I AM THAT I AM

Who are you? If someone asks you this question, what will be your answer?

Would you tell him or her your name alone? Would you talk about your occupation? How about your family, community, ethnicity, or nationality? How about organization and institution? Or, even would you think about such a thing as your bank account and special assets? How about something related to identity politics?

These are all the attributes of your identification per se in one way or another. Whichever the items you choose to mention, they should always be part of who you are.

When we are still a newborn baby, these things don’t bother us. As we grow up, however, it seems that we start seeking these “ingredients” to formulate and confirm our identity. Even we ask ourselves what we should be and do once we grow up. Others, like parents, teachers, or friends, would also ask the same questions.

Gradually and yet surely, the question about our identity should never be unavoidable. In reality, a series of countless talks and discussions over our identity, whether we like it or not, should be a very foundation of who we are in the past, present, and future. It is the basis of our society and culture to drive our civilizations where we live. That means we study and work hard. Life seems hard.

When and if someone asks you who you are, what should your primary, standard, or ultimate answer be? Which perspective would you focus on to formulate a series of your possible responses? Interestingly, how you answer can show the specific view, which is critical and essential for you, and ultimately for your life.

We don’t have to wait for someone who should ask us this question. We can ask ourselves personally.

Who am I?

That can be a series of intriguing monologue in our minds. We can take enough time to indulge in this question and extensively reflect on all possible answers and perspectives.

Who am I?

You can start with some immediate replies. For example, I am a human being. I am a son or daughter of this or that person, a father or mother of this or that person, an employee of this or that organization, and a member of this or that institution. Or perhaps, you could tweak your replies, saying that “I have” this or that, instead of “I am.” In this case, your “possession” should be more critical to identify who you are.

In the area of self-assertion, there is such a thing as “I AM meditation or prayer.” In this perspective, our personality and character should matter more for the question of who I am. This meditation or prayer aims to enforce your personality and character to be positive. And this effort is somewhat compatible with such activities of self-help, prosperity theology, and success philosophy.

In this effort, what you’re supposed to do is not necessarily seeking who you are but instead enforcing who you should be. For example, in such meditation or prayer practices, you should repeat a series of positive attributes of who you should be. Or, we could also say that these positive attributes must be our true self. The typical phrases should be as follows:

  • I am strong.
  • I am brave.
  • I am intelligent.
  • I am patient.
  • I am enough.
  • I am kind.
  • I am grateful.
  • I am happy.

The effort of enforcing your positive mental attitude like them should be useful to some extent in one way or another. These are more for how you see yourself instead of who you actually are in society and culture. The effect of this assertive meditation or prayer should be somewhat real. If we focus on these things too much, however, there might be some countereffect. By focusing on yourself too much, you could no longer see yourself objectively and moderately. Or, you can no longer forget yourself in serving others or working with them.

Paradoxically enough, you cannot love yourself unless and until you accept who you are without these enforcing modifications. Moreover, you cannot love others, either, unless and until you love yourself as you are.

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Matthew 22:39

Why do you love yourself? How do you love yourself? Is it because you are good enough? Is it because you are strong? Is it because you are successful? Is it because you are a member of some particular groups? If you love yourself because of these many reasons, then that is not real love at all. Loving yourself truthfully should be, ironically enough, to forget all these attributes about yourself.

You can’t love yourself unless and until you forget yourself. You can’t love your neighbors unless and until you forget yourself.

Do we love ourselves? The question about self-love is tricky. We tend to think that we can love ourselves only when and if our attributes are qualified enough to be lovable. If we love ourselves because of the qualifications, then the truth is that we do not love ourselves at all. In the same way, we do not love others at all.

On the one hand, we have to grow to be good enough to contribute to this world. Our positive attributes are always important and should never be negligible. On the other, however, these should not be the conditions of why and how we love ourselves. Our self-love should be unconditional in the first place.

Forget our attributes. Then, we love ourselves unconditionally. Only then, we love everyone else unconditionally as well. So, Jesus tells us that love your neighbors as yourself. That is far from our narcissistic self-indulgence. Accepting and loving ourselves unconditionally is the very start of our real love.

Let’s go back to the question. Who am I?

Do I have to gather many attributes to answer this question? Am I not good enough? Or am I already good enough? Neither is the way. I am neither positive nor negative. Or, more correctly, I am both positive and negative. We have many attributes as long as we live in this world. However, let them not overwhelm us. Let them not be the conditions of who we are ultimately, and why and how we love ourselves and others.

Who am I? The ultimate answer is that “I am who I am.”

We can easily recall the well-known verse of Exodus when Moses asked God’s identification. He should never be with any attributes in this world. Therefore, no word can describe Him except for saying I AM THAT I AM.

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
Exodus 3:14

Our identification is also the same in heaven. Only when and if we can truly understand the meaning of I AM THAT I AM, even in asking ourselves who we are, then we can know about forgetting ourselves, and loving ourselves as well as everyone else, including God Himself.

Image by Fathromi Ramdlon

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