Get Weird: Your Identity Matters More than Your Story (CJ Casciotta)

In Culture, Leadership by Kurt WillemsLeave a Comment

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Before I get to the blog today, I want to do two quick things.

First, I’m sooooooooo excited about my friend Stefan Lako’s new podcast, Is This It?. Not only did I get the chance to work with Stefan on this podcast launch, but I was also interviewed by him. Beyond this, he is one of my closest friends ever. So, I’m offering a shameless plug for his podcast because, well, it is going to be so helpful for so many. Here’s the description of the show:

“Welcome to “Is This It?” – a podcast where I have conversations with artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and regular people who have owned their paths, and where we dive deep into questions about purpose, fear, and opportunity.”

Here’s the episode with me, called “Faith, Doubt, and What is In-Between.

Second, I want share a bit about my friend CJ Casciotta. We met at a gathering of friends in San Diego and it happened that we were both writers. Random and fun. We hit it off. He is the real deal. And ridiculously gifted when it comes to creativity. His book came out this Fall and I hope you will check it out. It is called: Get Weird: Discover the Surprising Secret to Making a Difference. And in case you are wondering, he’s what others have said about his book:

“Reassuring, moving and practical, this book will help you embrace the magic you’ve always had.” Seth Godin
“A soulful invitation to start imagining again, and along the way, rediscovering who we were actually created to be. What a gift!” Shauna & Aaron Niequist
“It’s courageous and wildly creative, giving a voice to the misfit and make believer in us all.” Richard Rohr
“A roadmap that can help you discover the path to ignoring the normal in favor of the fantastic.” Jon Acuff

I hope you consider checking out his book, but even more, I hope you will enjoy this brief reflection from him (adapted from the book) helpful!

Identity vs. Story (by CJ Casciotta)

Are all 6.4 billion people who exist on the planet individually unique? With the vast amount of information traveling at nanosecond speeds and orbiting our daily lives, is there really such a thing as originality anymore? Can we trust our own imaginations and passions, especially when someone else out there seems to be doing it so much better than we can?

The answer to these questions can be found, but not without our first plunging deep down past the outer shell of what we are often quick to call “our story” and into the quiet, consecrated shelter of our identity.

There has been a tremendous emphasis on all things related to “story” in our society over the years. Ad campaigns want you to tell your story, hoping that by doing so, you’ll help them tell theirs. Social media encourages us to share our stories, giving the entire world an opportunity to like and react to them with the push of a button. Creative services on their surface, all seem to aim at helping clients tell a compelling story. This is all well and good, but it’s all happening in correlation with a culture that’s constantly disappointed, anxious, obsessive, and discontented. Perhaps this is because we’ve made story the be-all and end-all when its intended purpose is to serve as a beginning.

I do not believe your story matters as much as you might have been told.

Your story is not who you are. It’s not even a version. It’s merely a presentation, an outer fencing, a collection of modules that are easy to manipulate. This is not to say your story isn’t powerful. Arguably, it can be given too much power. On one hand, your story can provide others with a window into your true identity. On the other, it has the power to draw the curtains.

Is there truth to your story? Absolutely. Can your story move us and shape us and help us understand what we once couldn’t? Of course it can. But even the greatest story succeeds only at illuminating who we are and whom we are becoming. It cannot write those things for us.

Your story is not as important as your identity. It can only hold a candle to it. There’s a holy and hallowed place deep in your gut that’s uninterested in the shifting tides of comparison and acceptance, a place that’s weird and unique and completely you without you ever having to do a thing to keep it that way, because it’s been divinely given, not earned, conjured, or finessed. You’ve felt it before. You’ve listened to its reassuring whispers accompanying the pounding of your chest. You’ve followed it with an unlikely courage against all reason and rationale or the warnings of well-meaning friends. You’ve gotten so swallowed up in its perfect belonging, if just for a moment, that you’ve forgotten about your status, or your success rate, or how you might be perceived by others. It’s who you were before the world told you it didn’t matter. It will kindle any story you will ever write because it’s been written in you.

Until you’re convinced that you are valuable beyond your ability to produce anything, beyond security or success, you will constantly be holding yourself (and others) to a standard that will never satisfy you. It’s as if you’re trying to measure weight with a ruler or height with a scale.

However, when we press into the astonishing reality that no one has ever quite flavored the world like us, and no one can…even if they try, we start to recognize that there’s enough weird to go around. We stop worrying about competition and suddenly can’t wait to collaborate. We stop obsessing about earning, squeezing, and scroogeing our way to the top. Instead we start giving our weirdness away freely, realizing that no matter how much we give, our souls will never run dry. We start looking for opportunities to combine our weirdness with other people’s weirdness like mad scientists set loose inside a laboratory of infinite possibilities.

This profound revelation—that your weirdness isn’t just for you to bottle up inside, but there to join others, to facilitate belonging in a world where belonging is in short supply—is the first step to discovering exactly what to make of your weirdness.

Author: Kurt Willems

Kurt Willems is a pastor, author, and spiritual director. His first book, Echoing Hope: How the Humanity of Jesus Redeems our Pain, releases in March 2021. Kurt is also the host of the Theology Curator podcast. He has a master of divinity degree from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and a master of arts in comparative religion from the University of Washington.
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