Identity in Relationship

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Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.
– Jane Howard

Etymology: identity (n.)
c. 1600, “sameness, oneness, state of being the same,” from Middle French identité (14c.), from Medieval Latin identitatem (nominative identitas) “sameness,” ultimately from Latin idem (neuter) “the same”.

How are we identified? We are identified by our names, which have been given to us by others, usually our parents, and which display our relationship with them. Our surnames show the families which we have been born into, adopted by or married into. For humans, identity is found in relation to others.

When two people enter into a relationship, it is usually a cause for congratulations and celebration. Others recognize the glorious gift of finding someone with whom one can share a loving communion, embracing the trials and joys of life together, and helping each other grow in virtue and maturity.

On the other hand, for those who are emotionally insecure and uncertain about their own identity and purpose, a relationship can become an idol. They derive their entire self-worth and happiness from being loved by another creature, and fall apart if they lose the other person. This places tremendous pressure on the other person and creates a toxic relationship.

Ultimately, it is only in God that we find complete love, fulfillment and joy. It is only from our relationship with Love Himself that we can find our true worth, identity, security and purpose. When we recognize that we have been made in the image of Love and that He will always remain with us no matter what we go through in life, then we are able to love ourselves and our neighbor with a fearless love which accepts the beloved completely while purifying and transfiguring him. True love is a love that frees a spouse, child or friend to grow in wisdom and stature, fulfilling his God-given telos and not warping him to suit our limited vision or personal desires.

As the Persons of the Holy Trinity have identified themselves by their relation to each other, in an eternal generation of Love, so should we base our identities in healthy, life-giving relation to God and one another in the communion of saints.

Jean Elizabeth Seah

Jean Elizabeth Seah

Jean Elizabeth Seah is a Singaporean living in Australia. She has had several adventures with Our Lord and Our Lady, including running away to join a convent after university. The journey is tough and the path ahead is foggy, but she knows that as long as you hold firmly onto Our Lady’s hand, you’ll make it through! She has also written at Aleteia, MercatorNet and The Daily Declaration.

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12 thoughts on “Identity in Relationship”

  1. Avatar

    In the article Jean Elizabeth Seah says: On the other hand, for those who are emotionally insecure and uncertain about their own identity and purpose, a relationship can become an idol. They derive their entire self-worth and happiness from being loved by another creature, and fall apart if they lose the other person. This places tremendous pressure on the other person and creates a toxic relationship. When I read this, I was led to the scripture below:

    John 15: [7] If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth. [7] If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you. [8] In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit, and become my disciples. [9] As the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love. [10] If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; as I also have kept my Father’s commandments, and do abide in his love.

    [11] These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled. [12] This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. [13] Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

    God bless you

    1. Avatar

      I believe it’s all about priorities – we must love and accept the love of God first before we can truly love our neighbours and receive their love in a healthy way.

      “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:26]

      1. Avatar

        Whose priorities? God’s or yours?

        God’s ways are not our ways.
        1 Corinthians chapter 3: [19] For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written: I will catch the wise in their own craftiness.
        [20] And again: The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

      2. Avatar

        True to a degree, but the levels of priority deceive even ones’ self into thinking like Solomon thought. Solomon converted in his last breath. It is dangerous to think with the wisdom of men. I have heard many Catholics say, “If I get into purgatory, thank God”. That only tells me that the person is aiming for purgatory. I tell them, “What if you miss? Aim for heaven.”

        The only priority for me is Home-Heaven, and Luke 14:26 is great scripture! God bless you

  2. Avatar

    Identity and emotional security come from our relationship of trust with Christ. Then we can have healthy relationships with others that don’t end up in co-dependency and idolatry.

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      Jesus, I trust in YOU is a bigger call. As Saint Faustina said, “You Yourself command me to exercise the three degrees of mercy. The first: the act of mercy, of whatever kind. The second: the word of mercy — if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. The third: prayer — if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically.”

      Personally, when I look at this statement, I look at it in this way, ‘without good deeds, I do not have good words that leads to good prayer.” Deeds are first and foremost, because actions speak louder than words, but words of love are necessary too. Prayer should always be done in order to reach the other two that are “words” and “action”, but if a person does not pray with a contrite heart, none of the three will be achieved.

      Jesus, I trust in YOU

      1. Avatar

        Titus 2:14 speaks of Christ “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”.
        This verse tells me that the purification of Christ is first and foremost. Deeds will follow.

      2. Avatar

        As true as Titus’ statement may be, once a person understands his faith, if deeds do not follow, Saint James says in chapter 2:
        [14] What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him?

        As you call “works” the second Great Commandment, Faith that you infer as the first Great Commandment cannot save someone as explained in Saint James chapter 2!

      3. Avatar

        There are the works associated with the second great commandment, but I wonder if there are works directly associated with the first. For example, when Mary accepted the invitation of the angel at the Annunciation, was that an evidence of her faith in God, or was it a function of the second great commandment?

        James also uses the example of Abraham offering to sacrifice his son as an example of righteousness by works.

        When Paul speaks of being zealous of good works, he is speaking of
        the second great commandment.

        I’m not sure that Paul and James are contradicting each other as some people claim.

  3. Pingback: Fatherhood and Redemption in "Pirates of the Caribbean 5" - IGNITUM TODAY : IGNITUM TODAY

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