Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Chronicles of Sebastian - Identity: Who Are You?

Last week, speaking on natural hair and the beauty of Nigerians, I briefly touched the issue of 'being who you are', which falls under the topic of identity. Identity - a big and vague word that we’ve heard a few times, yet I feel we don’t really know how it relates to our lives. In my mind, identity basically has to do with how you view yourself and who you think you are. Notice that your view of yourself might be different from how you actually are - a beautiful girl can consider herself as ugly due to insecurity, comparisons, unfaithful boyfriends etc.


Being in a different country such as Nigeria helped me to see how important the concept of identity is and how it shapes so many lives, my own included. As Christians, we are set-apart and loved sons and daughters (see Ayo’s 'Dear Daddy' posts) of a God who owns, supports, redeems, guides and loves us deeply. Not only that, God made each of his children unique: our culture, parents, body features, humor, talents, desires, weaknesses shape us, and the special combination of these features gives each person a distinctive role in society and in His kingdom. Yet, we so often forget these truths and struggle with who we are by wishing we were someone else and by constantly comparing ourselves with others.


Here are some identity issues that I’ve observed or faced myself in Nigeria:

1. Some Nigerians compare themselves too much - Coming from a rather individualistic society where no one really cares how you are dressed and sometimes even who you are, I noticed that many of my Nigerian friends think a great deal about how others perceive them: lots of money is spent on new shoes, hair styles, golden necklaces and watches (that sometimes don’t even work, but they are put on anyway!) and oftentimes these things are shared rather proudly on Facebook. These comparisons are often fueled by gossip about the latest 'gist' on fashion, bad-looking people, hot girls etc. It sometimes felt like an invisible competition going on, which is sad, because it makes people unhappy und restless. Now I am not against dressing up nicely, yet doing so just for the sake of being seen and praised will draw you away from your identity in Christ Jesus.
Abeg, for your own sake: Leave this game of comparisons. Your friend is flying Aero and you’re still using Peace Mass? No wahala! Rejoice with him and sponsor him a Coke, this will make him and you more happy than being jealous!

2. Tribalism often undermines national unity. I love the different tribes and I love Nigeria as a whole and I do think that both the tribes and the nation should be upheld. But all too often I’ve heard members of one tribe speaking badly about another. Igbos are supposed to be money-greedy, all Hausas are 'Boko Haram', the South-South is Sodom and Gomorrah and roadless Ebonyi state has yet to be civilized. Before you nod your head, let me say that having been in Enugu, Jos, Calabar and even Ebonyi state I can say that I found most of these statements not to be true or at least very one-sided.
It is okay to see yourself as an Igbo or Yoruba person and to celebrate your unique dances and to eat your local food (I love Abacha by the way :) ). However, we need to be careful not to criticize others and not to only see ourselves as a member of a tribe or a nation, but first and foremost as a Christian who happens to belong to a certain tribe. This will enable you to love others and be around them, regardless of their background.


3. The grass is not always greener on the other side. The most joyful Nigerians I’ve met were those who were happy to be in the Lord and who were not ashamed of being a Nigerian. Those who constantly tried to imitate white people (their music, styles etc.) and who complained to me how their country sucks and how they wish they can be in Germany were usually not that happy. It is good to travel and to see different places, but one thing I’ve learnt in my short life is that true and deep joy can only be found in a secure identity as a Christian, not so much through 'perfect circumstances'. Yes, Germans may have more money and yes there may be more jobs, but let me tell you that you won’t see a lot of smiling people on our streets - circumstances never guarantee long-term joy!!


4. We don’t want to be reduced to one feature. My best friends in Nigeria have been those who were interested in me as a (whole) person, not just in me as a 'white guy'. Yes, I am an oyibo and that explains some things, but honestly there is so much more in a person than his or her skin color - dreams, passions, thoughts, problems, friends, relationship drama - you name it! Oftentimes we (I include myself) reduce a person to just one feature, be it he or she being a film star, being poor, being a business man, being beautiful, being Igbo, being a girl, a preacher etc. A wise person has a balanced identity in the sense that he or she not only reduces him- or herself to one feature (“I am an addict”, “I am famous” etc.). An even wiser person tries to treat others the same way - it’s not easy-o, but let’s try :)

5. By just being who you are, you can be a great blessing. Nigerians love to dance, I don’t - people seem amused when I try to 'move'. I’m more of the calm type, while many Nigerian preachers like to shout. But you know what? I don’t have to. In Nigeria, I just tried to let God use me the way I am instead of trying to duplicate Nigerian style. When I was asked to preach, my German mind started to outline a structure of 3-4 points. I thought my teaching style might be boring since I can’t perform miracles, quote Igbo proverbs etc., but some people told me they were blessed by this kind of solid teaching. I’m not saying one style of preaching is better than the other, but I want to suggest that we can complement one another by using our unique gifts. Faking other people’s identity is just stressful and unsatisfying. 

To finish off, let me just quote one Scripture for you:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:1

You’re a 'handmade' child of God, you don’t need to create your own shaky identity derived from the fleeting opinions of this world. What a wonderful thought for all of us! :)


He has prepared a lot of good works and ways you can serve Him and others for us, based on the way he made you and the place he put you into, so joyfully go ahead and walk in these works, in this life he gave you, knowing that your true identity is secure in Him!


I think this is my personal favourite post by Sebastian. It 'spoke' deeply to me.. I understand what it means to want to be like 'everyone else'. Wear the right kind of clothes, buy the latest phones, change my handbags as frequently as I brush my teeth and wear that red-coloured soled pair of shoes (whether I can afford to or not).. The pressure can be much! *fans self*.
It's important to take a seat and ask yourself - "Who or What defines me?" Like Sabs asks, What is your identity founded on? Are you running a rat race dictated by society or your circle of friends?
Do you feel the pressure to do stuff, achieve quick-quick, marry hurriedly because others seem to be doing it now-now?
Thank God for Sebastian, as for me, I choose to be defined by who God says I am as expressly detailed in the bible. Even without make-up, even without the fancy bags, even without a husband, even without a fat bank-balance, even without children, even with my past, I am Ayo Thompson - Complete in Christ Jesus (Col 2:10), Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), the apple of God's eyes (Zec 2:8), His battle-axe on earth (Jer 51:20), His human representation of love (1John 4:11).. 
Who ARE you?


For all previous Chronicles of Sebastian posts, please click HERE.. Join Sabba again next week Wednesday..I look forward to what he will be sharing with us!
Please visit Sebastian's blog It's in German but you can use 'Google translate' if English translation is required - Lovely lovely blog!

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  1. I love sebastian's Write up......He always has something to say that inspires me......

  2. This write-up made me think for a few seconds. I realized its so easy to fall less than who God wants us to be about our identity especially when we look all around us.

    May God grant us the strength to know and constantly acknowledge our identity.

    P.S: Sorry for the long post. Please visit Thanks

  3. @Ugo: Thank you, I'm glad I could help somehow and point to God :)
    @ Oluwatosin: Oh yes we are so prone to look around us and start feeling inadequate. Let's try to keep our eyes on God and our feet on the ground.
    @Ayo Thank you for your honest additions below, I loved reading them! :) But don't trust Google Translator, their translations are not always correct ;)

  4. Hmmm.

    Words full of wisdom.

    Everyone is prone to identity crisis regardless of age seeing that we cannot live in isolation but as part of a larger community / society. A lot goes on daily but we just have to keep our eyes on the mark and our minds on the Word...knowing who we are in Him and that there's only one standard to measure up to.

    Thanks, Sebastian.

  5. Than u Seb! Unfortunately the kind of setting we have in Nigeria invariably makes us always seek to measure up to others perceptions.Because whether you like it or not people are always judging,and some actually voice out their often rude or inconsiderate thoughts.
    For instance I weigh about 65/68kg,not fat by any means but cos I have a round face it shows when I put on even one kg and I have to be subjected to "what are you eating"?code for you are fat.I also don't like weaves or wigs or jewelry for that matter.If I could weave my hair in corn rows all day I would be blissful. unfortunately when I attempt to just leave the hair and pack it naturally(i haven't dared weave it yet),i hear comments like"you didn't make your hair" "you look finer when you make your hair"etc.i don't put on earrings for a day and I see suspicious stares following me you know.
    I have a great job,about 20 mins to my house by road and shorter by car.i spend 200naira a day if I don't get a colleague to give me a lift which is rare yet my colleagues disturb me"why don't you buy a car" "with how much you are collecting".meanwhile the cars in my house belonging to my parents I haven't even learnt how to drive one.
    My point is its not as clear cut as you think. Our society places some expectations on us and when you rebel they tend to look at you suspiciously.

  6. Anonymous thank you so much for your honest insights - I've sensed a bit of this pressure in Nigeria, even as a white guy "they" expected me to behave in certain ways (don't play with kids etc.) but I can only imagine how much more people talk when you grow up in Nigeria with family, friends etc.

    I could give quick advise such as "Don't mind them!" but I know that this is easier said than done. Still, please consider these things:

    1. Think about what you'll win or lose: Friends who only like you with 65kg but not with 68kg are not real friends. You can try to please them by meeting their expectations constantly, but to be honest, friends with these demands seem rather superficial - I don't think they're worth the effort.

    2. Take Jesus as a role model: People said all sorts of things about Jesus: "friend of sinners", "devil", "rebel" etc. But Jesus never really cared too much about his reputation, he knew that he could never please everyone. In Mt 11:16-19 he compares people to children who always demand but are never satisfied. Ask Him to give you the same strength to resist "dancing to other people's drums".

    3. In your head, picture who you want to be. Have you ever met someone who was so self-confident that (s)he seemed to "float above" all these earthly petty games? Maybe a wise elderly man, a pastor, a mature friend, even a self-forgetful playing kid. Without trying to imitate them, be inspired by their inner strength and ask God to help you develop this attitude.

    Even with all that, I know it's still not easy, especially in Nigeria, but please don't give up. You seem to have a pure and humble spirit and I put you on my prayer list hoping that God will help you through :)

    1. Thank you.I really do wish I could rise above hateful comments but it's really difficult.Against my will I find myself trying to do things to avoid such comments the next time.i am supposed to travel for a wedding tomorrow but am considering not going cos my colleagues that haven't seen me in a year are going to be there.They will be sure to comment on my "weight gain" cos I was as thin as a rake last year during our training/induction programme.Sounds funny but I saw a couple of them six months ago and next thing I knew I got calls from friends in the headquarters asking if I was pregnant?
      Thanks Again.God bless u and not forgetting Ayo.

  7. Amen brother! I like!! and one plus one I love your honest response at the end of the post :)

  8. I love this post, beautiful message. Know who you are in christ and don't focus on how people will judge, let your focus be on God.
    People will always have on opinion about how you live your life and if listen to those opinions you will lose it.
    Thanks for this wonderful post.

  9. Thank you for this piece, Sebastian! I share your sentiments on all of the points described. As a Nigerian, I have fallen into the trap of competition one-too-many times and not too long ago I decided to really study and understand why the negative competitive spirit stands as the ruling factor in many of our lives. The truth of the matter: we idolize one another. We might scream the name of God in church and quote scriptures every day but if we get to the truth of the matter, we don't actually believe God is enough. We believe people are gods and their opinions will value or devalue us. When more people can accept this truth, more people can actually change the suffering that comes from their competitive obsessions and experience true joy by sincerely choosing God as #1 in their lives.

  10. @Ugo, You're very right, he does
    @Oluwatosin, Amen! not long at all.. It's important to know who God says I am.
    @Sebastian, You rock! :-)
    @Abiola, That's right, our standard should consistently be measured by God.
    @Anonymous, very valid points and I think Sebs addressed it brilliantly in his response.
    @Nikisho, thanks a lot hun xx
    @Sharon, I loved the post as well.. The message never gets old because there's no time limit or insurance against identity crisis.. May God help us to believe in His ability to have made us WELL and complete in Him
    @Ada, hmmm that;s food for thought 'We don't believe God is enough'.. Unfortunately, that's the reality for many people. It takes grace from God to fully trust in hwat He sees in us and begin to see ourselves that way - in and out of season


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