“I need to find myself.”
Do you recognize this statement?
I hear this statement being thrown around time and time again by people who belong to my age group. I myself did not fully understand what it means to find one’s self and so I did my own research on the meaning behind the words. Different sources give different meaning to the statement but they all seem to agree that to find one’s self is to learn who one really is; to know one’s identity.
I’ve heard this statement being used so often that it piqued my curiosity. “I need to find myself” may be uttered jokingly sometimes, but it still reveals a sad truth about many young people today – that we are a generation who has lost its identity. In other words, we do not know who we are.
The pervasiveness among millenials of being at a loss about their identity that they resignedly say, “I need to find myself” has led me to dig deeper, as I often do in these circumstances, into this phenomenon that plagues the youth of today – the phenomenon of lost identity. My research and observations, both online and in person, have led me to a condition which only recently has become part of the modern day vernacular. This condition is called “quarter life crisis”.
Defined, quarter life crisis is that period in a person’s life around the 20s and 30s, in which he/she begins to question many things in his/her life. Countless papers, articles and essays have been written about it, both trying to understand and to help people overcome this crisis. With all these papers, articles and essays being written on the subject, one can only conclude that ours is generation that does not know who it is.
In writing about this topic, I do not seek to put down the members of the generation that I am a part of. I am also not saying that I have it all figured out. My only motive is to share my reflections and God’s revelations to me regarding this matter.
I have spent a lot of time pondering on this phenomenon and it came to a point that the discourse in my head was getting too intense. So with a clouded mind I went to the place that has a 100% success rate of bringing me clarity, the church.
I went to attend mass at a chapel in Makati and the appointed gospel for that day gave me the answer. The Gospel reading was from Matthew 16, the passage where we find Jesus with His disciples and He asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” His disciples answered him, “John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets”. Then Jesus posted a follow up question, “But what about you? Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus reacted to this statement by saying to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”
From this account in the Gospel, I have two things to share. First, the answer to any question we have regarding life can only be found in the Word of life of the God who is the Source of life. We can debate these things in our heads or with others for days or even for years but we will never arrive at a conclusion that will satisfy until we learn to shut off our over active minds and open our ears and hearts to the answers that God alone can give us.
Second, the reason why a lot of young people today suffer from lost identity is because they look for it in the wrong places, and they look in the wrong places because they do not know where to look. They take vacations and go to this place and that place, they climb mountains and cross rivers searching for their identity. They kill themselves at work so they can buy the latest gadgets, so they can dress up in the latest fashion trends, because they think that these things can help them regain the identity which they have lost. They spend so much time and effort searching, and yet they do not find because they look in the wrong places.
So where should one go to find one’s identity? The answer is actually not difficult. It can be found where all answers to life’s questions can be found, in Jesus, the Word of life.
Consider Jesus’ reply to Peter’s answer to His question: “This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven.”
The Lord’s answer is composed of two parts. Here’s my analysis of these two parts in relation to the phenomenon of lost identity.
“This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood…”
The first half of Jesus’ reply speaks of the futility of our efforts to find ourselves through the flesh using the ways of the world. We cannot and will never find our identity by travelling to Paris or Rome or to any exotic destination. We will not find who we are atop the summit of Mt. Everest or any other mountain. We cannot learn who we are in our jobs or by having the latest smartphone. We can search every corner of the earth or own everything that money can buy, but we still won’t know who we are. And this is because of one very simple reason – these things do not give us our identity.
“but by my Father in heaven.”
It is only in God that we can find who we are because it was He who created us and as our Creator, it is He who gave us our identity. As the book of Genesis says, God created man in His own image and likeness. It was at this point when God created man in His own image and likeness that He gave man his identity. Sadly, we have lost sight of this God-given identity because we have allowed the world and society to pressure us into conforming to a certain image or “be this and have that” to be accepted. But the greatness of God’s design is this – our identity is so closely interwoven into our human nature that for as long as we do not lose that nature (and we never can), we cannot completely forget who we are.
Knowing this, we no longer have to wander aimlessly in search of our identity. Because there is given to us a north star in God, a target that does not move, a mark that does not change, to guide us on our journey to retrieve the identity that a lot of us have lost.
I urge all of us “Generation Who?” to stop looking for ourselves elsewhere, but instead to start seeking God. For it is only by seeking Him that one can know who He is, and it is only by knowing Him that we can truly know who we are.
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