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Become the person you want to be

When I was growing up, I would periodically imagine myself in one line of work or another. At one point I was a fireman. At another point I was a medical doctor a surgeon to be precise. At another point I was a minister, a clergyman. Where that came from at such a young age, I don't really know. Perhaps it was from watching a movie titled 'A Man Called Peter', which had been a book written by Catherine Marshall about her husband, Peter Marshall, who was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who rose to the position of chaplain of the United States Senate. The point is that I tried on various persons, depending on what I imagined myself to become one day. I was not just a profession or a job. I was the person doing that thing, and my identity in that way was far more important than any prestige, money, etc that I might make.

So, I suppose it was a natural step to asking myself what kind of person I want to be today. If someone praises me for something, what kind of a person do I want to be dealing with that? If a person criticises me, what kind of a person do I want to be in dealing with that? How one responds to life's presenting challenges, what a person does, makes that person into a certain kind of person. What we do also consists of what we think, what we feel, what we purpose or desire, what we will or choose, and in general how we behave.

In a recent book on addiction and self-medicating behaviours, I wrote that it was Kierkegaard who posited a kind of faith that is personal, exposing the authentic self through the action in which any given person engages. Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) claimed that people disclose themselves through action, and that when someone acts, he or she becomes the agent of that action while that action becomes another form of discourse (besides what we say). Being, or person, is to consciousness as action, or acting, is to experience. Discourse depends on someone actually existing with whom conversation might be established, but once being is accepted, then the person is manifest in action. When a person acts, he or she self-actualises and communicates a potential in some way, to some extent, to other beings, and that is discourse. Thus, when a gestalt therapist moves from talk to action, it is not really a move from one category to another but from one aspect of a single category to another. Both talk and action are forms of discourse. The related action helps bring into clearer relief who the person is by what he or she does.

So, who I want to be, and what I want to say to others about who I am, depends on action what I do.

When people become territorial or proprietary, and they begin to protect something they regard to belong to them, that can say they are a self-sacrificing, loving person, or it can say they are a small, selfish, and myopic person. How so? It depends on the context, the overall situation in which that kind of action discourse is expressed. In the context of a home in a neighbourhood where robberies and burglaries have become common, then expressing a desire to protect one's property and loved ones is understandable. In the context of a church, for instance, where supposedly the Lord is the only owner and director, then it is perplexing for someone to be grasping at position and power.

What kind of a person do you want to be? Today, in this moment, what kind of a person do you want to be? If you aspire to be spiritual, then do spiritual things. If you aspire to greatness in the Kingdom of God, then study thoroughly the Sermon on the Mount, because that is where Jesus expresses Kingdom norms. If you want to be theologically current, then study the book of Hebrews, where the writer compares the old covenant with the new, the way of life under law and temple sacrifice with the way of life under the rule of the Spirit, based on the sacrifice of Jesus. If you want to be a giving person, then today, right now, give. If you want to be an intelligent person, then do whatever you can today to develop your capacity for critical thinking, your tolerance for complexity, and your patience with uncertainty. If you want to live by grace, knowing that you have been saved by grace, then study the books of Romans and Galatians, consider what many would judge to be the lowest elements of society, and instead of finding fault with them, give yourself to serve them.

At any given moment in life, I have the chance to become the person I want to be. This is not the cute saying, 'Fake it 'till you make it.' There is nothing fake about this. When I put into action the response to others that I believe is called for from the kind of person I would like to be, it is an act of faith. It is a living by faith and a making real that which is only, up to that point, an idea and an aspiration. It may be the best I can do and not perfect, but at least in the effort I will have become the kind of person I want to be.

And although I have referred to spiritual and religious examples, this kind of 'incarnational theology' could just as easily be framed in an existential and philosophical ''incarnational and process philosophy'. None of us are stuck being the people we used to be, nor even the people it seems we have become. We can re-invent ourselves. We are all in the process of becoming, and we inhabit a flow of life that is constantly changing. The static is an illusion. Nothing is fixed. None of us have 'grown up'. None of us have arrived.

Given that, what kind of a person do you want to be?

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Published November 01, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated November 01, 2011 at 9:37 am)

Become the person you want to be

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