Identity Beacon

Illuminating Possibilities

Identity Beacon - Illuminating Possibilities

For the sake of humanity, join the Ubuntu party!

Politics has gotten in the way of our humanity and it’s time to change that. To borrow a phrase from the 1976 movie, Network, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

So, here’s my proposal: Let’s launch a new party — a decidedly unpolitical party — dedicated to celebrating the stuff that makes us who we are at our core, and that we can all get behind. Further, I propose we name that party the Ubuntu Party.

Ubuntu is a term meaning “humanity,” whose origins trace back to Southern Africa. According to Wikipedia, Ubuntu is often translated as “humanity towards others,” but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.”

One of the key markers of Ubuntuism is what is termed “extroverted communities” — the idea that there is sincere warmth with which people treat both strangers as well as members of an existing community. (Translated for today’s rabid climate, this refers to the people who don’t agree with me and the people who do).

There is an Ubuntu deficit in America today and we’re all suffering for it. There’s just too little appreciation of the fact that we are one, human community, our differences notwithstanding. This is not a political statement. I do not care which side of the political spectrum you lean into or who you voted for. I do care about how we treat one another, how we speak to and listen to one another, how we build communities that will be productive and self-sustaining.

According to a recent CBS News poll, 7 in 10 people — regardless of party affiliation — say the country is losing its identity. The article opens with these words: “We can’t even agree what it means to be an American.” That may be the case. But can’t we at least agree what it means to be human? I’d like to think so.

We’d do well to bring a little more Ubuntuism into our lives.

 

The problem with “identity” (Fixing it is up to you)

Do you know what the word of the year was in 2015? It was ”identity” according to Dictionary.com.

Why has identity become a hot topic today? Why was “identity” the word of the year in 2015? Chalk it up to the new individualism — a world where we’ve become keenly aware of, and more vocal about what defines us, thanks to the opportunity social media has unleashed to publicly assert yourself. (Ironically, despite its many blessings, social media has contributed to the problem by enabling people to create “identities” which may have nothing to do with who they really are.)

Why does personal identity matter? Because it fuels not simply a sense of who you believe you are, but as a result, the choices you make such as where to work, whom to call a friend (or enemy), and indeed which political candidate gets your vote.

Taken together, our identity-centric lives are coalescing into potent, new communities demarcated by beliefs, both spoken and unspoken, that increasingly influence how well society functions — or doesn’t — economically, socially and politically.

So, what’s the problem?

For all the attention this “identity trend” is receiving, it reinforces an impression that actually diminishes rather than expands upon what it means to be fully human. Indeed, the notion of “identity politics” undermines the deeper meaning of human identity.

The actual ‘problem with identity’ may be a matter of meaning. As the word of the year in 2015,identity’ suggests the timeless fact that we all long to belong. We yearn to tie ourselves to a group, a tribe, a community we can call our own. But that isn’t the deepest meaning of the word.

What I’ve learned over three decades is that your essential identity – your distinctive, value-creating characteristics – springs naturally from the core of your being – a place that is blind to classifications, transcending gender, ethnicity, religion, and every other label we adopt as a way to locate ourselves in the world. You are simply you: unique and powerful in your own right.

With this in mind, identity’s 2015 “word win” may reflect the sobering fact that it was the most used, least understood term out there.

When your definition of identity is based upon a descriptive label rather than the special contribution you’re capable of making as an individual, you short-change yourself, those you care most about, and society as a whole. Why? Because, to paraphrase a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, you leave your music inside.

How you can help fix the identity problem

It’s pretty simple. To borrow another quote from Holmes, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Don’t let the pull of labels or social media distract you from tapping into and applying your innate identity to your life. Everyone will benefit including your co-workers, your friends, your children, your spouse or partner and, most of all, you.

At bottom, having a clear sense of identity is the key to shaping a life marked by authenticity and integrity –- knowing what to do, what not to do, and why.

Here’s one more quote to take away. It’s from British artist, illustrator and teacher, Evelyn Mary Dunbar: “We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.”

I hope you agree.

 

 

 

Can kids learn the joy of giving?

We live, as the Chinese saying goes, in “interesting times.” Wild politics. A fragile global economy. A fundamental shift in the distribution of wealth. It’s hard to navigate these treacherous waters no matter who you are. Taking rather than giving seems to be the underlying mandate. The unspoken theme? “How do I hold onto what I have … or get more of it if that’s even possible?”

That’s mostly “adult talk.” So, what about the children? How do we prepare them to navigate these waters? I vote for kindness; more specifically, I vote for teaching our kids about the joy of giving rather than taking.

The other day, I came across a wonderful article on how we can help our kids understand — and practice — the joy of giving.

The article names five practices for parents; in brief:

  • Be intentional — Make a point of talking to your children about giving and charity
  • Think beyond your family — Let children know that they’re part of a larger community; even that they are “global citizens”
  • Involve kids in decisions — Include your children in discussions about to whom something should be given and why
  • Gift outside the box — Consider the value of giving experiences not just things
  • Include the art of receiving — Learning how to receive gifts gracefully and with gratitude is as important as giving

This deceptively simple piece, and the wisdom it offers, might just renew your faith in what it means to be human. It did for me.

If after reading this intriguing article, you’re moved by its insights, share it with others. Our future depends on it. Let me know what you think.

 

Who am I? – Mapping your identity

Most people consider the question, who am I, to be some deep, cosmic idea that defies a clear answer. Further, most people think it’s a question one can address only after you’ve got more than a few decades of living under your belt.

Wrong on both counts. Getting to know “you” in a real, articulate and meaningful way, is entirely doable and can start at almost any age. I’ve had lucid identity conversations with 10 and 11 year-olds. Through a process called Identity Mapping, I’ve worked with students, 13-19+, as well as people their parents’ age. Here’s a secret: they all get it.

I recently came across an article by a young girl, Julia R., in Teen Ink magazine that caught my attention. Julia understands a basic tenet of identity development. She writes: I dislike saying “‘I am trying to find myself’ because my identity is not lost, it just needs more uncovering.” Right on, Julia! You’re not inventing you, you’re discovering you. The name of the article is, Who Am I? Here’s the link.  http://bit.ly/Abg3yQ

I’ve found that Identity Mapping is a powerful way to uncover one’s unique capacities and then apply those powerful strengths to school, your career, your family, your community and other important relationships.

Imagine being in complete alignment with who you really are. Identity Mapping is designed to tap the creativity, vision and potential that resides in all of us, no matter our age.

For more on how to uncover the potential your identity holds – see this link.