Finding Your Secure Identity

What American's Increasing Interest in Heritage Can Mean For You

I have a picture on my desk I love looking at. It’s of me when I was a small child, along with my whole family in Japan, with our Japanese nanny. Guess which one I am??

Nelsons in Toyama, Japan

The Nelsons in Toyama, Japan

Every time I look at this, it reminds me of who I am, where I’ve come from, and who I’ve come with. The memories of my growing up years in Japan flood my mind. I remember all the places we lived–what I enjoyed, the adventures, at each place (as far back as I can remember). It’s a huge piece of my own history. So I’m drawn to this picture again and again.

And guess which figure in the picture I spend the most time looking at? That little kid on the left. He looks so innocent and angelic, doesn’t he? Ha Ha. Notice that slight hint of mischievousness. What a dude! 🙂

Interestingly, Americans’ fascination with family history is rapidly growing.

According to a recent survey, a full 73 percent of Americans are intrigued by their family roots. They’re interested in stories and details that help explain who they are and where they’ve come from. People are hungering for some meaningful context surrounding their name.

So more and more people are investing money in joining various online sites that help trace genealogy and family history. People are making pilgrimages back to childhood locales or sites that contain ancestral history, trying to glean as much information and picture of their past. Looking at our pictures is a part of that connection, too.

What’s the draw to all this piqued interest in our roots?

Identity–What Isn’t Secure

We live in a culture that measures identity by our performance. We are what we do, how much we do, how well we do it, and how well it’s received.

This is exhausting. Debilitating. Stressful. And ultimately misleading and misguided.

Our culture squeezes us into its mold regarding identity: we are only as much as we perform, or wear, or do, or build, or spend, or … and the list goes on.

Could it be that this reconnection with our past is another way to understand ourselves based upon something more solid and secure than all of those ephemeral and ethereal things?

Identity–What Is Secure

Truth is, I’m am a product of my heritage. I’m a child of Paul and Barbara Nelson. And in a spiritual way, I’m a child of God (or the Universe, Love, Spirit, Life). These are solid pieces of my identity that were given to me and that no one can take away, that even my performance–good or bad–can’t negate.

Ultimately, your and my identity must be based on something secure for us to feel secure and grounded and safe.

That’s why I am really moved by Richard Rohr’s statement (from his book Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self):

Life is not a matter of creating a special name for ourselves, but of uncovering the name we have always had. Most native cultures look for inherent symbols at a child’s birth–and that became the child’s sacred name. Maybe this is what lovers are doing for one another with their sweet nicknames. Our True Self is surely the ‘treasure hidden in the field’ that Jesus speaks of. It is your own chunk of the immortal diamond. And we should ‘happily be willing to sell everything to buy that field’ (Matthew 13:44). Page 12

You Are An Immortal Diamond

I love the two words referring to our true identity, “immortal diamond.” Immortal implies that our identity is eternal. It cannot be taken away by anything or anyone. That’s how secure it is. Your True Self is you no matter what.

Diamond implies inherent value, inestimable worth. When a diamond is first discovered, though it might need to be purified, cleaned, and have the dross removed, then polished, it is still has amazing value and worth. Your True Self is a diamond–worth everything. You are unique, from everyone else in the world. And what you bring to life no one else can bring just like you.

Your identity is an immortal diamond. And the process of life and personal growth and development is not about creating your identity and name; it’s about uncovering who you already are and have always been inherently–your True Self–and seeing it more clearly and dearly as you go along.

What Difference Does Embracing Your Immortal Diamond Make?

So how would embracing this identity, this truth about yourself, impact your feelings, behaviors, and life experiences?

When I look at that picture of the little boy “me” with my family, I am reminded that that innocence, the playful mischievousness, the warm and tender eyes, the child who knew no strangers, are still in fact parts of me. They are expressions of who I am. And that reality brings me a sense of continuity with my past. It fills me with courage to live with confidence that I am who I am, and who I am is good.

I look back at my life and see times I didn’t always live in alignment with my True Self. I acted out in unhealthy ways. I took detours. I had failures.

But looking at this picture, seeing my innocence, reminds me that at my core that innocence is still here. I am still that immortal diamond (albeit a more grown up one). That recognition brings me courage, confidence, peace, joy, patience, and persistence–with myself and with others.

More and more I’m uncovering the truth and goodness surrounding the “name” I’ve always had. And I’m learning to live that “name” with more freedom and boldness and sense of security. I’m learning to love my “name” more and more deeply. I am safe in my “name.” I am an immortal diamond. And no one can take it away from me … ever!

You are an immortal diamond, too. So go out, learn what that uniquely and specifically means to you, and then let yourself live it with joy and confidence! You are good. You are safe. You are infinite value. Because you are You!

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Looking for a Speaker or Coach?

If you or someone you know in your organization is looking for a keynote speaker or workshop teacher for events in your company, congregation, or association gatherings, I would be happy to come speak on this theme or others like it. And interested in coaching for how to be an effective culture architect in your groups? Feel free to email me at greg@gregorypnelson.com or look at the Speaking or Coaching pages of this site.