Where Do You Get Your Identity?
If someone were to ask you – “From where do you get your sense of identity – your sense of security in who you are?” How would you answer them? What would you say? It’s an insightful question that many of us don’t take the time to think about in our busy day-to-day lives.
God placed inside each one of us unique talents, gifts, abilities and strengths that we are meant to express and give away to the world. As we exercise risk and express these in our lives, we have the opportunity to live in the fullness of life that God desires for us to experience. The only caution with this is, sometimes we can get too caught up in expressing our talents and gifts at the expense of losing sight of the One who gave us these gifts in the first place.
As God’s created, our identity comes from our Father. He created us and knows us perfectly inside and out. For us to learn about ourselves, we need to be connected to Him. Sometimes the work of God – because it is something good and beneficial – can become our source of of identity instead of God being that source.
Let me give you an example of what this has looked like in my own life:
As a life coach, I love to help people overcome struggles and issues so they are able to move toward a fulfilling, purposeful life. From a young age, I’ve always wanted to be a life coach and when one of my friends told me about NLP certification training, I knew I had to choose coaching as my career. It can be such a rewarding career! In the very early stages of my coaching journey, there were times when my heart became particularly invested in some of my clients process toward health and wholeness. Sometimes the client did great; they moved forward and began experiencing breakthrough in their areas of struggle. Other times, the client stopped moving forward by choosing to give into old fears, behaviors and mindsets. Looking back, I could tell when my identity was wrapped up in their process by how I responded to what they chose. If they were taking steps back or ignoring issues, I would struggle with questions like, What am I doing wrong? Why aren’t I able to help them to the degree that they may need it? What if I’m simply not a very good coach? What began with simply caring about someone became me taking an unhealthy level of ownership for their progress. I would tend to think that their level of results from our coaching sessions was a complete and accurate reflection of my ability and skills to coach others. Sadly, I had made it all about me, which is the exact opposite of what my heart’s desire was in the first place – to love and guide people on their journey towards an abundant life. My identity was in what I did and how well I could do it, rather than having what I did come from a place of security in knowing my God-given identity.
In the New Testament, Jesus ran into the problem of people not being able to understand or receive His perfect love He was offering to them. And yet, He never took it personally because His identity wasn’t coming from what He was doing. His identity was coming from His Father. Jesus only did the will of the Father and all of His actions were sourced from God. So at the end of the day, if someone didn’t respond the way Jesus was hoping, He didn’t get offended and personally hurt. He wasn’t doing it just for the people but also for God. So if the people couldn’t receive what he was offering, He was still fulfilling what God put inside of Him to give away to others. Even when He was on the cross, and the very people He came to love and bring freedom to were crucifying Him, He uttered, “God forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) That is absolutely incredible to be able to give so purely.
How many of us have been hurt when someone doesn’t like or receive our music we created, our business plan, our counsel or help, our ministry…? Are we doing these things because we are doing what the Father gave us to do? Or are we doing these things for the response of the people? If our identity isn’t originating from God, we will search for another place to find it, and the tendency is to find it in something God has called us to do – keeping us trapped living in performance mode.
Jesus never acted from bitterness or resentment because how the people responded didn’t change His ability to follow the Father, which was His one and only calling. I do believe, however, that how people responded affected Him emotionally. He wept with Mary and Martha when Lazarus died. He got frustrated with His disciples when they couldn’t stay awake and pray with Him before the day of his crucifixion. He overthrew the tables of the church and drove out those who were using it for their own gain. I believe Jesus was very connected to His emotions – He felt things, but even His emotions were submitted to the Father and in alignment with God’s will.
Obviously we aren’t Jesus, but we need to do everything we can to be moving towards who He modeled for us to be. We need to begin coming into more and more alignment with our true identity in God rather than from the works that we do. This is the only way we can begin living out our destinies and the very things God has set before us to do.
So, here is a question for you: Do you get offended when someone doesn’t receive your work? Do you look down on them, resent them, or start making excuses for why they couldn’t receive what you had to offer? Is what you do submitted to God so you can handle rejection in this area?
I encourage you to take the time to really reflect on these questions, invite God to help you discover the answers, and then begin the journey with Him in making any adjustments needed to connect with the truth that your identity and value comes from who you are and whose you are.
by Brendon Byrne