Self-Discovery Re-Examined: How Community Helps Us Understand Ourselves

Community leads to true self-discovery

A Culture of Self-Discovery

How do we understand and define ourselves? What’s the key to proper self-discovery?

That’s an important question. We receive a variety of answers from our culture and many of them have to do with self-discovery or self-definition. We aren’t meant or capable of defining ourselves though.

Part of the educational model that Unbound uses is something we call “Understand”. This refers to the idea that education requires us to understand that we as individuals fit in a context. We are in a story. Our lives, in fact, are stories. If we remove ourselves from the context we live in, we will have a distorted view of reality.

Students in high school (and beyond) are in a season of life where defining themself is very important. But once again, I’m not suggesting that this should be done solely by the student.

God Defines Us

First, we recognize that our story is written by the perfect Author. We are created by God and He is the one who ultimately defines who we are. We can only properly and truly understand ourselves when we understand who God made us to be.

God has revealed who we are in His word. If we are not defining ourselves according to the scriptures we are prone to error. 

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Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” We can confidently say that this also applies to self-discovery and self-definition.

As young adults seek to understand who they are, why they are here, and where they are going, they cannot find true answers to these questions if they ignore what God has revealed in His word.

Community Defines Us

Not only does the Bible provide context for our lives but so do the people we live in community with. 

Think about it: our culture and community helps contribute to defining us. We may identify as belonging to a nation, a state, a region, or even a sports team!

Not only this, but our self-understanding depends in large part on our community. Think specifically about a young adult trying to understand who God made them to be. They want to know their purpose in life and what skills and abilities God has given them.

But they can’t figure this out by themselves. They need other people to serve with their skills and other people who can mentor them in the development of those abilities.

We define ourselves in relation to other people. Our names are given by other people. Our skills and abilities find meaning when they impact other people. 

Self-Discovery is a Community Project

As your young adult seeks to understand more about who God created them to be, encourage them to walk through that process with other people. A lot of navel-gazing and introspection may only lead to a distorted definition of one’s self. 

Going to God’s word and the community around us helps us understand ourselves, our story, and the context of our lives.

In turn, when we understand these things we can live in relationship with people, we can rest and recreate, and we can thrive.

A young adult’s education should help them navigate this process of “self-discovery”. But it shouldn’t be done for the sake of self. Self-discovery is only valuable when we discover how we can serve others.

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