What Defines Me?

There has been a conversation wrapped around my last post Spinning, one of the more prominent questions that has risen out of this conversation has been, what defines us? Some say everything, some say only our choice at that very moment and some, well, they stay anonymous.

So, let’s get to it, what defines me [us]? To answer this question very generally, I would say, “everything!”. To answer the question with a little more focus, I would say, “the events that make us question ourselves or the people around us.” And lastly, to answer this question specifically, I would say, “there are positive and negative actions that happen to us and around us that force us to create an opinion on that action and decide whether or not we will follow that pattern.” I think that it is important for you to know why I chose to answer this question three different ways and that is this: Some people are satisfied with the first, general answer, some with the slightly more focused and others by the specific and ultimately, however your brain works I want you to track with me.

My anonymous friend said that I should not be defined by my pain and I just simply find that impossible. It was presented in a way as to say that there is the ability to separate ourselves from our pain and that just isn’t true. Well, it isn’t true if you have made a decision to feel emotion and allow life to effect you. It is almost like saying, “time heals all wounds”, a saying that is so misleading. Either of those theories present an option to at some point, typically when you have reached a said state of emotional maturity, you will no longer be hurt by your losses, hardships, downfalls, struggles and experiences.

Be honest with your heart for one second… Time or “emotional maturity” have never healed a wound, it may have hardened the soft vulnerable places around it, causing the pain to be less penetrating but that my friends is not healing. You can not break a bone and allow time to correctly heal it unless you go through the agonizing pain of setting the bone. If you are not willing to go through the initial pain of setting the broken bone and you instead make an attempt at crossing your fingers hoping the bone will independently become straight and heal will you surely find out that the only way to have any chance of actually healing, you must re-brake the bone, set the bone and then allow time and healing to take its course.

There are millions of people who roam this crazy little planet with a life time of hurt built up inside of them, all fooled into thinking that their problems are not worth discussing [to someone “qualified” or not] and so the pain rots and seeps out of them until they lash out and break the hearts of the people closest to them, those whom they long to love the most become the whipping post for pain they did not inflict [and maybe it is pain that they inflicted however they are being mistreated long after the initial situation].

I am defined by the following:

  • My parents divorce.
  • Parents’ drug addiction and alcoholism.
  • Grandmother’s faith in Jesus.
  • Mom’s death.
  • Dad’s death.
  • The abuse from my parents.
  • The abortion the I followed through with.
  • All of the hearts that I have manipulated and mistreated.

The ways that these things define is both positive and negative at times and it is my responsibility as a man and follower of Jesus to handle these situations appropriately in order to stop the cycle of pain. The cycle that has run through generations of my family will stop with me.

I will break the cycle.

I am hopeful that my most defining attribute is my faith in Jesus Christ and the man that I am convicted to be, however, without being first defined by so many other pains, it is possible that I would not take so seriously this life that I have been blessed to lead.

You too are defined by your pain, no matter how “big” or “small” your pain is. I encourage you to be honest with your heart, if you struggle with depression, anger, anxiety, sadness, apathy or you just know how to put a good mask on you always seem to be “ok”, please don’t let these define you… It is going to hurt, you will probably cry, you might be gossiped about and your defense mechanism is going to come out x10, but it’s worth it! Whether you are a Christian or not, you were not created to be enslaved, ultimately, I believe that Jesus is our only true shot at freedom, eternal, fulfilling, freedom but, that doesn’t mean that some level of emotional freedom is not obtainable.

I am thankful for all of you and for choosing to be involved!


31 thoughts on “What Defines Me?

  1. It’s important to acknowledge our pain honestly yes, but it’s even more important to view that pain in light of Jesus’ victory over Satan, sin, and death through the cross and his resurrection.

    In the gospel of John we see Jesus saying, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

    In doing so, Jesus acknowledges pain, but He also points to His victory over the pain of the world. Jesus says, “Take heart” and “have peace”. Until we can do that after acknowledging our pain, we’ll be defined by our pain and defeat instead of Christ’s victory.

    • JJ,
      I understand this because I know it to be true, however, you can not deny that we are in fact defined and in other words defined by our pain. I do not say this in an eternal sense but rather a, this is how I act and interact daily type of sense. Make sense? ha.

      For instance, the death of your grandfather was a very emotional experience for you and because of its severity it surely shapes and defines pieces of you. Also your past struggles, these must shape and define your daily actions and interaction. All the while, fully understanding that you are the clay and Jesus is the artist, please don’t lose my knowledge, understanding and experience of that.

      Love you my friend.

  2. I don’t deny that pain defines us. But it’s a question of focus for me. If my focus is too much on my pain, it will continually control me and guide me. If I come to terms with it and give it over to Jesus, my pain becomes something that God uses to form me into his image. No doubt, when we’re broken and at our worst, God is at his best, ready to pick us up, dust us off, and point us to his victory. That’s not denying pain, it’s denying pain to have power over us.

  3. I agree with Jake on this one D, I think that the pain that you go through in life CAN define you for a time but through Christ we are victorious over that pain. And you seem to contradict yourself a bit in your blog too. You say: “Time or “emotional maturity” have never healed a wound” and yet you hope to break the sin cycle in your family and you note that Jesus can set us free. So then we can be healed!!! Sin/our past should never define us, it can change us and lead us to Christ hopefully. Which you said is what happens. I think your anonymous friend wants you to focus on Christ’s redemtion rather than your past pains. They even said that it is healthy to talk about you pains. But to allow Christ in to renew you and to provide a freedom from your past pains and transgressions.

    • There his no contradiction… We can be healed, however, we can not be healed by “emotional maturity” or time alone… It takes work with or without a relationship with Jesus. And what about those who don’t believe in Jesus?? How can they escape an ounce of the pain without having a plan of attack against their past. While Jesus IS the answer to our pain, Christians still feel pain and at times are more guilty than anyone of not dealing with it; there is such an unnecessary pressure to “be fine” that we just keep our Sunday smiles on in order to appear healed, fulfilled, holy or whatever else we’re faking. There has to be a systematic way to heal from and escape the grips of pain, hence the profession of a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, etc.

      I Love Jesus and have tangibly experienced grace, freedom and healing that I believe can ONLY be provided by God. Just because I think that there are other ways to experiences a [small] percentage of what Jesus can provide does not change that.

  4. How do I make this short and sweet? To be defined by your pain is to let Satan win.

    Here’s the long version:

    The thought that we should be defined by our pain is weak, it’s chicken and it certainly not what God desires or promises for your life.

    Sure we all have pains. Sure most of us deal with them poorly if at all. Sure many of us put on fake happy faces. Sure our pains will effect the way we live, love and respond.

    Howerver, stating that your pain defines you is almost blasphemous.

  5. I love this..

    I believe that by saying “letting satan win” and that it’s “blasphemous” to say pain defines you is sort of extreme..

    Yes, we are SAVED from pain by Jesus, we are redeemed over and over, he heals us and our suffering is only to better ourselves in our walk with God.

    However, we do also live in the world. A world of pain and hurt… and to say that it doesn’t define you in any way is just blind.. I think you guys are looking at it all wrong. It’s not that the pain itself (the pain that we know Jesus heals) that defines us, as much as the experience we had around or because of the pain.

    I’m a psychology major and a counseling Masters and we always discuss events.. and A lot of times the way things happen is not always the event itself, but the way you respond to it.. and this that Dennis is talking about is exactly that.. You are defined by the way you’ve responded to things that caused pain..

    My father died when I was a young child… Am I consumed by that pain daily? No, Jesus has healed that gaping wound. However, it will always be something I deal with. Getting older, wondering if I’ve become the woman he’d of wanted me to become, what my life would be like if he was still alive, do I look like him.. It ABSOLUTELY defines who I am.. I learned at an early age to deal with something most children at that age, had no experienced..

    So you see, that “pain” necessarily doesn’t define us as the experience that caused the pain does.. My experience that changed me and still defines me and my thinking, was the death of my father.. Dennis has chosen to make his painful situations stop with him… He’s changing his course and way of living, DUE to the pain he’s experienced.. It’s defined who he is becoming.. Had he not had those experiences in life, he would totally be a different person than he is now..

    Hope this makes sense..

  6. I totally agree Anon.

    And for those who are not Christian D, I would suggest getting help from a therapist or a councelor.

  7. Thank you all for joining the conversation! It brings joy to my heart to hear different views and hope that some of those opposing views find compromise in our hearts.

    to those people who don’t believe that we should be defined by our pain and past and for lack of an easier way to say this, hide behind Jesus. What I want to know is what amount of pain have you felt? That also plays a factor in how we are defined and pursue healing, if we don’t have a significant experience that is defining to our actions and reactions then we come to this discussion somewhat ignorant to the deep pains that are felt within our hearts.

    For most of you who know me personally, I would hope that you agree that I am pretty healthy emotionally, considering the life that I have lived, I know that Anon believes this because we have discussed such. Also take my life into the consideration of my words…

    I will forever be improving and there is a great conviction for me to do so, which I belive this is why I hold so tightly to this…

    Kelli, I 100% agree with this statement – that “pain” necessarily doesn’t define us as the experience that caused the pain does.

    Until next time.

  8. Kellis input was dead on, had I have not experienced the pains I wouldn’t have sought out God and Christ. There’s a reason is called THE HEALER. I agree with Dennis our pain defines us, in Ministry I want to become a counselor so I can help lead others away from decisions that could leave lifelong or eternal scars. Stop the cycle that Satan fuels to spin.

  9. First Kelli, I appreciate your attempt at mediation. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent but have close relationships with those who have. I agree that our experiences will definitely affect the way we feel and make decisions moving forward from them. That is obvious and undeniable. “It ABSOLUTELY defines who I am”. It’s these kinds of statments that have sparked this discussion to begin with. If you choose to be defined by your past pains, and it is a choice, then you choose not to be defined by Christ. The two definitions can not co-exist. You are affected, changed and challenged by your pains and experiences, but a choice to be defined by them is a choice to not fully accept what God has for you or has challenged you too.

  10. Doyle, Good call..

    Anon, read that part where he says “had I not experienced the pains, I wouldn’t have sought out God and Christ”

    To say that I choose not to be defined by Christ is a big statement for someone you don’t know, when you haven’t identified yourself either. Careful there.

    Affected, changed and challenged is all filtered into the word defined. The pain that we experience causes us to seek God harder and become stronger but it STILL changes how we are from that moment on…

    Dennis changing who he is to become because of negative things he experienced in the past, that defines what kind of person he is trying to become.. a better one…

    Yes, we are defined by Christ, that’s what we’re here for and WHY we’re here.. But experiences and how we respond to them, define who we will become on this earth… we live on earth, we experience worldly things, even when we are saved by and living for Christ..

  11. Another thing that I think may help with the clarity of this conversation… do not read “i am defined by” as “I AM IDENTIFIED” by… My identity lies within my faith in Jesus Christ and the redemption that I have experienced… my actions and reactions are defined by my past… all of it both good and bad, easy and hard, painful and pleasureful [not even sure that is a word]!

    hope this helps 🙂

  12. Agreed..

    I don’t mean defined as identified either… I just mean, it does define/affect/challenge/ our actions and how we respond to what happens to us, changes us..

  13. What I find so funny about this conversation and how fiesty people are about the fact that I would dare use the word “define” in regards to pain and struggle… however, it would be totally acceptable for me to be “defined” by the good moments that life brings. Would it not??

    Let’s run after consistency?

    And if your next argument is that the “good” things are “God” things, is God not sovereign and the creator of both good and evil? I praise God for the loss of my parents in a way that says, “you are sovereign and know my heart better than I do.” Whether you believe or not, ALL things are God things… as He is in sovereign control of His creation and if you are going to praise Him for your blessings then praise Him for your pain.

  14. Hi all,

    Dennis, unfortunately that’s what “defined” means! Like i told you a moment ago just use a different word: directed, affected, lead to, caused. There are a plethora of better suited words. The thing is, I’m not sure you just think it is a mis-interpretation of a word’s definition. In any case we’ll probably find an agreement in this 2 years down the road like we always do.

    I use Anon for Dennis’s sake not for my own. Turns out he knows exactly who I am. Please ask him. I am not hiding behind a mysterious blog sir name. Not to mention, “careful” isn’t really my M.O. That said, my desire is never to hurt anyone.

    For starters, no one here disagrees with the idea that our experieneces, including our pains, shomehow shape the way we act moving forward forward from them. Of course they do. Of course God can use hurt to draw someone to him. And you can’t filter other words with different conotative and denotative meanings into a word with an entirely different set of meanings. If he or you wanted to use the words “Affected, changed and challenged” you would have. Instead there remains the challenge that “define” is appropriate.

    About dennis, no. Dennis is not changing to be a “better” person because of his pains. He’s really only able to change because of Christ. so he is not defined by the pains and his movement from them. He is defined by his savior and his movement toward Him.

    And, “But experiences and how we respond to them, define who we will become on this earth” would be 100% true apart from Christ. Problem is, Satan rules the earth and shapes the experiences in many cases here. So should we let the negative “worldly” experieneces define us? You might consider the ramifications.

    I just think that there’s no chance that God sent his only son to live among us, then had him murdered, then had him rise from the dead to conquer sin so that we could remain “defined” by our pains. I think we are very cleary defined by our shared victory. Maybe you don’t mean “defined”.

  15. Oh and O don’t think we should praise God for pain, but use the pain that is in the world due to satan, like Anon said, to draw near to God.

    • Then why does the Apostle Paul say this, “consider it a great joy when suffering and trials come your way!” Hence Christ is perfect in our weakness….

  16. yo man, it’s not that only “good” things or only “bad” things define us. I guess the closest I can get to is a statement like “defining moment”. We hear about these in people’s lives all the time. The catch here is that once you are in Christ, this becomes the triumphant “defining moment”, the acme of all other would be defining moments.

    by the by, I’m only so flagrant with Gospel issues because they matter. 😉 sorry for partying

  17. This is kind of just a spin off of my reply to Ashley Doud’s comment. If we are not to be defined in some way by our pain or whatever you wanna call it, then why does the Apostle Paul say this, “consider it a great joy when suffering and trials come your way!” Suffering is always looked at as a completly negative thing that nothing good can come of. But if you remember Paul also said in Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings. because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not dissapoint us.” I too think that there are defining moments(good and bad) in anyone’s life that molds them into who they are. If we only had the time i could go into my testimony of what i came from, to who i am now. I believe with all my heart that had i not gone through the drugs, jail, and all the stuff in between, i would of never came to know Christ.

    • Gentle push back here. James said, “Consider it a great joy when suffering and trials come your way” (James 1:2). The focus of the passage is that trials and tribulations make us more like Christ by reminding us of our dependence on him and by linking us to his suffering.

      The Romans passage is focused on the work Christ has done for us–justification. That was accomplished through the cross. You’d have a hard time exegetically trying to convince me that Paul’s point is suffering. Rather, suffering points us to Christ.

      Again, for my part, I’m not arguing against the importance of pain and suffering in forming who we are. But if we are defined by that pain, rather than by Christ, we’re missing the mark.

      I believe Dennis said something similar to that somewhere above.

      • I guess we all have our own opinions on what is being said throughout scripture. But for the sake of conversation let me share what i getting from the Romans verse above. If you read what Paul is writting and take it for face value then you will see that he is talking about our own suffering. Paul is telling us that through our (Christians) suffering perseverane is able to be produced, and from perseverance character will be developed, and it is only from the suffering that we are able to have our CHRIST like character formed to shine through too the world around us. And lastly from all this we and others around us are able to see the change in our character and the way we live, then from that HOPE is spread to us and to others. The HOPE i am talking about is that through Christ everyone has and can have hope for a better life now and to come.
        Oh yeah my bad with mix’n up paul and james, oops.LOL Hey Mr. Jake Johnson thanks for the great CONVO…

  18. Exactly. Pain exists, of course it does. No one is denying that. And those experiences, because we have Christ, lead to all of those wonderful things. But we should never congratulate the pain for creating these things, because for some of us who have never had a past with drugs and or jail, we still manage to find strength and perseverance and hope without extreme trials and pain. But what that verse it really asking us to do is to understand that when pain comes into our life(no matter how extreme) to not dwell on it, but rather allow it to make us better and wiser next time. But I would not agree that it is through pain that out Christ-like character comes through. It is through the process of recovering/healing/being renewed from the pain that Christ is revealed. And we do not need pain to always be the catalyst, Christ can be revealed through love, we can turn to him because we have experienced love, beauty, grace, wisdom. Pain should never be the only reason we see Christ’s fruits produced in us.
    And just so you know…after reading over this, I want you to know that I have had bad things happen in my life and yet Christ has managed to fill my spirit with so many blessings that it was hard for me to recall those things. And I could list out those hardships, most of them dealing with family and deep hurts that have existed there in the past, but what is the point. Why should I dwell on that and focus on that when I have persevered, I have hope, I have joy. Christ’s blessings have covered those painful experiences. And thank you God for doing so, thank you for grace, thank you for renewal. God is so great!

    • This, process/healing/recovery is exactly the same thing or point that i am making. I never said that the only time you can see the Christ like things in us is through our pain. Of course you can see Chirst in other things like joy and love, GOD is love. I just chose to show that even in our suffering amazing things can, will, and are happening. Through the suffering Jesus suffered for us came the most beautiful thing ever, redemtion and salvation (if we choose to embrace it). Likewise through our suffering beauty can emerge. Thank for the comment and adding your opinion, i appreciate reading others thoughts.

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  22. I too have never experience “great pain”, thought physical pain in my life has been intense. But, I agree with Dennis, the pain that I have experienced in my life has added definition to my life. Dennis’ joy is not greater than mine, though his emotional pain has been. Dennis’ joy & pain is DIFFERENT than mine, not greater. God’s love for each & every person is worth a Jesus Christ. I’m sure that His love is different for each person, just as He has given each person a different life, with different trials, pain, joys, growth, etc. My children define who I am. They both bring me joy & pain. But, they haven’t made me a better person (though I am a better/healthier person since having them enter my life). I have used having children as a motivation to become a healthier person. The choice is made from the experience of having healthy parents, to do the same for my children. Having my husband in my life has defined who I am. He taught me how to love myself, as I am. God did give me my husband & children, but I am the one who seized the opportunity to allow & accept the changes to happen. I am a Christian, but that is not the beginning & end of who I am. I would not be who I am w/out Christ. Not as good a mother or wife, or friend. Christ is the CENTER of who I am, with everything else orbiting around Him. Sometimes I am a mother more than a wife, or a wife more than a friend. My experience shapes what direction my life could take. Each experience adds value to who I am, and changes me. It is me allowing Christ to have that experience & following His lead on how I should deal/handle it that shapes where that change will lead.

    Being an alcoholic, that is ALWAYS with you, even if you haven’t had a drink for years & Christ will not remove that from who you are.

    Being a person who struggles with depression, you will ALWAYS have that as a part of who you are. It is not removed from who you are.

    Being raped will ALWAYS be a part of who you are. No matter how much counseling, therapy, etc. Christ will only help you, but not remove it.

    People who do not have Christ do find a way to live with the pain, & not always in an unhealthy way. BUT, they cannot experience full growth or reach their full “ideal” potential w/out Christ. They do not have the freedom to choose the godly way. They can still choose a healthy way, but it would be how the world sees healthy.

    We, as Christians, have to put value into experiences. If we don’t, we cannot connect to the world around us & show people how Christ has used similar circumstances to allow a fully healthy change in our lives. Yes, the world puts more value on experiences/pain than is healthy, but if we don’t allow those same experiences & pain a place of value in our own lives, how will they trust us with who they are, as people?

  23. I want to thank everyone who participated in this conversation. This is how growth happens and we as fallible humans may become wise, if only for a second.


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