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.