13 What Defines You? By Kaze Gadway, 13th in Life Skills series
Henri Nouwen “Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.”
Years ago the youth and I began a conversation on “What defines you that cannot be taken away?”
Everyone contributes a question like “If you lose a leg, does your identity change?” “If you lose your job, how do you talk about yourself?” “If you lose your girlfriend, how do you define yourself?” “If you lose your tradition, do you lose your identity?” And so on…
We discovered that bits and pieces of our identity cling to us and try to define us. The problem is that so many things change and we feel lost, like when we lose a job and can no longer say “I am a construction worker at…”
We come at the question sideways. “When someone talks about you, what do they treasure about you that name you unique?”
This time the responses come quickly. “They know I am Navajo or Hopi or Kiowa.” “They know that I help people and share what I have.” “They know I have their back no matter what.”
Then comes the hard questions. “What sustains you? What encourages you? What gives you energy? What pulls you forward?”
Even as teenagers, they have changed their identities many times so these questions drop them into deep stuff. We struggled with several things and no one liked their answers. So I refined the questions into more metaphor types.
How are you rooted? Where do you dwell? Where is your stillness? What is the filter that lets you see something amazing?
After deep reflections, one of the Native young adult says “I am defined by my stories of being kept alive by my respect of Mother Earth and Father Sky. This allows me to see the sacred in the smallest things.”
No one really had anything more to say. It was complete.
This skill of going deep to discover what defines us gives us solidity. It delineates the thread that goes through our life long journey.