Dispel the Myth That What You Do Is Who You Are

I am a professional extrovert.

It surprises most people who have seen me preach in front of large crowds that I am not energized by being with people. Crowds are intimidating to me. I am not the life of any party (though my wife wishes I would be). Molly, my wife, loves being with people. The more parties, the better in her world. Not so for me. I don’t hate people, by any means. I just get more energized by being home with a good cup of pour-over coffee and enjoying the company of a few close people I love.

So you will not find it surprising when I tell you I am usually in the corner at most large gatherings. If a bunch of friends are getting together, I find a few I can connect with deeply in a corner somewhere rather than “working the crowd.” I wasn’t always this way, but when I entered my 20s, I found that the surface interactions around the red Solo Cup was not something I enjoyed. Now, I think I know why.

Think about this—at parties, what do we talk about with other people? Our jobs. What we’ve been up to. We say things that will impress or create greater conversations. Often, we say half-truths over the background noise and music, never fully giving a glimpse of what we are actually experiencing in life. If we are talking with someone we don’t really know, the other person will ask, “So what do you do?” or “Are you staying busy?” and we rattle off all that we do in life, as if busyness is some sort of merit badge in God’s great game of life.

This is actually the same thing that many people experience in church and why so many people avoid it. I had a guy tell me yesterday over my sesame chicken that he will never come back to church because the people looked too nice and the conversations were too shallow. “It was too fake for me,” he said with the most respect possible. I get it. Inauthenticity makes my skin crawl too.

But the other reason that I struggle with shallow conversation, and have for years, is because it requires me to know who I am and have confidence in that. Think about it, if someone asks, “So what do you do?” as they insert a chip full of nacho cheese in their mouth, I have to answer with some kind of reply that makes them believe I actually love what I do and find my value in it. Our western culture has made what we do equivalent to who we are.

Don’t believe me? Just peruse social media for a few minutes. You will quickly see we are all upholding an image we want people to see rather than all that actually is; our identity is deeply rooted in things other than Christ. For men, we mostly find identity in what we do. For women, you mostly find identity in your relationships. If we were honest with ourselves, I think we would find that we spend a lot of time upholding what we want people to see rather than what actually is.

We find value in the opinions and views of others and what they think of us. We did this as children with our parents. We did it in elementary school with our friends and favorite teachers. We did it in middle school with the opposite sex. In high school, our value came through accomplishments and skill. In college, we derived who we are and our value through acceptance by individuals or institutions. For some, now in adulthood, we are left as shuddering insecure messes, not sure who we are at the core and how to break out and embrace our true identity in Christ. So we go on doing and relating, longing to be accepted.

Who am I?

Ed Welch) all asked similar questions. Yet, once they understood their identity in God, nothing could stop them from living out their unique purpose.