What Gives You Your Identity?
What makes you you? When someone says to you, “Tell me about yourself,” what do you say? Are you the profession you chose? Are you the organizations that you belong to? Or are you your ethnicity? What is it that you allow to define yourself?
Many people assume their identity stems from who they believe they are, and many take their identity from external realities. When asked what they do, they respond, “I am an architect.” Or “I am a dentist.” By responding that way, they allow their profession to define them.
Others define themselves by the organizations they are part of. They may say, “I am the NRA.” Or “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” I think it’s great to be part of organizations. God made people to be relational, so it is perfectly fine to be part of organizations. But when people allow organizations to define them to the point of giving them their identity, then that becomes a problem.
Then there are others who allow themselves to be defined by their ethnicity. They may describe themselves as Scottish, or Chinese, or African (all three of those ethnicities live in my house), and I think it’s great to be proud of your ethnic heritage. But when your ethnicity defines who you are, then you lose your identity to your national origin.
So how should you think about your identity? Here are three principles to guide your thinking in that context.
1. Identity cannot be taken away.
Identity is not something that can be given to you, so it is not something that can be taken away.
If someone can give you a job, then they can take it away from you as well. That means what you do during your career is not your profession. And you should not take your self-esteem from what you do. If you derive your identity from your work, and then you lose your job, you may end up having an identity crisis.
In the 21st century economy, it is likely that you will change jobs many times during your career. Don’t allow yourself to lose your identity every time you make a job change.
You identity does not come from what you do. It comes from who you are.
2. Identity is not external.
If you derive your identity as a result of your association with someone else, then the person or persons that you associate with can redefine your affiliation with then.
If you allow your spouse is to define you—positively or negatively—then you are giving them power over your identity. But you are not who your spouse says you are. If your relationship soured and your spouse changed his/her mind about how they feel about you, it still would not change who you are. As a result, you should not look to your spouse for who you are because their opinion can change.
If you are a member of an organization that you have allowed to define you—and you don’t “pay your dues”—then they can say that you no longer are part of that group. If your affiliation with them defines your identity, then severing ties with that organization can have significant consequences for you.
Your identity does not come from what is outside of you. It comes from what is inside of you.
3. Identity is not physical.
Your identity is not tied up how you appear because your identity does not derive from anything physical.
You cannot define yourself by your race because there is only one race—the human race. Your ethnicity does not define you because the Scripture says there is no difference between people (Galatians 3:28). Christ said that all people are your neighbor, regardless of who they are or what they look like (Luke 10:25-37).
Your skin color cannot be your identity because you can’t take it with you. When your time on this earth is done, you will no longer inhabit your temporary dwelling. You will shed your physical body, and then you will be more you than you ever have been (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
Your identity does not come from your physical appearance. Your identity comes from your spiritual reality.
Your identity has nothing to do with how you spend your time, who you associate with, or what you look like. Identity comes from who you are, what is inside of you, and how you appear to God.
God loves you, and that is all you ever need to define you. Identifying as a child of God is the highest honor anyone can ever obtain. Recognizing who you are in relationship to God is true reality, for in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Given that reality, our lives should be spent focusing on the spiritual reality our lives are destined for. While we all should
- find something to do with our time,
- find others we can spend our time with, and
- take pride in those who have produced our national origin,
we should NOT find our identity in any of that. Because it won’t satisfy.
The only thing that will satisfy us in this life is understanding who we are in the context of the next life. If you define yourself by that one spiritual reality, you can still enjoy all the other attributes of yourself without letting them define you—because ultimately they don’t really matter.
I just published my second book, Dear Employee: What Your Boss Wishes You Knew.
I will send you a signed copy of my new book if you will post a review of the book on Amazon by 1/21/19.
For more details, click here.