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Friday, July 13, 2012

The Four Statuses for Identity Formation

I have be reading plenty on "image" and "identity" recently because I am teaching on the topic at my friends church this weekend in Lancaster, CA. It is interesting to note there are four statuses in identity formation. I found myself in "Identity Achievement" because I have placed my identity not only in Christ, but in the goals I have accomplished (and still will continue to have bigger goals) as a teacher for the glory of God. Baker Academic's own Evangelical Dictionary of Christian Education explains the four identity formations that take place in individuals which lead to their identity status (pp. 353-354).

1. Identity Achievement
The identity achievement individual is one who has experience an exploration (crisis) period and is committed to self chosen ideological and occupational goals. This individual has seriously considered various occupational alternatives and he has his own decision, even though it may be influenced by parents. He or she has evaluated past beliefs and resolved issues so as to act responsibly and would be capable of handling unexpected responsibilities or a sudden change in environment. This is the desired status of the four degrees of identity formation.

2. Identity Diffusion.
The identity diffusion individual has no set occupational or ideological direction, even though he may have explored alternatives extensively. The individual lacks commitment in both areas and is not very concerned about it. He or she may indicate an occupational leaning, but would easily switch to something else more appealing if there were an opportunity. He or she is either uninterested in ideological issues or takes a "smorgasbord" approach where every position and cause is of equal value.

3. Identity Foreclosure.
The identity foreclosure individual is committed to occupational and ideological positions, but has not experienced any crisis or exploration of alternatives. This person's choices have been made by parents or other influential persons. he or she is becoming what others have intended for him or her to be. The individual's personality is characterized by rigidity. If a situation is encountered where parental values are challenged or are not adequate, the individual feels severely threatened. Identity formation should move from moratorium to achievement as youth mature through late adolescence (18-21 years old).

4. Identity Moratorium.
The identity moratorium individual is currently struggling with occupational and ideological issues. He is in an "identity crisis." he is actively involved in the struggle to make commitments in both areas. Adolescent issues preoccupy him as he attempts to compromise between his parents' wishes, his own capabilities, and society's expectations. He is vitally concerned and often consumed with what seems to him to be unresolvable questions. This is the most common status of adolescents.

The Identity Status
Everyone needs to find there identity. "Identity" is an internal, self-constructed, dynamic organization of drives, abilities, beliefs, and individual history. The major task for adolescents is to form a coherent, integrated, and workable identity that will guide them into young adult life, adult responsibility, and successful task completion in later stages. But the most important question to answer is "Who am I?" Identity does not originate in adolescence. Form birth onward the child learns what is important and valued in his culture as he and the community respond to one another's behavior.

Question: Do You Have Goals for the Glory of God?
After reading this, what group do you find yourself in? Do you have any goals in life? Do you follow any principles in life to make you successful? Remember, these statuses reveal different stages in the lives of people and what they discover who they "want to be" one day. The goals and principles do not have to be just occupational as in "I want to be a doctor" or "I want to work for Apple," or ideological as in "I want to help society" or "I want serve my country." Rather, ask yourself if you have discovered who you are in Christ, and what does the Lord want you to do for him. Has God called you to do something? Then do it well for his glory! Has God called you to go somewhere? Then go in his name! There are too many people who wait for the perfect situation to arise and then they will aim for excellence. I was convicted of this recently and have been relentlessly pursuing what the next goals are for my family and I the next few years.

Everything boils down to this: Christians must place their identity in Christ and aim high for excellence for the glory of God. If you do not have any goals, then it is time to invest in some. They can be practical, spiritual, or vocational. It can begin with practical as in "I want to be a good employee to represent my faith" or spiritual "I want to be holy and avoid the lust of the flesh," or vocational "I want to be a teacher." Biblical dentity formation resides in the pursuit of accomplishing great things for the Lord. As John Piper said wisely, "God is most glorified when you are most satisfied in him." When you find your identity in Christ and pursue what he is calling you to do or where to go, you will indeed find everlasting satisfaction for the rest of your life.

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

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