One of my favorite psychological concepts is Differentiation – a family systems idea about knowing yourself while being in relationship with others. Though differentiation includes an aspect of self, the main emphasis is being connected with others. This is the part that I get excited about. The core of our identity is to be in relationship with Jesus Christ. He not only created us in His image, but He also created us to be connected with Him and with others. Ladies, we’re created to be all about relationships.
Differentiation suggests that the less developed a person’s “self,” the more impact others have on her functioning, and the higher the chance of having difficulty in relationships. People with poorly differentiated “selves” depend heavily on the acceptance and approval of others, instead of striving to please God and to seek His approval alone.
A person with a well-differentiated “self” knows who she is at the same time as being connected with others. She does not sacrifice parts of herself for the sake of others. She can stay relatively calm and clear-headed in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish between thinking that is rooted and thinking that is clouded by emotionality. In other words, while being rooted in Jesus, she’s able to navigate through her relationships in healthy ways because her foundation is firmly planted in the Lord. She doesn’t waiver when others are different or have different expectations. Her identity is in Jesus, therefore she is already set apart.
To differentiate means to recognize or ascertain what makes someone or something different. Knowing who we are in Jesus, and how He set us apart from the world, helps us to hold tight to these truths instead of losing ourselves in relationships and conforming.
Though differentiation is not a biblical concept, I love how it relates to God’s intended design for us. First and foremost, we MUST see ourselves the way God sees us. Ephesians 2:10 states we are God’s handiwork, His masterpiece. Wow, let that sink in! We are His children (John 1:12, Ephesians 1:5), we’re Jesus’ friend (John 15:15), and we’re citizens of His kingdom (Philippians 3:20, Colossians 1:13-14). This is your identity! The more we find our identity in the Lord and see ourselves the way He see us, then the less we’ll allow others’ perceptions to define us.
Secondly, as daughters of the King, we’ll long to know Him and be in relationship with Him. “God did this so that [women] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…for in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28a). We recognize our identity in Christ, and respond by getting to know Him more intimately and striving to live according to His design and plan. Relationships are about sharing true parts of ourselves, while at the same time learning about each other.
The more rooted our identity is in Jesus, the more we’ll live out being connected to others God’s way. Jesus set us apart from the world, to differentiate, and at the same time we’re connected through His Holy Spirit moving within us. Lord, may we see ourselves the way You see us, and see others the way You see them. May we respond with love and acceptance, pouring into each other the way You pour into us individually. May we find our identity in being Your cherished daughters who were created to be in relationship with You. May we strive towards deeper relationships with You who created us, loves us, and longs for our hearts.