It is interesting (and somewhat disturbing) to think back at the times in your life when someone mistakes you for something that you are not — (in a Daughters of Saint Paul book store) “Are you a Catholic sister?” — (out with a friend) “So how long have you two been together?” — (in a store while shopping) “Can you tell me where the drapes are?” — (yesterday at the gym) “We have daycare for your children” — (on a street corner in Washington, DC) “Monica Lewinsky!?”

What’s interesting is not so much that they asked the question, but how we respond. Do we recoil in horror? play along? wish that it were true?

Savage ChickensMoments like this are highly instructive to us because we see ourselves reflected in the eyes of strangers. When we have a strong reaction, it’s important to ask ourselves why. Our reactions often point to some truth or facet of ourselves that we are wrestling with, but like the layers of an onion, we have to pull back the layers to see what’s inside … and we may tear up as we do so!  Sometimes the results are just funny (“no, no I am not Monica Lewinsky”) and other times they stay with us like a friend, nudging us toward clarity and insight.

Here’s a few things to do when disturbed or delighted by a mistaken identity:

  1. Run away in horror.
  2. Resignedly disregard #1.
  3. Replay the scene in your mind and see what part stands out the most. Pay attention to how you felt at that moment.
  4. Ask yourself why you reacted the way you did. Are there any attitudes underlying my reaction that are discriminatory or untrue?
  5. Is there any truth in what was said? If it was a partial truth, then sift through what fits and what doesn’t.
  6. Bury that insight until years later when you have to go to therapy.
  7. Resignedly disregard #6.
  8. Thank God for using any moment, even an awkward or uncomfortable one, to help you get to better know yourself and how God is moving in your life.