Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What Role Will You Play Today?

In this PLPT guest post, Professor/Pastor Lawrence Ware helps us to evaluate the difference between being ourselves versus playing out the roles we identify with.


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We live in a time of role-play. We are all labeled as something: black, white, smart, stylish, mom, dad, employee, Christian, Muslim.

We all have a role—and we play our roles well. We identify with our roles. In fact, we feel empty without them. We take tests to figure out ‘what’ we are. Are we introverts? Extroverts? Visual learners? Type A personalities? Simply read the Facebook updates of your friends to see the role they have adopted for the day.

We love roles. We so identify with our roles, that if one were to be taken away—stripped, really—we would be lost. We see ourselves as the significant other of another human being, and when that role dies, a piece of us dies as well. We crave roles. We need to be something to someone.

There is just one problem. Roles can be confining.

We can allow ourselves to be someone’s something for so long, so intensely, that we forget who we were to begin with. We can spend so much time trying to be everything for everyone else that we forget to be ourselves.

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard has something to say here that is of significance:

A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him.

What Kierkegaard says here is simple to understand. Peace and joy are within, not without. The roles we play are all defined and sustained by what is external. They feel internal, but they are external. A mother must have children; a teacher needs students. Roles are what people and things say you are—not who you are.

You are not the role you play. You are not what others need you to be. You are not the content of your bank account or your credit score. You are not your degree, your job description, or your resume. You are not a mother or a sister. You are not a lover or a fighter.

You are you, and all those things are in addition to who you are. Let roles be what they are—things you step into, but not things that define who you are.

The holiday season is a time for gifts. So let me give you one: yourself. Stop overly identifying with the roles you play. Stop feeling like you need to be the perfect mother, wife, or lover; be who you are, who you were born to be. Be free.

Lawrence Ware is lecturing professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University and Pastor of Christian Education at Prospect Church. He writes for Tikkun and Religion Dispatchers all while living in Oklahoma City with his wife and sons.

3 comments:

Marie said...

Wow...right on time!!!
It seems, playing roles throughout life, you lose sight of just being who you really are. You become this chameleon; changing/adjusting yourself when in different role environments. You may be one way at home, and another at work...One way with family, and another with friends...etc.
Thank you so much for distinguishing the fact that YOU are indeed separate from the roles you play.
This post gave me some clarity!
Thanks again:)

♥ CG ♥ said...

Definitely on point. With all the false personas becoming increasingly prevelant those who understand these truths will always have the upper hand.

Jess said...

Oh how I love this! It is exactly what I'm figure out right now in my life. I am not the blank (as in "I am _____") I simply am.

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