How many times have you heard it said, “YOU are not what you DO”? And how many times have you whispered an honest “Amen” to those words?
But what if that statement is wrong? What if you ARE, at least in part, what you do? If I rephrased the statement to read, “You do what you are,” would you agree? Bet I’ve got more of you nodding now, and some of you are going, “Oooohhhhh….” Jesus said, after all, that “from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Didn’t he?
Part of the confusion, I think, is that we’ve got an inner/core identity (the spirit), and then the outer/manifest identity (how who we are actually translates into the real world). And there’s often a disconnect there. So I think I’m an artist at heart but no one likes my paintings, for example. Or I’ve been declared righteous in Christ, but my actions prove I’m a selfish jerk.
“Yeah, but that outer stuff isn’t the real me,” you protest. On one hand, you’re right. On the other, God routinely labels people according to their outer behavior: liars, adulterers, slanderers, etc. What do you do with that? It may not be true to their spiritual DNA—who they were created to be—but it has become who they are in real life. Right?
We usually use the “I am not what I do” declaration as it relates to our job or our ministry. But even here, I disagree. In Ephesians 4, God lists a bunch of spiritual gifts by saying “It was he (Christ) who gave some to BE apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.” BE, not just DO. Our place in the body IS part of our identity. Not all of it, mind you. But it is part of who we are. I AM a dad and husband, not just acting like one. It’s not just what I do, it’s part of my identity.
“But my job is different,” you say. And you may be right. But maybe not. You might be an HR manager. Notice you don’t say, “I perform HR tasks.” You say, “I AM an HR manager.” A sliver of your identity is found in that title. If you lose the job, do you lose yourself? No, because the reason you’re in HR is that you are a people developer at heart. That’s you. You’d do that no matter where you found yourself because it’s who you are.
Last year I could say, “I’m my kid’s soccer coach.” It wasn’t just what I did, it was who I was for two months. I can’t say that anymore. I’m taking a break this year. But I love training people. I’m a leader. See? The real trick is aligning our outer identity with our core identity. That’s what you call a sweet spot.