Identity, Priorities

Identity: The Greatest Showman

@JeanneTakenaka +Jeanne Takenaka

We just got home from watching The Greatest Showman (Click title to see trailer). I’m just going to say it. I loved the movie. So many life-infusing themes woven into one story . . . besides the fact that they made my writer’s heart happy, they uplifted me at the deepest levels.

There are so many different themes that resonated with me, but the one that hummed the deepest parts of me was P. T. Barnum’s journey to understand the essence of his identity.

I’ll begin by saying this is Hollywood’s rendition of P. T. Barnum’s rise to fame. That said . . .

Phineas T. Barnum comes from a poor background. He holds certain beliefs based on things that happened when he was a boy.


Specific events in our lives shape us. They shape the way we think, the filter through we see our circumstances, the world around us . . . The way we process life-defining circumstances creates within us beliefs which become a part of that filter through which we see the world.

When we adapt false beliefs into our filter, the consequences can be life-changing.

P. T. Barnum’s dark moment occurs early in his life. He becomes two things at that point. He learns how to spin life in a positive way, and this ability nurtures him in his growing up years. He also adopts a determination to best those who oppressed him.

In his striving to become what he thought he should be, Phineas began to lose the essence of who he was.

He forgot the beauty of dreaming and loving and instead chased after the prestige of more.

Three life lessons from his life (as portrayed in The Greatest Showman) stood out to me:

1. When our priorities are driven by our craving for more, our priorities become distorted. We all have empty places within us. Some of these are borne from those dark wounding events in our younger lives. They often drive us to attain what may not be best for us, all in an attempt to satisfy the hunger that can only God can satiate.

When we forget our God Is the only One who can fill those empty places . . . 

when we chase after the wind, so to speak . . .

we view our lives through a wrong perspective.

And this . . . this is what can destroy us and create a cavern out of the hole that once existed within us.

2. When we focus on the wrong things, the important things in our lives (read relationships) are damaged. When we chase after the wrong things to fill our empty places—when we forget the good God has already gifted to us in an effort to get more,—we find we’re chasing after the wrong thing.

P. T. Barnum forgot the good relationships to chase after something more. In the process, he nearly destroyed all that really was good in his life.

It took this near loss of all he held dear to help him see what was most important.

3. When we accept who we are—who God created us to be—that’s when we can be content. When we attempt to create an identity for ourselves that contradicts who God created us to be, or that is less than what God created us to be, we defraud ourselves.

The hardest seasons of life often burn away the false identities we cling to and reveal the beauty of who God created us to be.

Just as P. T. Barnum (in the movie) came to embrace who he really was, may we each come to accept the person God created us to be. May we live in the essence of our identities.

What about you? If you have seen this movie, what is your favorite theme? How have you discovered the essence of your identity?

Click to Tweet: When we adapt false beliefs into our filter, the consequences can be life-changing.

I’m linking up with #RaRaLinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and Holley Gerth

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31 thoughts on “Identity: The Greatest Showman”

  1. Another great post, Jeanne, and I love the pictures and the meme!

    Hoping to last long enough to see the film when it comes out as a rental. But Barb may see it in a couple of weeks. I hope.

    Identity…interesting you should ask, as my sense of who I am has completely leached away. I do what I have to do, and beyond that, there’s nothing. Not the faintest echo of what I was, and I have trouble remembering…and remembrance when it comes brings embarrassment. I was a posturing fool.

    It’s a strange, rootless feeling, that I could simply disappear, and none of it would matter.

    Does this make sense? I hope it does, because it’s the result of things gone horribly wrong in life, and more to the point, poor choices…the choice to feel that “I can do this!”, rather than “I really need help because I’m falling apart.” The former was a pose, the latter, reality.

    You can’t do it alone. You can’t live on motivational slogans and if you try to bring it all from within, you’ll burn yourself up. And most important, when you say,”There’s nothing to lose!” you’ve reached the point where you have everything to lose.

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    1. Andrew, your words do make sense. You respond to this post with a unique perspective. You can look at your past through the lens of eternity. And your words about what matters most speak volumes to me. It’s essential for each of us to evaluate where we spend our time, how we use the moments and days God gives each of us. I think part of growing with God is to begin to understand how desperately we need Him. We need the people He places in our lives.

      I so appreciate your words and your wisdom in this post. It’s a vivid reminder of the importance of keeping the Main Thing the main thing. Keeping my heart set on Jesus and open to His priorities rather than my own.

      And Andrew, God redeems our past. Even if you can’t see it right now. He’s used what you’ve learned to minister as you live out what you know to be true. Thank you for being a faithful witness, my friend.

      I continue to pray for you and Barb.

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      1. Jeanne, thank you so much. What I write in future, whatever it may be, will be brutally hard, but those are the lessons I have to try to leave.

        Because no-one would want to be me. I screwed up. And I have to try to point out what happened.

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  2. There’s a good lesson in what you say Jeanne. The sad thing though is that many people grow up not knowing God. So when things go wrong in their lives their whole vision of the world is distorted and consequently their actions and choices become distorted too.

    God bless.

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    1. You’re right, Victor. It’s only when we know God personally that we can find that deep-level healing from the wounds of our past. Our whole world is hurting, and we see this through the actions of people against other people on a daily basis. This gives me even more reason to pray for those who don’t know Him yet. Thank you for sharing your insights here.

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  3. Jeanne,
    I haven’t seen the movie, but I grew up thinking that how I was, was somehow not right….I was too sensitive, too emotional, too naive. I didn’t have a very thick skin and so I got hurt a lot. It’s only in my latter years that I see that God created me this way for a reason. I get in touch with raw emotions in my writing. I am basically a compassionate person which is a good thing. I’m sensitive to others pain and what they are going through and these are GOOD things as well. As I grew to know God more, I began to realize that it was HIS opinion of me that really mattered and it is in HIM that I find my identity. This helps me care less and less about what the world thinks. Great thought provoking post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. Bev, this is one movie I would see again. I liked it that much.

      I dealt so much with those “too” thoughts. I’m so glad God revealed to you all the beauty He’s placed within you. That compassion, sensitivity to others’ pain, and the other supposed shortcomings are what He uses to reach others. And yes, I too, had to come to the place of understanding that my identity is found in Him alone. What others think about me doesn’t matter. Not really. So thankful for your sharing and your insights, my friend!

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  4. Jeanne, I haven’t seen the movie yet but it’s definitely on our list! This statement really stood out to me today: “The way we process life-defining circumstances creates within us beliefs which become a part of that filter through which we see the world.” I can see how this has happened in my own life (in good and bad ways), and I can see it happening with my girls. I desperately want them to have an accurate view of what’s going on around them, and yet, I also realize that their minds are still growing, along with their ability to process things properly. I guess this why praying for wisdom and for God to lead us all with His truth and light is becoming even more important to me these days! Wonderful post, my friend!

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    1. Lois, if you see the movie, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! It is so hard to shield ourselves against every message the world pushes, every lie that tries to grip our hearts. I see my boys beginning to believe false things about themselves, and about God. It’s so hard to watch them struggle with it. But, it seems like processing through the circumstances our kids face is part of how they learn to put their faith in Jesus and how to live that faith out. It seems like learning how to see truth from lies is hard.

      Yes, prayer for our kids, their hearts, the way they “see” the world, their lives, their identities, is essential, isn’t it? And yes, wisdom for us to guide them, as the Lord gives us opportunity. I am so thankful for your thoughts here, friend. Thank you!

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  5. I enjoyed the movie too, Jeanne, and I love the lessons you draw out of it. I think the one that stood out to me was that the striving and craving for more can confuse our priorities and there’s a danger of losing sight of who we are and the good things we have. I loved the music too!

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    1. Lesley, why am I not surprised that you loved the music? 😉 I did too. Each song drew me in and fit so perfectly. I still have to evaluate my priorities and make sure they align with God’s priorities for my life. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Thank you for your words today!

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  6. I have not seen the movie but I have read several posts about the movie. It sounds like a great one.

    I am in the process of surrendering this year and a big part of that has to do with my identity. Does my outside match my insides? Do I believe who God says I am? I could go on! Your three points about identity ring true. Number three hits home and that is where I am doing some of the deep heart work. Great insight and wisdom!

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    1. Mary, I try not to ‘push’ movies too much. But I really liked this story. It’s different from the real PT Barnum, but the movie is so uplifting. 😉 I like your question, “Does my outside match my insides?” What a good measure. It sounds like God is working a lot in you already with your One Word for the year, my friend. I so appreciate you sharing a piece of what you’re pondering. Sending you a hug!

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  7. I am so glad that you went to see it. I love that we are all pulling out very similar themes from the movie. Identity is a huge part of who God calls us to be. God names and claims us through the waters of Baptism. So much THIS: “When we accept who we are—who God created us to be—that’s when we can be content. When we attempt to create an identity for ourselves that contradicts who God created us to be, or that is less than what God created us to be, we defraud ourselves” I seriously cannot stop singing the songs especially This is Me!

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    1. Yeah, I’m kind of blaming you (in part) for going. I just kept hearing so much good about the movie. I dragged the boys with me. One said he liked it. The other…not. Because it wasn’t about football. 😉 I am so thankful to be a daughter of a God who loves us so much, who sees so much more for His kids than we can see for ourselves.

      I am seriously considering buying the soundtrack. And I rarely do that. 😉 Thanks so much for chiming in, friend!

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  8. I took a real deep journey into my identity in Christ in 2016 when I was just so …. empty. An emptiness sprouted from a season of doing, ironically! I think developing our identity is a life-long process until we are home where we will be no longer be discontent or restless. I know as soon as I start striving, I begin to feel that loss of self again! I’m thankful for God’s corrections (which can be many times a day!) where I become free again in being who He made me to be.

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    1. I think we have dialogued some on identity on our journeys. I would agree that developing/understanding our unique identity is a life-long journey. It’s such a balance to rest in the Lord and not be striving after . . . Whatever. And I’m with you, thankful for God’s patient corrections. Thank you for sharing pieces of your story, my friend.

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  9. I have heard from so many people how great that movie is. I wish my wife and I could see it. With little ones and no money, we will have to wait for Redbox. haha. Your first point is on point! “When our priorities are driven by our craving for more, our priorities become distorted.” That’s where I have been for so many years.

    I have been a pastor for about 12 years. Although we tithe and give on a consistent basis, many of those years we wanted to live in a house of our choosing and drive the cars we desired. After a few hiccups in our journey and adopting 2 children, life hit has very hard financially! THIS STATEMENT IS TOTALLY TRUE. We have lived above our means due to our craving for bigger, better, and more. I have asked for forgiveness so much and repented because we don’t want to come close to living like that for the rest of our lives. Now, we are still in the midst of our consequences. However, our children and the future will be lived opposite of that statement. It’s the worst feeling in the world to be financially strapped, but it has changed our lives forever. And I thank God for allowing us to get so low in this area that he woke us up. My hope and prayer is to be out of this mess sooner rather than later. We want our priorities to be driven by our craving for Jesus and caring for others. Due to our failure, we hope to help many people keep from this or walk through it with them.

    Thank you for those words! Truly a blessing.

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    1. Nate, I so appreciate you stopping and sharing a part of your story. I hope one day you will be able to see the movie.But it sounds like you and your wife have already learned some priceless lessons that will keep you through this lifetime. And I remember those days when the littles needed a babysitter . . . And how much it cost to pay for one! So, thank goodness for Redbox and in-home date nights.

      Our society encourages people to live above their means. Humility is a hard lesson, but once we learn it, God can do so much in and through us. It sounds like He is doing a new work in you and your family. I sense God is going to give you a testimony as you work through your current situation. And I’m with you…may our desires be driven by our craving for Jesus and caring for others.

      I truly appreciate you stopping by, Nate. Thank you.

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  10. I love all the deep insights you discovered in this movie, Jeanne. Thank you so much for sharing them. I’m afraid I too often don’t accept who I really am. And I find this so true – “The hardest seasons of life often burn away the false identities we cling to and reveal the beauty of who God created us to be.” Love and hugs to you!

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    1. Trudy, I believe it’s a journey of asking God to align our self-perception with how He sees us. God has created beauty within YOU, my sweet friend. You and ( (and I suspect many others) have to learn how to let go of those false identities to embrace he true identity God’s given us. It’s kind of like a journey of unraveling what that is, isn’t it?

      I so appreciate your transparency my friend!

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    1. Jane, I’m so glad you get to see the movie. 🙂 Maybe your partner will be surprised and enjoy it more than expected. 🙂 It’s one I’ll probably buy when it comes out on DVD. I liked it that much. Thanks for stopping by!

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