What’s your identity?

A Christian Science perspective: Does a hobby or our occupation define us?

When I was in college and as a young adult, I loved sailing and sailboat racing. I identified myself as a sailor. I wanted to be known as a sailor. My friends were sailors. I hung out at area yacht clubs and read about sailing continually. I had a sign in my office that read “Sailing Spoken Here.” When my wife and I were expecting our first child, I even foolishly decided to buy another sailboat on an associate professor’s salary. Such was my thinking during this very self-centered period of my life.

One day, I encountered a passage from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the seminal work of Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper: “a wandering desire for incessant amusement outside the home circle is poor augury for the happiness of wedlock. Home is the dearest spot on earth, and it should be the centre, though not the boundary, of the affections” (p. 58). I realized from this statement the central importance of my home and family, and that I could find enjoyment outside of sailing ­– and that sailing didn’t actually define me as an individual. Soon thereafter, I decided to sell my boat, and I spent the next 20 years as a dad, Sunday school teacher, and coach – taking great pleasure in our children’s sports endeavors and other achievements.

Mrs. Eddy has much to share about the God-given identity of men, women, and children. Drawing on what she gained through her study of the inspired Word of the Bible, and putting it into practice in healing, her teachings bring out the allness and goodness of God, and that we as God’s image and likeness all possess a good and God-derived nature. This is our spiritual and true identity. “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalms 100:3).

We may assume other identities in the course of our vocations, the causes we support, and the groups we align ourselves with – but these do not tell us who we truly are. Our true identity is spiritual and comes from God. Knowing this, we are better able to view and treat others as children of God. Identifying ourselves and others this way brings harmony to our relationships, and we experience the joy and peace of loving unselfishly.

The Bible offers a number of examples of people who have found healing by discovering their true identity. In the book of Luke there is an account of Jesus’ encounter with a dishonest tax collector named Zacchæus. When Jesus encountered him, Zacchæus was redeemed: “Zacchæus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (see Luke 19:1-10). Christ Jesus understood God and man’s relationship to Him. This view of man’s true, spiritual identity elevated those around him, correcting their own view of themselves. When Jesus recognized Zacchæus’ spiritual worth, his character was transformed, and he gave unselfishly.

We, too, can recognize our own spiritual identity and find the peace and happiness that come with this recognition. As I dropped the identity of a hotshot sailor, I found deeper fulfillment in expressing the love and selflessness of my God-given character. I still enjoy sailing, but it is no longer an obsession or how I define myself. I have discovered my identity in my oneness with God.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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