
choose NOT to define yourself through the eyes of those who see you as an
“outsider” or as someone “not good enough” for this family. Instead, see
yourself as “loved” by those who love you. That’s a choice only you can
make. So in sum, your family status affects your true identity, so choose
Similarly, parenthood affects your identity. Some people
continue to define themselves as “childless” after a baby is born, and
refuse to participate in all the extra work that messy babies bring. In
the past few weeks, I talked to two young fathers. One man said, “I only
see my baby son on weekends, because my parents take care of him,” while
the other said, “I’m going to play with my son after work, so I can’t read
your report until he is asleep.” One’s identity is tied closely to his job
(and for many professionals in China, this is normal—and some even say it
is unavoidable), and he admits that his relationship with his son is not
very close. The other one has embraced the identity of a father, in spite
of the costs it brings to his career; and he is building the emotional
closeness that parents and children need to make it through difficult
teenage years. All parents must make difficult choices between work,
family, expenses and other things. So, think about these things carefully
before you choose to have a child. Healthy families start when individuals
embrace the responsibilities connected with their authentic identity.
Shirley also offered to show me her graduation certificate.
Yes, graduation from college should have a big effect on our identity. I
tell my students that just by being in college, they are part of the “top”
of society because only 7% of the world’s people ever get to go to college
(up from 1% in 2006). What does that mean for your true identity? It
should mean that you can say to yourself: I know how to think and
evaluate; I know how to find useful information; and it is up to me to
help many of that 93% of The People who are less fortunate than I am. Your
status as an educated person affects your identity.
Your employment status is next. People in modern societies,
and especially educated people like you, tend to connect their identity to
their work. How do you think a man would define himself if:
1. he works in a big office, high above the city
2. he doesn’t have a job at the moment
3. his co-workers are always complaining about how
slow he is
4. his boss threatens to fire him if sales numbers
5. a secretary at work smiles and talks to him the
way his wife used to
6. he just earned a promotion, along with more money
and more pressure
If you wait until these situations occur to discover your true identity,
you will be tossed back and forth like small boat on an angry sea. Last
week, Luke told us that many Chinese businessmen say they MUST sacrifice
“family” for the sake of their career. Really? I refuse to believe that is
my only choice! Yes, work is important, but it is not the ONLY aspect of
your identity! People don’t WANT to lose their job or their family; most
just never took the time to define who they really are, so they can’t keep
all of the aspects of their identity in proper balance.
Finally, your health is a key factor in your true identity.
Now it’s your turn to talk. Tell your partner how “health” can be
related to someone’s identity….
--maybe these words will help: diet (规定饮食),
exercise (锻炼), alcohol (饮酒
), smoking (吸烟 ), allergy
(过敏 ), disease (疾病
), injury (伤害 ), choices
--If you are healthy, thank God and work to stay that way. But if you are
not healthy, you’ve got some choices to make. Here’s a famous
prayer that many find helpful (it’s called the Serenity Prayer): “God,
grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to
change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” “上帝，请赐予我：平和的心态去接受我无法改变的事情，勇气去改变我可以改变的事情，并有智慧来分辨这两者。”
[Visit http://www.krigline.com.cn/wallpaper.htm for free wallpaper with
this prayer.] And even if you can’t improve or change some aspect
of your health, you can still choose to focus on the positive
strengths and relationships in your life, instead of negative ones. You
can’t let your limitations define who you are.
(continued in next column)