Identity, Relationships, and Distinction
In addition to our nature as beings created in the image of God, every human being exists within a complex matrix of relationships. This is true from the moment of conception. Even prior to birth, a child is in a relationship with itself, its mother, its mother’s body and the “outside world” that is able to impact the unborn child in a variety of ways. This web or matrix of relationships requires that, sooner or later, the child will begin to distinguish between the various parts of the “web” or matrix. Not every part is the same and not every relationship is the same. After birth, a child continues to explore and develop a very rudimentary understanding of the difference between themselves and everything around them, as well as the difference between other “things.”
This growing understanding that there is distinction and that “I” am not “that” is an important part of identity development. We begin to learn early that “I” am distinct, unique, and different. This is a good thing. Initially we are unable to distinguish between people and non-people. Soon, however, we begin to recognize there is a categorical difference between people and other things. This is a hugely important step forward in our identity development because it allows us to begin forming attachments that are unique to people.
We believe that, ultimately, an individual’s identity is most shaped through their relationships with people, including himself or herself, and God. This is not to suggest that our environment (apart from people) can’t impact our identity, but what we learn about ourselves and our world from relationships and our own self-reflections is what has the greatest impact on who we perceive ourselves to be. To a large extent, we are each the product of the people we encounter in our journey through life, including the face in the mirror and the God we worship. Some relationships shape our identity more than others, but all have some level of impact.
This article is one of a series related to identity.
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher
See a list of other articles by Rick Edwards.