“I cannot manage without another, I cannot become myself without another; I must find myself in another by finding another in myself (in mutual reflection and mutual acceptance). Justification cannot be self-justification, recognition cannot be self-recognition. I receive my name from others, and it exists for others (self-nomination is imposture).”
(Taken from: Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, p. 287-288.)
In the above quote, Russian Philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin promotes a relational understand of the self whereby who I am is dependent upon who and what I encounter. If you’ve been watching Glee recently, you’ll see this first hand in the relationship between the OCD/Mysophobic Emma Pillsbury and Dentist Carl Howell. Through her relationship with the adventurous and spontaneous Carl, Emma has discarded her vices while assimilating Carl’s daring. She cares less about hygiene, attends a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and even elopes to Las Vegas. Emma has changed almost effortlessly and without any struggle. Carl did for Emma what no self-help book could do. Most importantly, Carl hasn’t even tried to change Emma. He’s loved her without any preconditions.
In other words, who can resist the gravitational pull of love? You unexpectedly meet someone new, or by chance see someone in a different light and its as if the world has been turned upside down. You lose yourself in them, thereby discovering a new self. You find you tolerate Grey’s Anatomy (or UFC!) more than you thought you ever would. Even your work seems like its been more enjoyable than normal.
What is true in general is also specifically true about God and Christianity. When the love of God is truly grasped, when it is recognized that God no longer regards us as sinners (thought we are!) it changes everything. We are no longer the same people: we are given confidence where we were shy, thankfulness where we were bitter, or new love in place of our cold hearts. We become reflections of the people God sees us to be. In the same way that God renamed Abram and Saul to be Abraham and Paul, or Jesus renamed Simon to be Peter, a new identity is given and effortlessly received in a radically new way.