If you were asked to identify yourself you would probably get out some form of ID. There is bound to be something you carry that describes you –your physical description and probably your relationship to other people or an organization. You might have a driver’s license; an employee badge; a debit or credit card; a library card; a union card; military dog tags or a law enforcement officer’s badge. Those are but a few of the many types of IDs we take with us almost everywhere we go. My main two are a driver’s license and a badge to get into the buildings where I work.
One of the greatest fears we people have is that of losing our identity. Identity theft is a common topic in the news these days. It even shows up as an attention getting headline on credit card advertisements. When someone uses our name, account numbers and passwords, they can take everything we own and make life miserable. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone looking for a misplaced purse or billfold after leaving them behind at a restaurant or store. The whole time my stomach was filled with anxiety about what could happen if it was picked up by the “wrong person.”
On TV and in print, there are advertisements about safeguarding against this kind of theft. Those ads are for services to monitor credit reports –to detect fraud– and for insurance plans –to pay for credit card misuse.
As important as our identity is in regard to finances and possessions, there is an even more important identity based on who and what we are. Here’s an example. When a man is asked to describe himself, he will typically respond by saying what he does for his work; he’s an engineer, or carpenter, or auto mechanic, etc. It’s the first thing he talks about when he’s around other men. On the other hand, a woman identifies herself by her relationships with her family and others; she’s a mom, a daughter, a wife, a friend . . . And that’s usually a part of what she talks about with other women.
Without any malicious intent involved, these intangible identities can be also lost. It happens when the children leave home and that mom is no longer a mom –or when her husband passes away and she’s not a wife anymore. After a man is laid-off or retires, he’s no longer recognized by his occupation. These identities become the very purpose of our lives. And their loss can translate into having no reason for living.