In today's world, especially in the West, there are three beliefs that try to take root in our lives and shape our identity.
"I am what I do"
"I am what other people say about me"
"I am what I have"
In this three-part series, we will attempt to look at these cultural identity statements and unpack what they mean for our lives and our health. This article is a brief examination of the statement:
"I am what I do".
Whenever we meet someone one of the first questions that arrises is:
"What do you do?"
The answer to this question seems to have significant ramifications. The American caste system, while not as clearly defined as in other countries, certainly exists. We are taught our value and worth stems out of what we DO.
If I were to answer the question "What do you do?"
A: I am a coal-miner
There would more than likely be a very long list of assumptions and preconceived notions about possible facts about my life.
For starters, one would probably assume, I was "blue-collar". That perhaps I didn't have much or any education. That perhaps my family life had some form of dysfunction and that is why I did not chose to "progress" in society and climb the ladder of enlightenment and education to "better myself", or that my vocation was a result of poverty and systemic prejudices and insurmountable obstacles I simply was not afforded the ability to overcome.
The list of possibilities goes on, and on.
As this scenario plays out however, there is a distinct possibility that subconsciously you probably wouldn't consider that who I am as a person is someone worth knowing because you've been taught that what I do isn't very important.
And therein we find the lie:
What you do, is who you are and who you are is what you do.
This has tremendous ramifications for a persons emotional, mental and physical well being. Continually being treated in an unfavorable manner according to the societal perceptions surrounding a vocation impacts family life, social life and at the core attacks a persons dignity as well as the very fabric of ones "Imago Dei" or being created in the Image of God.
Overtime, this produces a deeply held form of Self-Rejection that we can battle against our entire lives unless we start to shift our gaze away from our "doings" back to "being". As we rest in "being" we start to realize, we are deeply loved because of who we are, not what we do.
If however, I were to answer the question: "What do you do?"
A: I am a United States Senator
There also would be a very long list of assumptions about the facts of my life. Probably the the first assumptions would be that I am well-educated, powerful, connected and have significant financial assets. You might assume I wasn't trustworthy, or even if I was, that knowing me might help you advance your own status and life circumstances to a more favorable position than what they currently are. Perhaps the knowledge of "what I do" as a "white-collar" politician would cause you to act with reverence in how you treated me.
As this scenario plays out however, there is a distinct possibility that subconsciously you probably would consider that who I am as a person is someone worth knowing because you've been taught that what I do is very important.
And therein we find the same lie: What you do, is who you are and who you are is what you do. What you do, determines who you are and what you do, therefore, determines how I will treat you.
Overtime, this lie also produces a deeply held form of Self-Rejection that we can battle against our entire lives unless we start to shift our gaze away from our "doings" back to "being". As we rest in "being" we start to realize, we are deeply loved because of who we are, not what we do.
On this side of the vocational coin, the lie produces arrogance, pride, an ego-centric existence and other various flaws. In both scenarios these character flaws can lead to some very dark roads. All the time the person in either vocational situation is also basing their worth on what they do, and as a result, if what they do is threatened or they can no longer perform or their vocation is taken away, depression starts to set in.
In both scenarios, the happiness, and identity of the person is set up for failure because their identity is based on what they do, not who they really are. When a persons identity is rooted in what they do, not who they are, a zig-zag pattern of emotion will occur often leading to various problems.
In both the blue collar and white collar employment scenarios, when "I do good", I feel good about myself. When "I do bad", or am criticized, I get down on myself and start feeling depressed. This is no way for us to live! We need the voice that speaks from above and within that whispers and marks our souls with the truth.
That truth is: "You are my beloved son or daughter on you my favor rests."
This is why the Gospel account in Luke 3 of Jesus baptism is so important.
You may recall the account. During the Baptism of Jesus, when he has come up out of the water the "Spirit descended upon him like a dove" and The Father says, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased" (Lk 3:21-22)
Jesus went through the rest of His earthly ministry living this truth at the forefront as an example for all. When he was tempted in the wilderness, when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he was brought before Pilate, when his disciples and friends deserted him, when he was praised during the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the crowds followed him in numbers and droves. No matter the ZigZag good or bad, he kept going back to His Father's spoken word about him. "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased"
This is our challenge as well:
To continually go back to God in prayer and let him wash the truth of our identity over our minds, emotions and souls. In a world of negative voices that shout "you are no good; you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable; you are nobody unless you can prove your worth" We have to continually go back and allow the Father to say over us:
"This is my beloved son or daughter in whom I am well pleased"