Identity

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One of the books I read last year was Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender. An interesting point the author makes is that we often think that our biology influences what we do, and while that isn’t untrue, it’s just as true that what we do also shapes our biology.

Watching The Rise of Skywalker brought this to mind again. I didn’t like the director’s choice to return to the “Chosen One” trope after the saga finally seemed to be moving away from it in The Last Jedi. But what I did like was the concept that we choose who we become, but we are also responsible for following through on that choice with our actions.

So many of my students, like most of the people I know, get very defensive when they are told that something that they said or did is bigoted, or hurtful, or sometimes just incorrect. And that’s because it can feel like a condemnation, not of the action, but of the person.

Someone might say, “Well that was stupid.” But what the recipient hears is “You’re stupid.” And when it becomes an identifier not of what we do, but of who we are, it nudges us more toward a fixed mindset.

We put labels on people – sometimes on ourselves – based on what they (or we) DO. We even talked about this in our lesson on Characterization. How do we tell what kind of person someone is? Primarily, we base it on their ACTIONS.

Rather than defining yourself as feminist, or racist, or Christian, or anarchist, ask yourself: 

  • Am I a person who advocates the principles of feminism?
  • Am I a person who makes or laughs at racist jokes?
  • Am I a person who treats others as Christ would?
  • Am I a person who accepts and encourages individual responsibility?

We do become known for — and known as — what we repeatedly choose to do. It’s important to be aware of that, and to let that awareness guide our choices. But at the same time, we have the opportunity to see others as more than the sum of their actions. And in thinking of others that way, we encourage them to consider future actions more thoughtfully, and hopefully, to choose actions that help them become the person they truly want to be.

What actions do you want to be known for? What are you doing to become known as that kind of person?

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