PILLAR 1: IDENTITY
Welcome to our new series on The Whole-Hearted Leader! Are you ready to become the best version of you, so you can positively influence and impact the world around you?
Let’s talk about the first pillar of the whole-hearted leader: your identity. Who do you think you are? Understanding ourselves is vitally important. When we know and understand our true identity and how we are designed (and how others are designed), we are able to fully come alive and be authentically ourselves.
What comes to mind when you think of the word “identity”?
You know, identity is one of those things that we hear a whole lot about. We talk about our identity in Christ, and who we are as sons and daughters. But how do we know our identity? It seems really simple, but it’s a whole lot more complicated when we start digging deep into the issues.
When we talk about “our identity in God,” it’s easy to say, “Well, I’m a child of God.” “I’m a daughter of the King.” And those are true, absolutely! But how do you discover the true you, that unique you, that person God created you to be, when He spoke over you, as He was knitting you together in your mother’s womb?
What is NOT a part of your identity?
Before we go deeper into what your identity is, I want to talk about what is not a part of your identity. Ultimately, you cannot base your identity in anything that could be taken from you, because once it is stolen, lost, or diminished, your life will unravel. We need to find our identity in who God says that we are.
Recently, I have been working with a young woman in therapy, a dancer who has been struggling with an eating disorder. And being a dancer became so much a part of her identity that when she was no longer able to dance for a season, she was lost. She felt that her entire identity was being a dancer, but is that really who she was? Her whole life was consumed with being a ballerina, but her identity was wrapped up in something that was fleeting. Because of her eating disorder she had to sit out from exercise for a season, so she could gain back some weight and get healthy again. So we had to discuss how her identity could not be rooted in what she does.
What you DO is not your identity.
Now, your career or your occupation does become a part of you. It’s something that defines you to some degree, because that’s how we relate in the world, and how we interact with other people. When we’re unpacking our identity, I think it’s really okay to look at the aspects of us that color who we are. And, what we do, yes, is a part of our identity, but we need to be rooted and grounded in an identity that is above what we do. You are not what you do, you are who you are. And who you are filters through what you do.
An aspect of who the ballerina was – the expression of her identity – was in dance. In whatever you do, if you get your identity from what you do, you have performance mentality. The whole point is that what we do often becomes an extension of who we are.
But your identity needs to come from who God says that you are. Who does God say that you are? In my case, I’m a child of God, I belong to Him. I’m a daughter, it’s who I am. I am a mother, but my whole identity isn’t wrapped up in being a mother. I am a therapist, but my whole identity isn’t wrapped up in being a therapist. It’s not necessarily the job or the position or the title.
You know, I’ve worked with some worship leaders who actually had to step away from leading worship because it had become their identity. For many leaders, the position they have at the church or at the office becomes their identity. Hear this – anything that can be taken away – your identity better not be wrapped up in it. Even if you’re a mother or a father, and your children, God forbid, were taken away from you – your identity must not be wrapped up in being a mother or a father. It is a part of who you are, but it is not the fullness of who you are. It is not the completeness of who you are.
How is our true identity revealed?
Let’s think about that. Our human nature is our fallen nature if it’s not surrendered to the Spirit. Our soul is our will and our mind and our emotions – and they’re constantly fighting for ascendency – they want to be in charge. But we need to surrender our will, mind and emotions to the Spirit’s control, if we’re going to walk in the Spirit. It’s really important that we come back to this truth: our true identity is revealed as we surrender our fallen nature to God and receive our new nature and gifts in Him.
The grace and gifts that God has given us are what motivate us, and they color what we do, and how we do what we do. What we do isn’t our identity. What we do doesn’t define us. Whether it’s our career or our ministry or where we volunteer or our care-giving responsibilities in our family – none of that is our identity. Our identity is what we bring to what we do. It impacts the way we approach what we do, and how we do that particular thing differently than anyone else, because of the specific motivational gifting that God has given us, which makes up our unique identity.
What a blessed journey of unpacking and discovering what He made us to be!
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