Is your job really who you are? With so many options at our fingertips, we can construct all sorts of very creative ways to reflect an identity. Social media has given us all the freedom of expression that’s not tied to the traditions that many of us have grown up with. But while we might project an identity in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways, the question of identity itself is an important discussion.
The truth is, those who are less socially rebellious might typically get their identity from family, relationships or work. Many of us either judge ourselves or feel that we’re judged by others for the sort of work that we do. In this 20Twenty conversation, we explore what it might mean to delight in an identity that has its formation, not only in our work, but also in the heart of God.
Andrew Laird believes that revisiting the way we find our identity will give us a new joy in Jesus, and change the way we think about our lives, especially our work. Andrew is the National Manager of Life@Work, an initiative aimed at connecting Christian faith with our daily work. He’s also the author of the book called ‘Under Pressure: How the Gospel Helps us Handle the Pressures of Daily Work’.
Andrew believes that the current COVID situation and lockdowns are having an enormous impact on the workplace, in terms of people who are overworked and unable to escape from it because they’re working from home. But there’s also the flip side that for many their work has dried up, and they are struggling and suffering because of that. When our identity is tied to our work and our value and worth is tied to what we do, if that’s taken away it can be crushing.
“Many whose work might’ve been stable in a pre-COVID environment, has now become quite unstable,” says Andrew. “But there’s also a whole range of jobs that our society typically didn’t value. Through this whole time, we are finally seeing essential workers and recognising just how valuable they are.”
Andrew continues that traditionally there has been a lot of creativity in coming up with job titles to describe things that might otherwise feel very routine. But often those jobs titles can be designed to try and increase the sense of value or worth that we feel in what we do.
“Whether we’re Christian or otherwise, all of us can be tempted by that offer of a title that might elevate our status in the eyes of others. Particularly if we are connecting what we do and what our job title is with the value or worth we subscribed to ourselves.”
This is an incredibly significant issue in the work force today, and it’s becoming the number one pastoral issue for Christians when it comes to the workplace. It’s such a blind spot that we have connected these two things together, and it can have a quite significant and very detrimental consequences when we do.
“The key word I think is when we look to our work to find our source of identity,” continues Andrew. “When we do that, we look at what we achieve or accomplish or fail to achieve or accomplish, as the source of our identity. In Australia today there is a tragic statistical connection between suicide and disappointment with work. When work has been your identity and inevitably when it is taken away, that can be absolutely crushing for so many people.”
Sadly, in Australia today, the group most statistically at risk of suicide are older men and particularly older men in retirement. “People come into retirement and really don’t know who they are anymore. The problem is our culture. Our society does rank jobs in order of value and importance. We look down on some and elevate others.”
“But the Christian perspective is that actually we’ve been put in this role, regardless of what the culture thinks of it. God has placed us to be His ambassador and we can do tremendous things for Him in that context. If our identity is not found in what we do and accomplish, then our retirement can be a wonderfully productive time for the Lord”.
Listen below to hear the rest of Andrew’s fascinating discussion with Neil.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.
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