Actions proceed from our identity

Actions proceed from our identity

Oftentimes we want to change our actions, but we fail to understand that our actions proceed from our identity.

Starting point

I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. That is an important first step in personal growth.

Now that you have come to grips with that fact, you’ll need to decide what needs to change. Do you have a role model?

My starting point comes from the Bible. Here is an excellent example from 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthias 13:4 – 7

Being patient and kind etc. These are qualities I’d like to possess.


Now that I identified WHAT I wanted to change, I had to figure out HOW I was going to change.

I decided that I was going to write down the character qualities that I wanted to change. I kept them on my music stand so that I could see them while I was teaching. This is somewhat like the Benjamin Franklin approach to character development.

Benjamin Franklin identified 13 virtues and then tracked his behavior. Each day he would sit down and evaluate whether he had shown these virtues.

I used this system for a period of time. But, one day I was reading the Bible and I came to a startling discovery.


This discovery came from the 5th chapter of Galatians.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-25

First off, these are fantastic character qualities. Joyfulness, patience, kindness, etc. But, what struck me on this particular reading was the word “fruit”. The writer is saying that these character qualities are fruit. I thought about how a tree produces fruit.

Trees don’t work hard to make fruit. If they are healthy and are in the proper season, they produce fruit. They don’t repeat mantras like, “Today I’ll make an orange.” And, they don’t keep track of how often they’ve made oranges in the past. They simply keep living off the nutrients and light that they are provided. And they produce fruit.

Paradigm shift

If I change who I am, I’ll change what I do. Jesus delivered this startling truth in Luke 6.

43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Luke 6:43-45

Trees produce the fruit that they are made to produce. People do things from the motivation of their heart. What we do is who we are. It’s not the other way around. Our actions don’t change who we are. Who we are changes our actions.

Good and bad news

This is both good and bad news. The good news is that you don’t need to work hard to change your character. The bad news is that you can’t show consistent positive character change unless you change who you really are.

How in the world can you change who you are? Jesus gives the answer during his conversation with a guy named Nicodemus.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

John 3:3-5

The only hope for change is to be reborn. Once you are born into the kingdom of God, He will begin making the changes that you know are needed.

How to be reborn

Jesus gives the answer to Nicodemus in the following selection:

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:10-16

You have to accept and believe that Jesus is God in the flesh who has come into the world to pay the penalty for your sins. There’s a lot there, I know. I suggest following this link in order to fill in some of the gaps and decide what to do next.

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