Do you find your identity in your struggle?
Don’t gloss over that question because it may seem too lofty… too easy to say, “of course not”.
I have found that it is quite possibly a universal truth that at some point in their life, everyone has found their identity in their own particular set of difficulties or trauma. The question isn’t about whether you ever have, but if you do still?
Trauma has a way of shaping us. Struggle tends to seep into our bones and take up residence there, with an energetic memory of what we’ve been through. It’s scarring presence becomes an old friend, a place we know well. It isn’t the trauma we seek, but the familiarity of returning to those feelings that brings with it an odd sort of nostalgia and comfort. Sometimes, the more it burns, the more we point to it, as though saying, “See! Here is where I am. Here is where I was born and molded. This explains all of it.”
Our struggle or trauma can become many things for us.
It can become the excuse for our failures. The entity we can point to as our reason for our mistakes or misdeeds.
It can be the shame the holds us back from reality. The cloak that we hide behind so as not to enter life in the fullest form.
For others it is the broken toy thrown into the closet. Never actually discarded, but ignored as though it doesn’t matter. But, we all know it will find it’s way into the light one day.
And for still others it can be the bulwark between us and the relationships we crave. Or the ever vigilant soldier, swinging his sword to prevent any soul from getting too close.
In fact, for some it could be all of the above.
But, regardless we will refit our trauma to serve a purpose. In this repurposing we can give the awful things that happened to us a sort of meaning. Even if crude, or damaging, or despicable, the sustained meaning often feels safer than the potential healing.
I found myself thinking I had overcome the trauma in my past. Telling myself, and any who asked, that it no longer held a grip on my heart or mind. But, the Lord laid a question on my heart this week that stopped me in my tracks…
He said, “Would you be ok with never telling anyone about your past trauma ever again?”
I balked. The simple question floated across my thoughts like the beam from a lighthouse in the distance. Quiet and small, but unable to be ignored.
And then later, my mind drifted to the extension of that question, “Would I be ok with never internally revisiting that trauma ever again?”
You see, as long as we still feel we must explain our trauma to others or ourselves on a regular basis, we know that it is still a building block for some piece of our identity. I was reminded that in my unwillingness to stop revisiting it, either internally or externally, it was there I revealed that I still clung to some part of it to explain who I am.
But the truth is, that my trauma is not who I am. Despite how I may have used it to formulate excuses, or separate me from relationship, or to prop up my personal image of myself, it will never be a suitable replacement for my truest identity.
In saying this I don’t downplay the trauma itself. I don’t question the pain or the soul crushing intensity that you and I have experienced. I don’t even propose that it is easy to find yourself again after such an experience. But, if we continue to cling to it, even out of our pain, we unknowingly hold ourselves back from the life we are truly meant to live.
I know that this realization for me is not meant to bring shame, but clarity. It is meant to build my desire to flesh out all those false “me’s” that have taken up residence in my memories. It is meant to illuminate everything I am designed to be, and truly crave to be. I will never be fully at peace until who I think I am and who I really am finally collide in entirety. And that is truly a worthwhile pursuit.