Miley Cyrus and Identity

Posted on September 2, 2013 | 38 comments

This was not the blog I started writing tonight. Got about halfway through that one and maybe you’ll see it later in the week.

But I had Miley Cyrus on the mind today as I was mopping the floors. So much was written last week analyzing her performance on the VMAs. Most of it negative. Advice for Miley. Mocking and critiquing her performance.

I admit that I did not watch the VMAs and caught about 90 seconds of the performance on YouTube. There were plenty of still shots plastered on the internet the next morning for me to get the picture. Pun intended.

I understand much of the negative reaction – I don’t want my daughter influenced by that skewed picture of femininity. But that’s why we weren’t watching any of the VMAs in the first place.

That being said, while I don’t like the performance, I do understand it. And I have found a compassion for Miley Cyrus.

Miley is trying to figure out her identity.

What she is going through – on a life stage that is large and public – is the same thing all our kids will go through. It’s the same thing we are all going through every day.

It is the quest to define our Self. (see Why Do We Adopt an Identity)

Defining our sense of Self means determining what about us makes us significant and valuable. Who we are in relation to the world.

Whether that is parenting, financial status, or your golf game, we all have something on which we rest our sense of Self.

 Think about this from Miley Cyrus’ circumstance – where do you go from Hannah Montana?

Not many of us have the opportunity to be known world-wide. Having throngs of people scream their approval of us everywhere we go.

That way Miley Cyrus’ reality for many years. That very likely became her source of identity. She received her affirmation – the answer to the question What do people think of me? – through her stardom.

For a preteen who is growing up in this reality, there is no sense that this source of affirmation will not last. No inkling that today’s cheers will turn into tomorrow’s yawns and questions of “Miley who?

So now she is left a slave to sustaining the source of value that she has based her identity upon.

And she is left doing anything she can to try to keep the cheer going. Even when that means pandering to the lowest common element. Talent takes work. Pushing the boundaries and creating buzz can be done in an instant. As we saw on the VMAs.

If this is the part of the post where I’m supposed to write to Miley, then here it is – but also realize that I’m talking to myself and everyone else.

All of us fight this battle of identity. Seeing ways to create a sense of wholeness on our own, apart from God. So we all need this reminder.

A reminder of Jesus. A man who, before twitter, Facebook, and instagram was known by almost everyone in Israel. As he walked into Jerusalem on the last week of his life, everyone screamed their adoration for him. It would have been easy for him to chase that source of worth for his identity.

But Jesus sought his identity in the Father. Good thing, because not a week later, the crowds were not just yawning or asking “Jesus who?“, they were screaming for his blood. It was blood that he willingly shed for us so that we could have an identity rooted in him. In Christ.

What that means for Miley and the rest of us, our source of value as an image bearer of God, as the prize of Christ, is secure. It is the truth of who we are.

Not what we produce. Not what we control. Not what people think of us. Our value is secure in that we were worth dying for.

I pray for Miley to get the source of her identity straight. Then her performances will work themselves out.

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  1. This is the story of many even young Christians who have not yet found their identity in Christ.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Miley here at “Tell Me a Story.” Yes, we have often crying out to be recognized, and accepted – – to be in the IN crowd, and as young people sometimes to shock others. We can understand, because at one time we too might have been guilty of wanting and needing recognition. May we find that need met when we know we are accepted in the Beloved and He loves us just as we are.

  2. I agree. It has been the downfall of many public people after the pinnacle of success…none of us would be immune. We criticize where we have not walked, and forget we are all cut from the same cloth and we need a Healer.

    • Love your last sentence. Don’t cast stones.

  3. I agree with your assessment. Miley is trying to find her identity. In doing that she has to start at the far end of the spectrum and work her way back towards the middle.

    What is the complete opposite of Hannah Montana? The VMAs were pretty close. If she’s learning anything at all from the backlash she will begin to work her way back towards the center and eventually find the medium between Hannah and the VMAs. The most successful celebrities do this.

    But here’s the real lesson, as Christ followers we don’t have to do this. We can accept His invaluable gift of salvation and stop trying to find the happy medium between our perfect selves and our sinful selves. We become His and therefore new creations. We don’t have to use the scale at all anymore. We just are and that is amazing grace.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Well said. Everyone is ready to jump in and attack. We are all the same. Trying to fit in somewhere.

  5. What a grace-filled response! I’ve been loathe to write anything on the topic because it seems like she has been getting piled on… and as she already seems to be a very confused, hurting young lady, I didn’t think I could say anything that might help.

    I really like reading your thoughts on it, though. I think we’ll need to remember to add the poor thing to our prayer lists. She is definitely in need of prayer covering!

    • Thanks for your kind words. Christians need to distinguish themselves with compassion. It does not mean acceptance. Thanks for dropping by!

  6. I agree that she is trying to find something..?? attention perhaps, but she is a performer and that is just what she did…perform. I feel badly for her as well as I feel she has some “issues” that need to be resolved. You are very kind and delightfully broad minded.

  7. I watched it online because so many people were talking about it I wanted to see it for myself and form my own opinion. I just felt very bad for her, that she felt she had to disrespect herself like that. And felt bad for her parents as well. But as you said, without the Lord who knows what kinds of things we would think were alright? Thanks so much for linking up to Making Your Home Sing Monday!

    • You are so right in noting how we try to use degradation to some how earn approval. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Don’t be shy!

      • I caught just a few moments of Ms. Cyrus’ gyrations & tacky attitude on some news referring to her “performance” I think the last sentence of your commentary pretty well says it. I will add, that there are SEVERAL popular female singers who behave (dance?) similarly during
        their performances….but 1. they are older & 2. didn’t grow up squeeky clean on tv. Well, then there’s Madonna, & Lady Gaga. Maybe those are who Ms. Cyrus is aiming to dethrone.

        Good luck with that, Miley! You don’t have to be trashy to sell your music. Try it, you’ll see.

        • Yes, Miley is not alone is trying to prop up her identity through affirmation and attention. Thanks for reading.

  8. Wow, what a powerful and thoughtful post. Thanks for actually caring about this lost young lady.

    • I just have to add that it actually brought tears to my eyes that someone is seeing her as someone loved by God that He died for and while clearly calling her out of her sin is also expressing love and concern for her. Good job.

      • Thanks, I am glad you were touched. I’m really glad you dropped by.

  9. Your last statement says it all–getting her identity straight will show itself in a new performance for sure, Scott! And I really hadn’t stopped to consider just how much the experience of growing up under the spotlight would shape her identity and her desire for that continued affirmation. It makes total sense and does give me more compassion for her. And to personalize this, I certainly can see that I’ve done the same thing at times–maybe not crude gestures, but certainly I’ve looked for affirmation and identity from the wrong source. I suppose I cannot cast any “stones” her way when I’m just as guilty. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Scott!

    • Welcome back Beth! Glad you were able to personalize this, that was what I was shooting for. We all do this. In Christ, it is when our old nature battles the new. Out of Christ, it is our way to derive a sense of self. Thanks for commenting.

  10. This is so sad. Jesus had compassion for the lost. Good approach.

  11. Everyone has already said pretty much the same thing I was going to. I don’t want to be redundant, so I’ll just say I agree and great post!

  12. i was stunned at what i saw on the internet of miley. Knowing that she was raised in a Christian home and baptized into the Christian faith, this little lady knows of Christ. She obviously knows what sells in the world because she has this part well identified. She has turned her back on Christ and desires to live like the world in the world. Observing her fruit, you don’t perform this way when sold out to Christ. Anything goes mentality screams out that they are off track and need a baptism in the Holy Ghost. She has said that too much is being made of this performance. She’s lost. Her part in our modern culture will help other girls bump and grind as sport. Something to imitate and they will.

  13. Yours is a grace-filled response. Thank you, kind sir.

  14. I think she made a big mistake but she is at that age of finding herself. I would NOT have wanted the world to be able to witness some of my actions at her age.

  15. Beautifully said! I hope that she will turn to Christ before it is eternally too late!

  16. I agree and how awkward that we have to see her struggle through this awkward time.

  17. So good, so very good. I didn’t see it, nor did I want to. It breaks my heart that her parents didn’t try to stop some of this but in this Hollywood culture even they at times are blinded by what is “right and wrong”. But I am with you, we sure don’t need to be condemning, she has enough of that! Prayer is what is needed, you never know somewhere down the road if God could turn this tragedy into a testimony. He did it for me!

  18. I find it so sad that in today’s culture the search for identity leads to sexual immorality, drunkenness and drugs. We are indeed lost!
    Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions

    • If I’m reading the letters of Paul right, sexual immorality and drunkenness are not new to our culture today. This has been people’s path for as long as there’s been people. Thanks for commenting!

  19. My heart hurts for that little girl. I pray that God place people in her path who are willing help her seek her identity in the Lord.

  20. Great thought provoking Blog. Miley and you have got the masses talking!

    Is she a lost soul or a really clever business woman? Certainly her new album/song is getting lots of airtime down here…

    My Kids are telling me it is really good…

    We were all pretty shocked down here – don’t forget she is (we think) still dating our boy!


  21. Visiting from Marriage Mondays. It is so sad that celebrities feel like they have to keep notching up the shock value, and/or adding sex to stay on top. How can you possibly keep your identity straight if you don’t have a solid group of loved ones around you to pull you back in before you cross a line; and also to walk a christian walk with you daily as you are surrounded by secular influence. I hope she remembers she is dearly loved by Jesus – full stop. And recommits herself to Him with the above in place soon.

  22. I often feel badly for these young singers and actors that have to grow up in the limelight. I got to do all my self discovery out of public view and I am very grateful for that. I hope she can figure out who she is sooner than later.

  23. I agree that everyone should have the right of finding their identity … but to publicly do it in such a way that is so different from how the world grew up with you is a little off putting. But, to each their own.

    Thank you for linking to Raising Imperfection.
    Please come back Friday to see if you were featured. 🙂

    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo

  24. Scott, you’ve done it again! This is the post that thrilled me most and will be my feature post on tomorrow’s Thrilling Thursday!

    • Thanks for the feature, and the extremely kinds words you said about the blog.

  25. I like your explanation of “the uniqueness of a person”, thus checking what self identity means, defined

    character, identity, individualism, personality, selfhood, self-identity

    Related Words
    distinctiveness, idiosyncrasy, oneness, peculiarity, separateness, singleness, singularity, uniqueness; disposition, humor, nature, temper, temperament; independence

    Near Antonyms
    conformity, conventionality

    While we all don’t understand why she would do such things, and Im not sure it was planned (give her the benefit) I think performers get carried away without foresight, thus a lot of hindsight. Which from what the media said, she did apologize to her followers. For me I dont like to be the judge, that will be taken care of.

    Thanks for your thoughts and perspective and for visiting this week.

    Oh My Heartsie Girl

  26. After I heard her story based upon the “Wrecking Ball” song, I was shocked that she was telling her story in the manner that she was. As a mom, I feel that she is acting out and acting older than she really is trying to gain the approval of the world or to fulfill a missing need. As a Christian, I am sad for her and feel that she could do a much better job of portraying her story in a different manor. She doesn’t need to dress like a slut in order to gain the approval of others. I realize that she is hurting and want to share her story, kudos for that, but I would be horrified if I was her mom.

    • Good points here. My heart breaks for her too. But, this is part of her journey that God can use – we’ll just have to hope and pray that she’ll open to the true source of identity. Have a blessed day!

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