The Limit of Labels

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There’s this saying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. People put all sorts of labels and preconceptions on women and we have this tendency that being a woman or being of a certain race, ethnicity, or sexuality means that we have to look and act a certain way. Sometimes, we believe society and think that we have to act like everyone else who has the same labels as us in order to belong. But the worst thing we could do to ourselves is allow circumstances like family problems or relationship issues to define who we are.

God created us a certain way for a reason, but he didn’t create us so that we define ourselves according to other people’s preconceptions. So the question is “How do we choose to define ourselves?” There is nothing wrong with being a woman or being of a certain race or ethnicity or even being attracted to the same gender. The problem is when we choose to define ourselves by just these things. The things that are in our lives are just parts of who we are and not the sum or the whole of who we are. I choose to define myself by my faith because my faith is so much bigger than myself. And there are things about my faith that I still have to learn and understand.

Marc Barnes AKA “Bad Catholic” on Patheos wrote that: “A label allows us to subsume ourselves into an abstract, and thereby cease dealing with immense difficulties of being our unique, particular ourselves. When I am truly silent and truly alone, I am alone with an I who finds himself living with no immediately discernible purpose, alone with an I who — quite naturally — feels the difficult desire to do good and avoid evil, to love the beautiful, to know the truth, an I with a conscience that constantly reminds me of my own inability to do any of these things, an I that doesn’t age but still is and feels like the same eternal I that lived and breathed at 10 years old. This is the I I return to when I am stripped of every external — of my ideology, career, possessions, class, race, and status — the I that must simply be, approaching death. This is, of course, terrifying.

I was browsing my YouTube subscriptions when I came across a video that talked about forming identity. The person in the video said that identity is always fluid and changing and that only the individual has any control over his or her identity. While I agree that a person’s identity can change over time (growing from child to teen to adult, for example) I think that there are some parts about identity that never change.

I shared this video with my friend Marguerite, who said, “Our primary identity is as beloved children of God and that one cannot change and we do not control it. God will always love us no matter what we do. I agree with staying curious and exploring (within the limits of morality) and knowing that labels are flexible and that we change as time goes on. But the one point about who we are that is most important is the one that never changes from our birth to our death: it is who we are in the eyes of God.”

The difference between finding out your identity based on the world and letting God be the one to guide you in forming your identity is that the world always changes, but God never does. The beautiful paradox of letting God help us figure out who we are is that we become the best versions of ourselves through His help.  Like Saint Paul said in Galatians 2:19-20: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”

So no matter how you choose to define yourself, remember to put God at the center of your life and He will be there to help you when you need to define yourself. Before anything else, remember that you are God’s creation, a child of the One True King, adopted into the family, and a part of the mystical body of Christ. You are loved, you are cherished, and you are not alone.

An Open Letter To Rowan Blanchard

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Dear Rowan Blanchard,

You don’t know me. I’m a huge fan of Girl Meets World and I love your character. I also love that you’re using your status as a celebrity to promote gender equality with He For She.

However, there are some things I want to talk to you about. I am really, really glad that you came out as questioning your sexuality and that you were honest about how you see yourself now. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for you. I know right now there are a lot of parents who are probably concerned about you questioning your sexuality. What concerns me more, however, are the people who want you to just pick a label.

You said “In my life – only ever liked boys. However I personally don’t wanna label myself as straight, gay or whateva so I am not gonna give myself labels to stick with just existing.”

The problem is that we live in a world of labels. There is nothing wrong with being a woman or being of a certain race or ethnicity or even being attracted to the same gender. The problem is when we choose to define ourselves by just these things. The things that are in our lives are just parts of who we are and not the sum or the whole of who we are. So while you are in the process of defining yourself, you need to find something that’s constant. I’m not talking about the culture that you’re in now, though. I’m not even talking about believing in yourself.

I know that the people you hang around with aren’t exactly keen on the idea of God, let alone religion. But God is the one constant in life that you’ll find that you can always count on. He never changes. He is a merciful God and he loves you as you are right now, questioning sexuality and all. So if you’re trying to figure out who you are, look to God. See how He sees you. You might be surprised at how your life will change when He is at the center of your life.

Sincerely,

Monique

The Heart of The Matter: How Do We Identify And Define Ourselves?

It seems like the question of identity has come up a lot lately. I’m not going to be commenting on Bruce/Caitlyn or about people seeing themselves as transabled or transracial.

Instead, I want to ask everyone: How do you define yourselves?

The center of all of these current news stories is the question of identity and how one defines oneself.

What exactly defines being male or female? What defines race? What defines sexuality? Does it really have to do with how you feel? How do you decide that? Society’s definition on masculinity and femininity, race, and sexuality has changed throughout the centuries and depends on the culture. 

I recently found this video on YouTube about dealing with identity and while I agreed with some aspects of it, like how our identity is subject to change as we grow up, I didn’t agree with the idea of being the only one in control of my identity. More often than not, I’ve seen people let things like politics and other people have that control over their identity and yes, that applies to religion as well.

But there’s a big difference between gathering labels in order to figure out aspects of yourself and defining yourself by these labels. The major major problem with defining yourself by the labels the world has to offer is that they are limiting. Marc Barnes AKA Bad Catholic has a wonderful series of posts on his blog that delves more into this current identity crisis

The real question I want to ask is why do we choose things such as our gender, sexuality, or race to define ourselves? They are parts of our identity, for sure, but that’s all they are. Parts. Choosing to define ourselves by just one part of ourselves is like identifying all of Picasso’s paintings by just saying that they’re blue, even though not all of them are. Our identity needs to be rooted in something outside of ourselves, just as a tree is rooted in the ground.

I’m not saying that we should let the world define who we are. I’m saying to look beyond the world. We keep looking around the world for ourselves, but we find the world lacking. I’m not asking that you believe me right away. But then again, you don’t have to take my word for it.

 

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”- C.S. Lewis

“You have made us for yourself,” St. Augustine said. “And our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

“My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” John 18:36

If you’re wondering where to start searching for your identity, start by asking the Sacred Heart of Jesus on this solemnity. Sooner or later, we all find ourselves echoing Paul’s words:

“I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”- Galatians 2:19-20