Define Yourself by Who You Are, Not Who You Aren’t

It’s difficult sometimes for a person to describe themselves.  The labels thrown around in the media often don’t do us justice; maybe we call ourselves conservative but we don’t like the president. Or maybe, as recently happened to me, a person called themselves an anti-hunter, but I know this person eats bacon double cheeseburgers from McDonald’s on a regular basis.  We find ourselves to be incredibly complex creatures and therefore hard to describe.  Though, in one of life’s many contradictions, many of us find it very easy to label others. Throughout all of this, I see one major distinction in people: those who describe themselves by who they are, versus those who describe themselves by who they aren’t or what they aren’t.  Let’s look at a few of these.

Anti-Trump.  God bless the president, for if nothing else, he’s given us so much to talk about outside the realm of politics.  People who call themselves anti-Trump are telling us absolutely nothing about themselves.  You hate one man.  Good. Why?  It usually boils down to “Orange Man bad.”  For eight years I never heard one person describe themselves as “anti-Obama” though I’m sure they existed.  I rarely agreed with Mr. Obama but it was always because I’m a libertarian, not because of some personal vendetta.  You don’t have to like the president, but if that’s how you define yourself, then maybe you should spend a little more time developing your character and personality.  Read a book, join community theater, take up yoga, do something.  

Atheist.  Great, you don’t believe in God.  What do you believe?  Take a cue from Dr. Greg Graffin, who dislikes the term “atheist” and describes himself as a monistic naturalist, meaning he believes in one plane of existence and it came about naturally without the intervention of any deity.  Do you believe in secular humanist principles? Are you a follower of some nontheistic moral philosophy?  Or are you just intellectually lazy?  All but the intellectually lazy and narcissistic hedonists have some sort of moral code, what is yours?  

Anti-Hunter (Meat Eaters).  Returning to the interaction I mentioned previously, I think her logic could be summed up by the fact she said “I’m open-minded” in one sentence and “there’s nothing you can say to change my mind” in the next. She claimed she’d seen animals injured by hunters, and it’s true, it happens, and it’s a tragedy when it does. However, she wanted no part in the conversation about Pittman-Robertson, Dingell-Johnson or the fact hunters and fishermen (and archery and firearms enthusiasts) pay for over 90% of conservation dollars to protect those animals.  It was a half-assed moral argument that conveniently ignored the animals hit by cars, the animals that starve to death mostly due to habitat loss, the animals that die by disease and yes, even the occasional accident in the slaughterhouse that produces the meat for her Big Macs.   And what kind of life did those cows have before becoming ground into frozen patties?  Those are all tragedies on the same plane.  So, you’re anti-animal suffering?  Welcome to 99.99% of humans on the planet.  None of us want that.  You’re not anti-hunting really, you’re “anti-anyone else doing anything differently than you would do it.”

When I meet people, I want to know who you are, where you came from and what you believe.  I don’t want to hear about what you’re not.  I’m a Christian, I don’t go around telling people I’m not Jewish.  I’m a hunter, I don’t tell people, “I’m not a vegan.” Describing yourself is tough for sure, I struggle with it because I’m self-centered enough to think I’m more complex than the Average Joe, even though I know I’m not.  Do the words “libertarian”, “Christian”, “father”, “husband”, “hunter”, “artist” or anything else give you a complete picture of who I am?  No, of course not, but they certainly lead you down the path to who I am a lot better than if I tell you who I’m not.  Then once you know who I am, you can decide whether you like me or not.  Unfortunately, even in this world of technological instant gratification, getting to know someone still takes time and effort.  The good news is, it’s usually worth it.