Finding identity beyond our work
I have been fired twice in my career. I’ll man up and admit that I probably deserved at least one of those boots (maybe both of them, come to think of it). I learned the hard way that I cannot place my entire identity in my job title or employer’s good name.
However, don’t we as men struggle with this? I mean, if you meet someone at your child’s music recital, shortly after you swap names, what do you both ask? “So, Byron, what do you do?” And, we understand in our culture, this means, “What is your job?”
We are sending the signal – and not a completely misleading one, if we are honest – that the second most important thing about a man is how he earns a living. I recognize the fact that this is a way of building relational bridges. We aren’t always connecting personal relevance too directly with this. Even so, I think many men believe their total reason for existence washes over them as they walk through the office door at 8 a.m. every Monday.
Allowing our identity to be driven by our careers is a dangerous game. Why? As noted above, that identity is not always fully within our control. It can be stolen from us quicker than we can say, “Can I get a box to pack my stuff?” The thief might be a vindictive boss, unpredictable market forces or a new parent company that just needs to go in “another direction.”
Placing our personal identity into our chosen line of work is like leaning back in a chair. We look cool right up to the moment someone kicks the legs out from under us.
Even for those who have been appointed by God to a task for a season or a lifetime, that calling is not the sum total of your worth as a human being. Even if your job aligns to your gifts, passions, or a specific call of God, there is still much more to who you are than where your direct deposits come from.
If you’re like many men, when you think of who you are, you don’t have a person in mind; you have a role. Men, have we replaced our spiritual identity in Christ with our job title? Can we be fully known after a careful review of our curriculum vitae? Have we become whoever LinkedIn says we are?
If this is you, let me encourage you: stop trading down! What you “do” does not equal “who” you are. You matter more to God – and your wife, children, relatives and friends – than just because of the office you occupy or documents you’re authorized to sign.
Men (especially) must be absolutely sure we’re making this distinction, because this distinction will be the making of us.
Kent Evans is the Executive Director and co-founder of Manhood Journey, a nonprofit ministry
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