Image is Everything?
Image is everything. So much so that we can make ourselves be whatever we want to be in today’s world. In a post-everything world, we have come to recognise that we are shaped by many factors such as our: family, community, surroundings, culture, worldview and life experience, and so forth. Yet, we are told that it is impossible to know the real ‘me’ that can be separated from various shaping factors. Now, there is a sense in which this is nothing new. We have always understood that we have all been formed by circumstances throughout history.
However, it makes perfect sense for young people to assume that they have a right to shape or create their own identity. Thus, they can make themselves in any image or likeness they choose. This idea is at the focal point of the consumer culture in which they now live. They can become whatever they want. All they need to do is buy the right clothes, behave the right way, hang around with the right people, go to the right places, make the right choices, and they can take on whatever persona they like. Likewise, they can change their persona whenever they want. They can even take on several different personas in a single day, if they so choose, depending on where they go and who they hang out with. Yet underneath the image or images lurks doubt, “Who am I really?”
Young people today are aware of the pressure on them to make the correct choices. They are also mindful of the bewildering range of options open to them in this consumer society. So young people in the church or those who come to faith in Christ don’t need even more pressure laid upon them to conform to our image. Just remember what our generation had to put up with because of our long hair and flared trousers and so on, and then you should be more sympathetic. They need time to work out who they are and to discover their own way in their own time of becoming conformed to Christ image, not ours.