I have been a writer for a lonnnnggggg time, and a would-be writer for twenty or so years before that! As a result of this deep, burning, God-Given desire, I spent a lot of time both honing my craft and learning about it. One of the more intriguing things that I discovered was in an article in the November, 1989 issue of WRITER’S MARKET titled “CORE OF CHARACTERIZATION” by famed novelist Professor of Writing Jack Bickham.
In telling how to create “Character Motivation,” Mr. Bickham embraced the theory that You Aren’t Who You Are, You Are Who You Think You Are. To support his thesis he relied on the work of Psychologist Prescott Leakey, who said, “Every human’s CENTRAL MISSION in life is the preservation and enhancement of THEIR concept of themselves.”
I saw this played out in my own life, or at least in the life of a family member. Following is an excerpt from my auto-biography, GOD IS MY AGENT, where I elaborate on this in great detail.
In the “Johnson and Son” relationship, Rol was the father and Enos the son. Both were big men, the exact opposite, of course, of my dad. I could see in Enos’ eyes, however, that he feared Dad, and for the longest time I never really understood why. Then, one day, nearly twenty years after my father’s demise, I read an article in WRITER’ DIGEST that made everything clear as crystal! Let me first share with you what the article said, and then I will share the story from Dad’s past that explained everything.
The author of the article was explaining how to know who your characters are, and why they are that way. They quoted a famous psychiatrist (whose name, of course, eludes me!) and said, basically, we’re not who we really are, we are who we think we are! Now, and I am serious here, this is a very important point – one which, after years and even decades of consideration, I still agree with. This concept explains many things, but mostly it explains why many who appear as though they should be losers are successful, and why others who appear they should know unlimited success never quite measure up to their potential. Though many don’t realize it, this is actually scriptural: “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Prov. 23:7 KJV. I will be discussing this in my own life in much greater detail under the heading “Naïve Genius” (a phrase coined by my wife) which, when all is said and done, can be summed up as I’m too dumb to know I can’t do something and, as a result, I go out and do it. But, again I digress, so let’s get back to Enos and Dad.
Keeping in mind we are not who we are but who we think we are, the relationship between these two men can be summed up by a story from their youth. One day, Dad and his younger brother, Harv, were walking down to the store to purchase something for Grandma. To reach their destination, they had to pass by the Johnson homestead. Enos was outside, and with him were several young ladies – sisters, who were visiting for the day. To impress them, Enos started hurling insults at Dad and Harv. Dad decided to ignore them, but Harv replied in kind. As the jawing continued, Enos came down off the hill and faced them as they continued walking, with only the narrow country lane separating them. Finally, as Harv began scoring heavily in the verbal fray, Enos took a couple of menacing steps forward and declared, “I oughta come over there and give you a licking.”
At this point Dad finally intervened and stated coolly, “Maybe you oughta come over here and try.” There was somewhat of a pregnant hiatus as the two stared at each other, and finally Enos backed down and went back up to the house. Now, for all of their lives, Enos remembered one thing about Dad – he had made him back down. As they grew and aged, that was the predominant image in his mind. So, Enos wasn’t who he was – a large, strapping man that probably would have had little trouble with Dad, but rather who he thought he was – the individual who had had his bluff called and was forced to back down. I truly believe Enos labored under the assumption that it would be most judicious of him to fear Dad – and all because of that childhood confrontation.
So there you have it … You Aren’t Who You Are, You Are Who You Think You Are. But wait, there’s more!!!! The GOOD NEWS is that You Aren’t Who You Are, NOR Are You Who You Think You Are! The reality is, You Are Who GOD Thinks You Are!!!
The Biblical examples of this are far too numerous to include them all, but a quick line-up includes:
- Gideon, who God thought was worthy of being a brave, victorious general.
- Joseph, who God thought was worthy of ruling a nation.
- Daniel, who God thought was worthy of ruling a nation.
- Mary, who God thought was worthy of birthing his son.
- Saul/Paul who God thought was worthy of being a mighty Evangelist.
What I want you to ponder on this Issue is a very simple question: What does God think you are worthy of!