Being vs. seeming generates awareness

| October 6, 2017 | 0 Comments

Chaplain (Maj.) Jeremy Blanford, 25th Infantry Division

Chaplain (Maj.) Jeremy A. Blanford
25th Infantry Division

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — A recurring theme in conversation lately has been this concept of personal identity, its various components and our ability to affect change.

For the purposes of this conversation, identity is defined by one’s attitudes, beliefs and choices – who we are at our core.

At the risk of oversimplification, all of these are established from our nature (what we’re born with), personal experience (what we’ve seen and done) and cultural training (what we’ve learned from our families and communities).

Masking our identity
To complicate things further, our true identities are often obscured from both ourselves and others by the constant fluid movement between our closely held private thoughts, attitudes and beliefs, and that sometimes-too-dissimilar representation intended for public consumption, the masks we wear to hide our true selves.

This is the identity gray area in which most seem to live, and it’s best described as the difference between who I am and who people believe me to be.

Being vs. seeming
In my experience as a counselor, it is within this gray area that my clients most often encounter instability and dysfunction. It is the place where core private identities are in direct conflict with public representations of self.

The common questions I receive from my clients are, “What is the nature of change?” and “How do I get better?” As a counselor, I’m confronted daily with the unmet emotional and attachment needs of my clients, and I’m asked to help relieve the stress and anxiety associated with their personal sufferings.

Often, these solutions come in the form of either perceiving or doing something differently.

I’m reminded of an anecdote in which a man goes to the doctor complaining of a recurring pain, whenever he does such and such. Of course, the doctor’s response is a classic dad joke, “Well, stop doing such and such.”

It’s a simple solution, but doesn’t address the need, the motivation, that both promotes and supports the problematic behavior.

The real problem
So many of the solutions we seek to our daily challenges follow this formula: behavior begets problem, so stop the behavior. It all seems practical enough, but these solutions rarely bring about real and lasting change that promotes a healthy self-perception (identity) and emotional stability.
Sadly, I think our efforts are too often focused on seeming better versus being better, behavior change versus heart change.

Moral foundations
The unfortunate nature of this approach is that solutions depend on the whim of the beholder.

I think we can all agree that in a culture steadily shedding any sense or moral foundation, norms and ideas are fluid while becoming increasingly difficult to identify.

You might be experiencing the intense level of stress and anxiety one faces trying to keep up with constantly changing populist needs.
On the other hand, changing one’s heart is a three-fold intentional process. First, one must identify the foundation upon which they will build their identity. Will it be the shifting sands of public opinion, or will it be the solid foundation of one’s faith? This is the cornerstone of your values, priorities and morality.

Secondly, honestly look inwardly. Reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses, your successes and failures, and acknowledge those times of hurting and being hurt.

Finally, courageously present the whole truth of who you are to the world around you.
What will you choose? Will you go with the flow and seem? Or will you embrace authenticity and be?

(Editor’s note: Blanford is the 25th ID family life chaplain.)

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Category: Community, Footsteps in Faith, Standing Columns

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