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Friday, April 29, 2011

IDENTITY/CHARACTER FORMATION

Sabbath Sermon By Hezron Zacharia Onditi

Main Text: Proverbs 22:6

There are two questions which each one of us should be able to answer at the end of this sermon:
1. Do I know and am I proud of my personal Identity?
2. How did I develop into who I am?

What is identity?
The concept of identity is frequently used in different social context and disciplines. It may be used to describe individuals’ and groups: race, ethnicity, religion, language, culture, origin, social roles etc. Therefore, in its broader meaning identity refers to people’s concept of who they are and how they relate with others.


To be specific, Personal identity which is the focus of today’s sermon refers to a set of attributes, beliefs, thoughts, and principles of actions that a person thinks distinguishes him/her from others. In other words it is a personal moral code or compass, a set of principles that a person uses as normative framework or philosophy/ideology (used in making judgment btw good/bad) which guides his/her actions/operations (Fearon and Erickson, 1999 & 1950’s). They are relatively unique and stable character about an individual (who am I/who really am I). Do you really know who you are/I am? As CHRISTIANS We need to be conscious of our identities whether they are good or bad. For example, people react differently towards pleasing or unpleasing events or actions. Imagine you are abused or insulted as STUPID. Do you think we will have a similar response??? No. This is due to variations in our personal identities (cognition, feelings, and actions).

This shows that, there are two extremes of personal identity. The positive extreme which is equated with good character or behavior; faithfulness, humbleness, self control, meekness, love generous etc. These leads to pride, honor, self respect and individual’s dignity. Contrary, the negatives extreme of personal identity is equated with bad/deviant/sinful characters or behaviors (2 Timothy 3:2-4; lovers of themselves/money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient, unforgiving…) though unique, but not acceptable and makes us feel shame before others in the society. For example, having a negative self concept, low self esteem; aloof, laziness, liar, prostitute, gay, lesbian, thief just to mention a few.

THE FORMATION OR DEVELOPMENT OF IDENTITY
All human beings are children of God. I am, you are…
Thus, an adult is a grown up child of God.

Developmental psychologists: An adult life is made up of experiences acquired through life from childhood. Thus, an adult is a grown up child.

No one can get identity by oneself; it is never individual achievement but an outgrowth of mutual/shared/joint social recognition process which starts from cradle/birth to eternity.
If all could realize this, and would awake to the fact that we are our own identity and the identity of our children for eternal life or eternal ruin, what a change/revival would take place!
How differently would our probationary time be occupied, and with what noble character would our world be filled! Genesis 1: 31; God saw all that he had made (including you and me), and it was very good/Impeccable.

Contrary, the world is no longer safe since the dwellers are behaving against the laws of God. For instance, bizarre/deviant behaviors are currently dominating news. It is very rare to hear about good news. Common news are acts contrary to the ACTS/FRUITS OF SPIRIT which are love, peace, kindness, humility, patience, endurance; This is because we have not strongly identified ourselves with the Ten Commandments Exodus 20:3-17.

The common news are wars, killings, violation of human rights, corruption, riots, throwing of babies, leaders forcefully cling to power, unfaithfulness. Brethren, The world is confused to the extent of compromising with TRUTH, telling lies is currently known as diplomacy, committing adultery/prostitution has been baptized as commercial sex work, born again compromises with born a gay ideology.

All these are the outcome of character or identity formation. An interesting question one would like to answer is how does identity/character develop? I am who I am because of my character/Identity. As we have said earlier, this is a long life process which starts from birth.

How does Identity/character develops?
Developmental Psychologist (Erick Erickson, 1902-1994) argues that identity formation extends from birth to adulthood. Successful resolution of developmental issues (conflicts) during earlier stages in childhood, leads into stable positive identity in adulthood. On the other hand, failure to resolve development issues (conflicts) during childhood leads to deviant behaviors, identity confusion or relapse in adulthood.

For example, He argues that During infancy there is a crisis (opportunity) between becoming TRUSTING or a MISTRUSTING person. Children who will receive adequate maternal LOVE and CARE by being fed regularly, other basic needs consistently satisfied-make such children to trust themselves and own bodies as they grasp, hold, craw, stand and walk. This leads into adult who are trustful, time conscious, hopeful and faithful. Unhealthy experiences at this stage such as lack of love and care, irregularity in provision of basic needs or not meeting their needs will result into: Mistrust of others and one’s self, not believing others and having no time conscious/do not keep time and unfaithfulness.
In his second stage of development (btw 18months and 3.5 years). The crisis is btw Autonomy and Shame/doubt. Successful resolution leads into: individuals who are independent minded who have ability to make choices freely and self autonomous. Failure to resolve conflict due to harshness and unfair punishment leads to: individual who is, shameful, fearful, dependent, skeptical/doubtful and meek compliance.

Other conflicts are such as: Initiative Vs Guilty (Curiosity and exploration. Ask a lot of questions), Industry Vs Inferiority (feelings of success and recognition of their work, failure of recognition leads into inferiority) and …

The success way of coping with the challenges of adolescence and adulthood challenges relies on earlier experiences in childhood. This is because, earlier training help individuals in later stage in the formation of his or her personal life philosophy or ideology. Young peoples who are attracted to deviant behaviors such as: substance abuse, aggression, suicide or suicidal attempts, eating disorders, establishing and maintaining relationships, teenage pregnancy and dropping out of schools reflect unresolved earlier difficulties with mistrust, shame, meekness compliance, doubt, guilty, and inferiority feelings.

How can this be achieved in the context of our faith?
‘The great work of parents and teachers is character building-seeking to restore the image of Christ in those placed under their care Sister E.G White (1941), Counsels to parents, teachers, and students p.61’. Bold

Building on the solid rock, Jesus Christ (Mathew 7:24-27). When the rain came down, floods came, winds blew; yet it will not fall due to firm foundation. These are those (wise men) who hears the words and puts them into practice. But everyone who hears words and do not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, streams rose, and the wind blew and beat the house and it fell with a great crash.
The Lord recognizes different levels of education starting from pre-primary (daycare, kindergarten), primary, and secondary to University. However, ‘In His wisdom the Lord has decree that the family shall be the greatest of all educational agencies ibid p.107.’
Experience shows that, parents recognize pre-primary and other educational levels as the greatest agencies in their children’s development. Contrary to Gods plan, these agencies ultimately dictate on the future identity and characters of our children.

The ideal God’s plan as written in Proverbs 22:6 is that “Train up a child in a way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This suggests that, it is in the home where education and the identity formation of the child begin. PARENTS are the first instructors.

LESSONS to learn: Psychologists says that, at birth a child’s brain is empty and needs to be enriched as she or he develops. It’s like a new computer which requires the installation of the programmes. The owner of the computer dictates on the program he/she wants and that is what he/she feeds the computer. The issue of OWNERSHIP and WANTS dominates.

In a similar mode, a child is expected to acquire skills and experiences that will guide him throughout life. It is important to note that, children may be trained for SIN or RIGHTEOUSNESS. They need to get a right, strong and firm foundation, good framework for daily operations which should consistently polished and perfected.

These ranges from physical training (proper food and psychomotor development), mental (critical thinking) and spiritual instructions (moral education); lessons of respect, obedience, reverence, self-control, self-confidence, decision making, independent mind, self esteem and all other moral values. Sustained training of these lessons is likely to lead into a GOD fearer character/Identity among grown up children which is me and you. Home school is the secret behind the model identities and characters in the bible for example Moses, Joseph, Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Aberdenego. Don’t we admire to be like them? Or our children be like them? Personally I and my children admire to be like them.

PARENTS SKILL. The work of educating children is very sensitive and demanding one. It is improper for parents to give proper training unless they are first given themselves to GOD, learning from the great teacher lessons of obedience, self control and humility.

Parenting styles; Authoritarian, Authoritative and laisser-faire.
Parents, let the instruction you give your children be simple, and be sure it is clearly understood. Use simple lessons drawn from the bible and their experience. Nature and the environment should be their main book at early age. Having active prayer timetable at home and they should be taught to respect and reverence the hour of prayer. Talk to them deligently when at home, when walking along the road, when you lie down and when you get up Deutronomy 6:7. Gentleness and persistent is needed in training children.

“Ibid p.111. The mother is the queen of the home, and the children are her subject. She is to rule her household wisely, in the dignity of her motherhood. Her influence in the home is to be paramount… if she is a Christian, under God’s control, she will command the respect of her children…” The future well being of the child requires kindly, loving, but firm decisions from early age.

In the process of training children, many parents go to the opposite extreme of ruling their children with a rod/cane. Though it is written that parents should not deprive/spare children from the rod, the use of cane/rod scares children and distort the relationship between the two parties. Personally, I have a bad experience with canes, thus I hate it to the extreme!!!
Although they are easily pleased and easily made unhappy, never should parents correct their children in anger and cause them pain by harshness or unreasonable exactions. Harshness drives souls into Satan’s net. However, whipping may be necessary when other resorts fail; it should be administered in love by making the child sees its sense. Christians should avoid practices of child abuse such; over whipping, burning their hands, depriving them from food, shelter etc.

To wise parents “…rules and regulations must be made and enforced, that the beauty of the home life may not be spoiled ibid.p.112” if it is their desire to have happier, and far happier life in the future, parents needs to dedicate ample time, energy and ability to the work of saving their children.

If a child is not instructed well at home level, satan will educate him/her through its agencies (ibid’p.107). Probably, the identity of a significant number of church members today and the current world practices, evils and abominations (unfaithfulness among church members, lack of brotherly love, jealousy, envy, lie, unstable marriages, hatred, world lifestyles, dilemmas among young people, wars, adultery, corruption, evil tempers, selfish desires etc), are the product of Satanic rearing agencies.

If it is true that you were neglected at childhood, then your parents have a case to answer in the judgment day because they did not play the special role of training you at early stage and left to be a ‘victims of circumstances’. If they did, then it is our case because we have not been willing to cherish the good spiritual teachings from our parents.

Brethren!!!!, The child who is spoiled has a heavy burden to carry throughout life. In trials, in disappointment, in temptation, in decisions making he or she will follow his or her undisciplined, misdirected will. This finally becomes the inheritance of his or her adulthood character/identity.

Conclusion
Brethren: all of the three major readings the Bible, Spirit of Prophesy and Developmental Psychologists all acknowledge the role of earlier education in the formation of individual’s identity. As Christian parents, we either contribute in developing CHRISTIAN or SATANIC identities in our children. Hence have a role in determining their future identities when they grow old. Though we may feel of having heavy burden to carry due to our poor backgrounds, the blood of JESUS Christ which was shed at the cross is enough to provide you with a new identity which will make you to be like a wise man who built his house in a solid rock which stood firm when floods and wind came it did not fall. WE ONLY NEED TO MAKE REVIVAL AND REFORMATION.

Dear Friends; I have two special appeals to make; ONE, it is likely that someone might have assessed his identity and recognized that his/her parents did not play their whole duty of TRAINING them as required by GOD; hence, would like GOD to forgive their parents and provide them with a NEW TRUE Christian Identity.

SECOND, as parents, it is likely that we have been trying to bring up our children using various approaches e.g., house girls, boys, relatives, grandparents and nursery schools; but, after this sermon you may feel that you have an extra duty to do as parents in bringing up your children in a way that they should go: and PRAY that they should not depart from it when they grow old.

1 comment:

  1. For us teachers this would be lecture on special eduction/earl childhood education.

    ReplyDelete