Broken is not who you are

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

woman sitting on ground lit by a sunbeam in a dark forest setting
Image by Pexels from Pixabay


If I were to ask you who you are, you would likely respond with a list of labels in an attempt to describe yourself.

Perhaps you would tell me your gender or what you do for a living or something about what you look like. You might list the roles you play in your family life—spouse, parent, child, sibling. Maybe you would categorize yourself by religious or political beliefs. Or maybe you would mention favorite hobbies, volunteer work, or other activities you engage in.

No matter how true any of these labels and categories might be, none of them are really who you are.

You are even more than any of these labels can possibly contain. In fact, you are more than all of those labels put together!

This is even more true when it comes to a label like "broken."

The limits of labels

It's been over 25 years ago now, but I clearly remember some advice my mother had for me as I was getting divorced.

She told me that it was very important that I not take on the identity of a "divorced woman." Yes, I was a woman who was getting a divorce, but that divorce did not define me and was not the most important thing about who I was. She urged me not to let "divorced" take the top billing of how I thought of myself.

I was a whole person first and foremost. My status as divorced was just one small piece of information about me.

It sure didn't feel that way at the time because the divorce felt like it took up my whole world and my whole identity, but she was right.

Refusing to allow the divorce to become (in my own mind) my leading descriptor of who I was gave me space to heal and grow in the aftermath of what was a very painful time.

It reminded me over and over again when I most needed it that there was more to me than this one broken relationship.

Broken as a label

Thinking of ourselves as "broken" is even more problematic than a label like "divorced."

Broken is a feeling. Yes, there may be some part of us that truly is broken (like a broken arm or leg). Yes, our hearts may feel broken. Yes, some part of our lives may feel broken because of trauma or losses that feel too big to bear.

But YOU are not broken. You are more than any part of you that feels broken.

Even when that feeling of brokenness or grief is so large that it seems to be encompassing your whole world, you are still more than the part of you that feels broken.

Broken is still just a feeling. YOU are still whole and complete and more than this feeling.

Claiming the label of broken as a primary descriptor of who you are limits your space to heal and grow because it leaves no room for you to be more than broken.

It sounds like simple semantics, but reminding yourself that you feel broken rather than taking on the identity of broken can make a world of difference in being able to stay connected to all of you that is more than the part of your life that has fallen apart.

Who you are

Thomas Merton, a monk and mystic in the mid-1900s, once had a vision on a busy street corner in Louisville, KY, where he suddenly saw just how connected he truly was with all of the people (strangers) around him and how amazing each person was with the spark of the Divine in them.

He later wrote of the experience in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, saying:

There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. . . . Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed.

That is who you are!

Even when you are feeling broken and overwhelmed with grief and pain, you are still "walking around shining like the sun" because you are still so much more than that feeling.

Can you imagine what a difference it would make to move through life seeing yourself that way?

And can you imagine how it would change your relationships (even those "difficult" ones) if you could see everyone else that way too?

No matter how broken you may be feeling (and there's no denying that reality), it's still not who you are. You are more than the feeling of brokenness. You are more than any other limiting label you could ever come up with.

In fact, you really are "walking around shining like the sun."


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