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Honest Iago? "I am not what I am."

Another English class special, Shakespeare's, Othello, was a true tragedy in every sense of the word. No surprise there, naturally⁠—no one reads Shakespeare for the laughs⁠—but there's always something to be learned from his work, and Othello is no exception.


Othello pretty much hinges upon deception, jealousy, and revenge. From the play's very outset, the silver-tongued schemer Iago is chirping in the ears of primary characters, turning them against each other, and advancing his own agenda. He uses Othello's insecurity to convince him (falsely) of his wife Desdemona's disloyalty. He uses Cassio's fear of losing his reputation to turn him (obliviously) into Othello's rival. He uses the passion of the foolish Roderigo to outfit himself with a perfect tool for all his nefarious deeds. Lies upon lies, schemes upon schemes, whispers here and mutterings there, all with a ruthless goal of destroying Othello, elevating himself, and deceiving EVERYONE in the process.


One of Iago's most telling lines is, "I am not what I am." He's Othello's right-hand man, known by most (ironically) as "Honest Iago", but at heart and in his thoughts he is Othello's sworn enemy, toxic with defiance and hate. Two completely different identities—diametric personalities—attached to the same character.


I am not what I am.


Not many people are as purely selfish, ruthless, or chronically deceptive as Iago. But people do project identities that don't line up with their hearts: quiet, subtle facades of happiness or goodness to cover up whatever storms or struggles rage within. It can be with good intentions⁠, masking some internal struggle, or it can be an attempt to appear more virtuous or honourable or selfless than we are. Sometimes it's even the name of a Christian when that couldn't be further from the truth. But as for true Christians, God tells us that our manner should reflect what is in our hearts, that we should be what we claim to be. That's a part of living honest lives.


We shouldn't need to put up facades to hide what lies within⁠—if we ask God to work in our hearts, He'll cleanse us of the sins and stains we once felt the need to hide. He will perfect us and heal us within so that we can live knowing that we are what we are: Christians, followers of the Truth, and honest children of Christ.

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