In Violation of our True Self

identityI have been returning time and time again to one of my favorite books on the topic of identity and vocation, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer. I first read the book in 2002 when I was finishing up my M. Div. at Fuller Theological Seminary at it greatly impacted me and some of my friends. I have since read it over a couple of times and I’m about to finish it again. It is very powerful. It is a paradigm shifting book.

Parker Palmer makes the insightful comment that:

“True self (this is what Parker also refers to as the “imago dei” in us), when violated, will always resist us, sometimes at great cost, holding our lives in check until we honor its truth.” (pp. 4)

As we find ourselves in very different places in life (graduating from college, looking for jobs, looking for second careers, stuck in a career, struggling in a marriage, trying to overcome an addiction, trying to raise kids, etc.) we may find that our identity is being violated.

Palmer says:

“The deepest vocational question is not ‘What ought I to do with my life?’ It is the more elemental and demanding ‘Who am I? What is my nature?'”

This is something I have been thinking about, wondering if all of my indecisivness in life, especially around career and passion, is really the ‘imago dei’ God placed within me being violated. Bumping up against it…stumbling, until I finally find my way.

How do we know when we are in the right vocation? When do we know we have found our calling? How have you known when you violated your ‘true self’ or the ‘imago dei’ in you?


  1. by Ben Lemery on March 9, 2009  12:48 pm Reply

    Well, to be honest and you can read this on my own blogs with my personal journey in life. As much as I thought I was in the "right" vocation, God put me on the backburner for the last year and it looks like it may extend even further.

    I know that I am passionate about young adults, college students and mentoring. My ultimate passions lies in revival. Those were things that God sparked in my heart years ago and He has increased over the years. But all of that came from spending time with the Lord and cultivating a prayer life. I don't think you can find your calling unless it is out of an intentional desire to be close to God. Every Biblical characters calling developed out of that.

    I think you know when you violated yourself when you suddenly realize that you aren't where you're supposed to be and ask, "how the heck did I get here." If you don't connect with the overall passions that should be associated with that vision, then you have probably violated your "true self."

  2. by Kristie Vosper on March 9, 2009  1:28 pm Reply

    “how the heck did I get here.”
    and to this I would add
    "who am I right now? this doesn't feel like 'me'."
    I think depression and low self esteem are also indicators of this loss of self.

    What an important topic. I will order the book you refer to. I'm reading "The Drama of the Gifted Child" right now by Alice Walker which talks about redeeming the lost "self". She's a german psychologist...heard of her?

    The journey to freedom and redemption and returning to one's true self seems to be a process that requires, courage, discomfort, and true community.

    It is when we can find the courage to allow ourselves to sit deeply in our pain and no longer grasp at all the things we run to to mask it. Once God heals that pain, redeems it...we can return to that part our "self" which was lost. It's so beautiful. I'm experiencing it right now...and the thing that brings me the most grief is that so many others around me have no interest in joining this journey to freedom.

    Jesus does want to change us...and often...we've constructed a self that was never meant to be who we are. In many ways I see Jesus returning me to the child I was who loved to paint, sing, make friends, look at and write about the world. What a beautiful thing He can do in us if we allow Him.

  3. by Jon on March 9, 2009  11:21 pm Reply

    Sounds like a great book. I'm going to have to check it out...

  4. by Rhett Smith on March 10, 2009  10:42 pm Reply


    I really like this statement, "I think you know when you violated yourself when you suddenly realize that you aren’t where you’re supposed to be and ask, “how the heck did I get here.” So, so true. Knowing you (what I do know of you) it's obvious to me that your passions are what you stated above, mainly young adults, college students, mentoring...especially revival. And that's been fairly consistent in the time that you and I have had contact (several years now). Keep it up, and I will be praying that God continues to guide you.


    "The journey to freedom and redemption and returning to one’s true self seems to be a process that requires, courage, discomfort, and true community." Awesome words. You will love this book, everything you are saying totally resonates. I have heard of Alice Walker, but have not read her. I will need to pick that book up. Yeah, it seems that Jesus had other things in mind for us, and part of his job is getting us back to those things...helping us unravel from all the other things we have build our identity around.


    Get it will like it.

    thanks for commenting friends.....


  5. by Yihabudewumig on August 23, 2009  3:04 am Reply

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