One of my favorite movies, as it appeals to my juvenile sense of humor, is Zoolander. In it, we meet Derek Zoolander, male model extraordinaire. In fact, right at the start, we can tell that this guy is so wrapped up in his own little world that he barely acknowledges anyone else around him. Unless of course, they are there to cater to his beck and call.
In one of the first scenes of the movie, he is a favorite to win yet another male model of the year award. He is just that good at modeling. As it so happens the two favorites are him and this up-and-comer Hansel. We quickly learn from the sinister Mugatu that “Hansel is so hot right now.”
*SPOILER ALERT – kind of* When Lenny Kravitz announces the award, Zoolander kisses the girl he brought with him and starts to strut his way up to the podium. As he begins his speech, he is met with an awkward silence only to realize that the award is meant for Hansel. Not only is Derek humiliated, but he is devastated.
Up until this point, his life’s purpose was built upon him being “really, really, ridiculously good looking.” In fact, his life has been constructed upon him being the best at it. This was the source of his identity, and when he was no longer the best he was forced to ask possibly one of the most profound questions any of us could ask ourselves, “Who am I?”
I will argue that our identity is one of the most powerful forces in our life. Our actions reflect who we are, it is that simple. Thus, whoever or whatever we get our identity from owns us, controls us. When that source of our identity is lost, we are lost.
Think about my above example, Zoolander was controlled by being the best model, in fact, his whole entire life revolved around modeling. When he finally lost, he was lost. And it’s not just in comedies.
Let’s look at the topic of work. Many of us joke around saying we just have to pay the bills. However, in social situations, when we meet someone, one of the first things we ask them is, “so what do you do?” Our work is a source of identity. I don’t believe we work to live, rather we live to work. Anecdotally when people retire from work, most people around them always comment on how quickly they’ve aged. This is because they have lost a part of their identity, a significant part, usually at least 30 years worth of identity.
Going back to my little phrase, whoever or whatever gives us our identity owns us. Here’s a scary thought, what happens when the source of your identity is taken away?
All this talk about identity, but what’s the point? The truth is simple, theologian G.K. Beale wrote a book entitled “we become what we worship.” This is profound. Our identity comes from what we worship. Now before you write me off, just know, you do not have to be “religious” or “spiritual” to worship something. John Mark Comer in his book God Has A Name argues that it is the human condition to worship. To worship simply means to treat something or someone with reverence, to be devoted to something or someone.
What are you devoted to? For people that don’t see themselves as religious a good way to examine what you worship is to look at your calendar or your bank account. Where do you spend your time? What do you spend your money on?
To discover the source of our identity I believe it is important to ask these questions:
- What do I worship/revere? – How do I spend my money and where do I spend my time?
- How does the object(s) of my worship affect my daily life?
- If the object of worship were suddenly taken away from me what would happen
- Am I happy with my answers, or do I want to change?
These are four powerful questions that require introspection and brutal honesty with ourselves. We cannot answer them one and done. I know that for myself I have to re-evaluate my priorities constantly.
All this to say, there is something beautiful about it all, and it is this truth; we can change our identity.
Is it scary to do so? Absolutely. Is it difficult? Of course. However, we can choose the source of our identity. It starts with figuring out that one thing that you want to focus your life upon, and continues by saying “no” to anything that may take away from your number one priority. However, this is a topic for another time.