By Karen Wright
Recently a new evening comedy TV show debuted called Samantha Who. I watched once or twice, but the show's premise was much more interesting to me than the plot. Samantha was a 30 something female who had just awakened from a lengthy coma. Although she was otherwise okay, her entire memory was gone. She had no idea what her life had been like, who her family or friends were, or even who she was.
In the episodes I watched her family, friends, and co-workers all helped Samantha remember her life by telling her about herself - from their perspective, of course. And this is where it got interesting. Each person had a very different take on who Samantha was. Some saw her as sweet, helpful, and kind. Others told her she was ruthless and conniving. Some welcomed her return to the living with loving arms and some seethed their hatred at every turn.
Can you imagine the confusion she felt? Put yourself in her shoes. Who would your acquaintances tell you you are? Fortunately, few of us have experienced a coma or amnesia. Unfortunately, most of us allow others to define who we are and how we live. Before you object, consider this.
- Are you in the perfect job which gives you to opportunity to use your most cherished talents?
- Do your spouse and friends love you for exactly who you are - warts and all?
- When those around dress, talk, or believe differently than you do, do you feel you have to blend in to be liked?
If you change yourself to please another, you're giving them the power to define you. When you laugh at a demeaning joke that you don't find funny at all, just to fit in, you're placing others' acceptance above self honor. Abandoning yourself to wear an acceptable mask is self abuse.
That might sound extreme, but we've been encouraged all our lives to blend in, not rock the boat, hide our differences, please others. As a child such actions would often be rewarded with the love and attention we craved. We might not have had the wisdom to know it then, but as an adult we can now more easily see that when someone loves our mask, they aren't really loving us - they don't even know who we really are because often we don't know who we really are either. We've accommodated the world for so long that we've lost ourselves. To paraphrase a Mark 8:36 Bible passage, what good is gaining the world's approval if you lose yourself?
You are a most unique person. One-of-a-kind. Your laugh; your opinions; your talents. The world has never seen anyone like you before... and it never will again. You aren't here to fit in - you're here to stand out. Your life is a gift from God, but it's not yours to keep. It's on loan. It's yours only so long as you give it away. Your talents are meant to serve life. Your passions are meant to connect you to your true contribution. Disowning any part of yourself and adopting the preference of others dishonors you.
Take some time this week and notice when and how you let others determine who you are and what you do. This is not their responsibility or right - it's yours. If you don't really know who you are without them, find out. Spend some time alone. Listen to what your heart is saying - not your mind. Your mind wants to fit in; your heart knows you already do in the only way that counts.
Samantha's world is a clear parody for the confusion of listening to the world's opinion of who we are. And it's equally clear that it has no idea. It's time you told it! It's time you knew.