Identity: Who Am I?

Tim Jackson —  September 17, 2012 — 22 Comments

In my last post, I talked about how people sometimes mistakenly identify themselves by their mental health diagnosis. But a diagnosis isn’t the only way we misidentify ourselves. It’s easy to do that in other ways as well.

Don’t believe me? Take this simple test. The next time you’re hanging out with a group of people, listen to the ways you and they talk about and identify themselves. “I’m a carpenter.” “He’s a pediatrician.” “I’m a nurse.” “She’s a school teacher.” “I’m a lawyer.” “I’m a stay-at-home mom.”

Our natural tendency is to identify ourselves with what we do. Our jobs. Our professions. But fundamentally, as important as our jobs are, we are not the job. Our value and worth can’t be based on any job or profession. A job is how we function in a particular capacity for a specific purpose, but who we are isn’t what we do.

I’m often identified by others as a counselor. But honestly, I’m not a counselor. Yes, I have the requisite degrees, certifications, and licensure stating that I’m approved to practice the counseling profession in my state. But I’m not a counselor. Instead, I describe myself as a man who does counseling. Do you hear the difference? The difference is between identity (who I am—a man) and function (what I do—I counsel).

Counseling is something I do. But my identity is that first and foremost I’m a man, made in the image of God, worthy of love and respect, and I counsel. Someday, due to age or circumstances, I will no longer function in the role of a counselor, but my identity won’t change.

At the core, identity always goes back to image, not the image I create for myself with my public presentation of my profession, but the image that God created me in—His image (Gen. 1:26-27). And that image is foundational for understanding the value and worth of every human being.

It’s the image that the invisible God has etched on every human soul regardless of race, gender, age, socioeconomic status, nationality, or profession. Any other basis for identity is merely descriptive.

If our identity is tied to our job, well, in a nutshell, we’re in trouble.

The reality is that our jobs and professions can and do change. Statistics tell us that the average stay in a job is 4.1 years and that most adults will have 7 to 10 job changes throughout their working careers. If one’s identity is based upon one’s performance, what happens when the job, the profession, or the career we relied on is lost? An identity crisis. Many people don’t know who they are without their work. And with the instability in the job market coupled with the shifting sands in the current economic climate, an identity based on one’s work can be tenuous at best and can feed into chronic feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.

Remember: You have an identity given to you by God Himself when you were being formed in your mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13-14). It’s an identity you can never lose. Living with a renewed focus on your true identity can save you from investing massive amounts of time, energy, and money trying to create an image for yourself that will inevitably disintegrate.

So, who are you? Does this identity and image thing strike a cord with you? Let me hear from you.

 

 

 

Tim Jackson

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Tim Jackson is married to his college sweetheart, Cole. They have 3 adult children. Tim is the producer for the HelpForMyLife.org website, writes Discover Series booklets on a variety of counseling issues and hosts webinars for RBC Ministries. He's also the founder and president of Still Waters Counseling & Equipping Ministries, PC, a local counseling practice serving individuals, couples and families. When not in the office, you will probably find him up a tree with a bow, in a duck blind or fly fishing on one of Michigan's many rivers.

22 responses to Identity: Who Am I?

  1. Thank u for sharing this. I have given my life to christ 20 years ago and her in the last three years its been a struggle for me. I know who I am I’m a child of God. But when I went home to Hawaii it was a battle for me. I came back to California loosing my identy iin who I was. It was tough but remembering everything I was taught in church and reading books and lots of prayers the Lord reveil to me Ur mine Child of God I love you.. I have a lot to share and a lot of questions. I do know I’m a child of God..

  2. Laura, thanks for your comments.The key is that you did remember. Now you’re being more intentional because you remembered and are choosing to live differently.

  3. Thanks. I can really relate to this. My husband has been out of work since March after over 17 years with the same company. I didn’t expect to, but sometimes I do feel like I don’t know who I am any more. I think it has affected me more than my husband! I try to stay focused on what is important, but I do struggle. Thanks for the reminder that we are more than what we “do.” I found it very encouraging.

  4. Yes amen. That trip home sure made me stronger in Christ. I will always stand for Christ and won’t ever forget who I am. And I will help others to stay strong in Christ. I did share the gospel with my family in Hawaii and reunited with my real dad. I have to go back in November if the Lords willing to see my Great uncle before he pass. Thank you.

  5. Tim,
    this post and the last one both hit a nerve with me. i “was” a teacher, then a caregiver for our invalid parents, then i got cancer, and lost my marriage. now i have ptsd. i’ve been really struggling to understand why God has insisted i live and deal with all of this and carry on. Oh, i know He loves me, i see His hand in my doctors taking me away from my abusive ex, putting me into a shelter, sending me to therapy. I see His hand in protecting me and providing for me daily. what i don’t see is any value left in me or my life as it is now. i’m really struggling with this.

  6. Thanks Tim,

    You won’t beleive it but I was searching for an answer to an “inner” issue that I was having today at work with my new Supervisor.I felt as if I had been belittled because of a comment something to the effect I had not followed the “chain of command,” even though I am not in the military any longer but working in a civilian job. I felt as thought I was acting within the confines of my job description and was following a former upper level advice and counsel that is organizationally lateralized to my supervisors organizations position.
    Inside a felt a very strong urge to put this person in their place because of my postion and the guidance I had been given. Afterall, this supervisor was new and I have been here longer. I was very very dependent on God to get me through this–so I was praying ans seeking His help and was led here to read the Oswald Chambers Sept 17th posting plus follwed by a prayer, Lord please help me I need and answer, I found and read your blog and suddenly it clicked, I am a man created in God’s image that “functions” as an Instructor/Teacher/Program Director. I have re-read it now several times. I feel my soul has have the Balm of Gilead applied.

    Thank You,

  7. I am a Woman God created adn blessed to have been a Social Worker at one point inlife hten a teacher and now a cashier. I also am blessed to be aom of two chidlren whom i dedicated thhe past 19 plus years of life to being sure were nurtured and taken care of. Now I am also about to be a grandmother to a baby girl in November. an relate to what you are sayign too because I spent so much time intwined in getting our 19 yr old son who had some learning and emotional behavior challenges through High school and havign both parents fall ill almost back to back (Dad has dimentia and Im gaurdian, mom developed cancer nd died in 2010)I lost track of who I am and what my purpose here on earth is and I am gradually getting back into the swing of things. Your message was right on time.

  8. Thank you for your insight Tim, I really enjoyed reading. This blog kicked up some feeling I had in the past or some now in present time. Thanks for giving me time to reflect. Got to go back to work now!

  9. Thanks for sharing! I love this post! It helps me understand our daily living and the current situation of my generation. Yup, we all need to make a living but our positions at work must not define us because it will end anyway. . . And we don’t want to lose our indentities once we retire. I often see the youth trying to get a certain thing or be in a group of ppl for the sake of a status symbols… They ‘re full of potentials for many good things. So, I hope and pray that way of thinking will change. . .And this is also what I love about Christianity! Someone/some good thing suddenly pops out after saying a prayer! This really helps many young people who like me… Thanks again! Praise the LORD! Our God is great!

  10. Molly, Wow!. This feels like deja vu for me. Your husband’s story was my dad’s story after 23yrs. at the same company back in the mid-70′s. It really hammered him, even though he tried to hide it well. It’s especially hard to “believe” the truth (even though we “know” it’s true) when we don’t “feel” like it’s true in the middle of our struggles. Thank God that He’s faithful even when our faith falters. He lifts us up. And your words are encouraging to others. May God lift you up today.

  11. Laura, Praise God for your courage to share your heart and your Father’s heart for your family. We pray that the seeds you’ve sown will bear fruit with your dad and that your time with your great uncle will be meaningful in November.

  12. Debby, I’m grateful for your open heart in spite of how you’ve felt hammered by all that you’ve experienced and endured in the last several years, and now you’re struggling with your value. It’s no wonder. Not only have all these experiences drained you emotionally, physically, and spiritually, the Evil One’s agenda it to exploit your vulnerability and strategically leverage all of these struggles to the point of saying, “See, I told you that you can’t trust God! Look at what you’re going through. He doesn’t really care about you. He’s forgotten you. He’s abandoned you.” Those are Satan’s “fiery darts” (Eph. 6:16) that can only be extinguished with a shield called faith.

    Your story reminds me of Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-50. He didn’t “get” what God was up to in his story when mocked by his brothers, thrown in a pit, sold as a slave, falsely accused of doing wrong, unjustly imprisoned under false accusations. I’m sure that he was feeling far from “valued” by God. But . . . God wasn’t finished writing His story in Joseph’s life yet. All wasn’t lost. And Joseph had a choice in how he wanted to write his part of the rest of his story. He chose faithfulness to God in spite of the losses, struggles, grief, injustice and heartache. And God honored him for his faithfulness.

    Debby, God sees your pain, understands your struggles and will honor your faithfulness to Him. You are one of His precious daughters by faith. You are a “Princess” of the King. You are beautiful and valuable to Him. Never forget: being faithful is your grateful act of daily worship to your King.

  13. I have struggled with personal identity and self-worth nearly all my life beginning about age 13, and I am now 46. I have always felt God to be in my heart although I have sinned and known that it was wrong, and still repeated that behavior. I can’t seem to find my way in this world, at least in a way that would give me stability in my life. It seems that I do well for a time, then slide down into despair when my finances become so depleted that I lose my auto insurance, struggle with paying my power bill, and beg my family for money to bail me out. I know that this has got to me my fault somehow. I will at times feel as if I can’t get moving to do simple things, and I berate myself, and think that I am a bad person although I don’t harm anyone, unless counting how my family must worry about me at times. I found the RBC Ministries site this morning, read several of the topics and I feel a great sense of comfort. Thank you for your work, and God Bless All.

  14. Larry, I just love it how God “surprises us” that way. You were actively looking for one thing to encourage you (which I highly recommend being proactive) and He led you to something unexpected that just fit you where you were at that day. That is so sweet! And just like God to “demonstrate His love for us” (Rom. 5:8) in yet another tangible way. Blessings to you and pass it on . . . encourage someone else today by how you’ve been encouraged. It’s infectious!

  15. Lisa, I’m please we were able to come alongside and encourage you in your journey. That’s what we’re trying to do on the “HelpForMyLife.org” website. We want to provide a variety of written, audio, and video resources to help you “struggle well” with whatever you’re journeying through because we’re all journeying through something. Pass along what you’ve found to others so they can be encouraged too, and please stop back and check out more of our resource to help you with your journey. And, don’t hesitate to let us know what areas you’d like us to develop that would be of help to you. Thanks for sharing your story here with us.

  16. God’s Princess, I love your “title”–God’s Princess! That is so true! Glad we were able to stir the pot for you so that you can be challenged to wrestle more deeply (Heb. 10:24) with who you are as the Kings’ daughter and what difference that makes each day that you live. Let us know how it goes.

  17. Chrissie, You’re welcome. Glad we could encourage you today. That’s why we’re here. Check out the rest of our resources on HelpForMyLife.org to help you on your journey today. Blessings.

  18. Adam, Glad we were able to help and encourage you in your struggles. We all struggle in some ways. They’re unique to each of us, but nevertheless, we all struggle. Our website, HelpForMyLife.org is here to provide resources to encourage you to keep the faith one step at a time in your life journey. We have blogs, written resources and audio and video resources to teach, encourage and challenge you to go deeper in your relationship with Jesus as you face the challenges of your life. Take advantage of all we have to offer. That’s why were here. It takes courage to journey well. Stay on the path.

  19. Tim,
    thank you for taking the time to answer each of us. Your words of encouragement really mean a lot to me right now.

  20. Debby,
    You’re welcome. :-)

  21. I worked for same company for 39 years and was looking forward to several more. On the first day of November, two years ago I arrived at work to discover that I no longer had a job.
    For 39 years my life and existence revolved around my job. Because of failing health (heart, diabetes)I depended upon the health care I received with the job to maintain both my daily life and cost of medicine and proceedures.With one swoop it was all gone! I had some very dark times for awhile.But then I discoved that I was more then my job. I was one of God’s creations and was far more important then what ever employment I might have.
    Well I retired two years early and have found new if not renewed meaning in everyday life. I now volunteer three days a week at my local hospital and enjoy beyond measure giving back some of what I had received and learn that life is an open book each day and is waiting to be filled by the things and people that I meet.
    Losing a 39 year employment wasn’t as bad as i thought.

  22. Chuck, You are awesome! I love your honesty about the struggle with how hard it was to get the news that your job was terminated. You don’t sugar coat how tough it was. But I love how you opened your heart to God and invited him to change your vision of what He was up to in what seemed like a disaster. You’re renewed perspective on your identity and now life is an amazing example of what God can do in our lives when we invite Him to give us new eyes to see what He’s up to. Thanks for encouraging us!

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