Personality? Or authentic individuality?
The interviewer for the position I was applying for leaned forward in her chair, looked at me squarely, and asked, “How would you describe yourself?” It occurred to me that she was asking how I would define my personal “brand.”
In our current culture, there’s much discussion about enhancing one’s personal brand and too little thought given to what truly defines us. If all we’re doing is focusing on charisma, charm, and attraction, we’ll soon run up against limitations and disappointments. Believing that anyone’s basis for success or failure is shaped largely, even exclusively, by a human psyche compels us to focus on outward appeal rather than on discerning our true character.
Christian Science offers a view of identity that’s so much more than a material personality bound up with both talents and flaws, strengths and shortcomings. It explains authentic individuality in relation to the all-good Spirit or infinite Mind called God. It defines identity as Spirit’s image and likeness and therefore as unlimited in its expression of spiritual qualities, such as intelligence, creativity, inspiration, unselfishness, and joy.
Developing a better view of our spiritual identity can help us challenge and solve the problems inherent in a personality-based view of life.
So, where can we start in recognizing our genuine (if yet unrecognized) character? I’ve found that it begins with gaining a stronger, clearer understanding of who and what God is. Then we come to understand ourselves and others as inseparable from God, as reflecting God’s all-good character and attributes. We recognize “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
To effectively leave behind the “old” man, the limited concept called human personality, we need to distinguish between the deceptive human façade, which ultimately defines none of us, and the genuine spiritual attractiveness of God’s goodness that we individually and eternally reflect. This includes embracing the totality of God as the one infinite Mind or Soul and dropping the limited view of ourselves as mortal entities with a psyche or soul of our own. In this way, we welcome the spiritual freedom of infinite Soul.
Christian Science offers a view of identity that’s so much more than a material personality bound up with both talents and flaws, strengths and shortcomings.
As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, “This scientific sense of being, forsaking matter for Spirit, by no means suggests man’s absorption into Deity and the loss of his identity, but confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 265).
Disengaging from the enticement of “personal brand” loyalty involves maintaining a consistently uplifted, spiritual view of everyone. It leads us to recognize ourselves and others not as what we appear to be outwardly, but as the exact representation of God, where labels and false pretense peel away and “the new man” or our real identity stands front and center.
When our perception of our fellow men and women is more consistently based on spiritual character rather than personality, we are naturally lifted out of low self-esteem and any temptation to put others on a pedestal simply for having a personality we find attractive.
It’s generally easier to denounce the material, temporal view when it’s ugly or dissatisfying; it feels harder when it’s enticing or satisfies our own self-interest. Honest, insightful prayer exposes and denounces this deceptive tendency of human existence.
All human façades are misleading. They’re superficial, unreliable measurements that don’t represent our true being as God’s creation. Failure to see this clouds our right estimate of others—and ourselves. It also limits our ability to heal sickness and sin through prayer in Christian Science. An article in Mrs. Eddy’s Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896 warns that “. . . intensely contemplating personality impedes spiritual growth; even as holding in mind the consciousness of disease prevents the recovery of the sick” (p. 308).
Because our individuality is truly the reflection of divine Spirit or Soul, we are empowered to see through, and divest ourselves of, the belief of being beholden to either our own personality or that of others. I’ve been grateful for the spiritual growth this understanding has brought to me since that early job interview. And I’ve seen it bless the lives of others in the years since.
The more we understand that God’s—divine Love’s—assets of authenticity, integrity, humanity, and goodness are divinely reflected by all, including us, the more we’ll see our own character enlarged and perfected. We’ll discover increased energy, more spiritually grounded relationships, and more certain success in whatever we do.
Kevin Graunke, Guest Editorial Writer