I recently came across a set of talks by Tim and Kathy Keller on the subject of identity, available here:
Why is this important for schools workers, for youth and children’s workers and any one else involved pastorally with young people?
Young people are still developing their sense of identity and they are subject to many influences that will shape and even define them for years to come. Social media is one of the biggest. Most if not all of these influences are modern/post-modern in nature and therefore the development of what Tim Keller calls here the ‘modern identity’ (which if you read wider you may find referred to as ‘internal identity’) is what is likely to prevail. But this type of identity has a number of weaknesses. Recognising these weaknesses helps us understand some of the things that we observe in our society, and particularly in the realms of facebook, twitter and their like.
The most obvious presenting identity issue in our society concerns sexual identity and transgender, and these talks are given in that context. However, the principles outlined have far broader and far reaching application, and are invaluable for our own discipleship and for our discipling of others.
The modern identity underpins behaviours and attitudes that as Christians we may find hard to grasp. This is especially so of those of us who are of an older generation, because it is likely that our upbringing and influences have been more on the traditional side in terms of identity formation. There is a lot of applied wisdom for us here.
The speakers have done us a great service by taking some very complex psychological, philosophical and sociological concepts and distilled them down into something accessible for those of us who do not have those kind of backgrounds. Their insights gave me quite a few ‘lightbulb’ moments, where I had to say, Ah! That’s why that is like that!
I believe that there are very helpful and practical helps here for anyone involved in discipling and pastoring young people. The better we can understand the ways in which young people in our care are being formed, the better placed we will be to help them.