Each of us will pass through various identifiable stages of development as we travel from the cradle to the grave. The following eight stages are fairly representative:

  1. Infancy (Birth-12 Months): The overriding issue is trust v. mistrust. The main question being asked at this stage of development is, “Is my world predictable and supportive?”
  2. Younger Years (1-3 Years): The overriding issue is autonomy v. shame & doubt. The main question being asked is, “Can I do it by myself or will I always need assistance?”
  3. Early Childhood (3-5 Years): The overriding issue is initiative v. guilt. The main question being asked is, “Am I good or am I bad?”
  4. Middle Childhood (6-10 Years): The overriding issue is industry v. inferiority. The main question being asked is, “Am I successful at what I do or am I worthless?”
  5. Adolescence (11-18 Years): The overriding issue is identity v. role confusion. The main questions being asked are, “Who am I? Where am I going in life?”
  6. Early Adulthood (18-34 years): The overriding issue is intimacy v. isolation. The danger at this stage is isolation, which can lead to severe character problems.
  7. Middle Adulthood (35-60 Years): The overriding issue is productivity v. stagnation. The main question being asked is, “Will I produce something of value with my life?”
  8. Later Adulthood (60 years-Death): The overriding issue is integrity v. despair. Integrity is the person’s inner assurance of his or her meaning and worth. Despair can be caused by fear of one’s own death as well as the loss of self-sufficiency, of loved-ones, partners and friends.

Failing to successfully navigate the issues at each stage can result in a crisis of identity: a sudden awareness of not knowing what one’s life is all about. One is faced with the paradox of believing that life is important while at the same time perceiving that human existence itself is without meaning.

Of course, God will resolve our identity crisis—if we let Him. In His word He constantly tells us who we are and why we are here. The question is, “Are we fully trusting Him?”

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