Before You Are an Occupation You Are a First a Person

mocha momentsContemporary Christian vocalist, songwriter and guitarist from San Diego, California, Phil Wickham recently lost his voice. He was supposed to lead worship at an event called Catalyst – a conference for leaders about 3,500 strong in Southern California but because of his “no voice” situation he wasn’t able to make it. The organizers still wanted Phil “present” so they asked him to write a letter to share what was happening to his voice and what was going on in his heart.

“While leading worship last weekend on a tour through New England, my vocal chords hit a wall. I felt a drastic change in my voice, and I knew something wasn’t right. It was like a guitar with broken strings. I knew where the notes should be, but they just weren’t there. We cancelled the following shows, and I had to wait several days until I could see a doctor and get some answers.

In the unknown of what was to come, my reaction was one I wouldn’t have expected. I would have guessed fear, or frustration. Maybe even desperation. But it wasn’t those things. I felt lost.

I realized right then how closely I tied my own worth with my voice. My worth as a provider. My worth as a leader. My worth as a person. Though now it sounds a bit melodramatic, I sat silent alone in my hotel room that night wondering, “What am I worth without a voice?” “Who am I without it?”

Like Phil’s voice, we identify so much with our work – what we do for a living – that to think of it being taken away – who would we be?

Jenny Blake, author of Life After College says “I find it easy for my entire identity to get wrapped up in my work. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am if not a Googler or a Blogger or a Coach…” Things happen in life that we don’t always expect and usually we are ill prepared. Just last night I was talking to a guy I hadn’t seen for ages and in our short ten minute catch up he told me that he had just lost his mother to cancer and his son broke his arm while playing in school. He described it as “wham and wham!” So what about you? Who would you be if you weren’t {insert label here}?

The title of this week’s column was actually something that Giftedness Coach Bill Hendricks shared in his book ‘The Person Called You.’ When I posted these very words as a status update on my Facebook business page it reached 131 people. The significance? I usually reach between 9 – 57 people. This statement obviously struck a chord.

Jenny Blake wrote an interesting post – same theme – different title: ‘You are not your job’. With over 60 comments, respondent Greg Blencoe got my attention with this observation “I think being busy (and defining yourself by your job) is a mask that we use to hide our true selves so others can’t see it.” I think Greg has a valid point.

Despite all this over-identification with our jobs, Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus in their book ‘Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge’ interestingly share that:

Something is definitely missing and we need to distance ourselves from our jobs to find out what that is.

you are a beautiful talented gemWe undervalue ourselves most times. When it comes to our natural gifts and talents we shrug off recognition or compliments. When friends or co-workers tell us of our brilliance we think “Brilliance? Gasp. I’m not brilliant. It’s just something that I do…no big deal.” We take ourselves for granted and instead opt for the title or label which makes us feel good about ourselves but does it really? Deep down we still think that we’re not worthy. And so we strive to do more and be more and achieve more in our jobs.

Not knowing WHO WE ARE has led us to an increased incapacity to deal with life. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost more and more of ourselves trying to do what was right, to fit in, to make it big! We’ve relied less and less on ourselves, our inner guidance and direction and more and more on what others are saying about what we need to do.

It’s time to rebuild trust in ourselves. Self-trust – a virtue, like patience – is a combination of three emotional and spiritual qualities: self-awareness, the accurate assessment of WHO WE ARE and what we care about; self-acceptance, the embracing of who we are in all our complexity; and self-reliance, the ability to use what we know about ourselves to get the results we want in our lives without constant worry about the approval or disapproval of others. When we trust ourselves we’re in touch with that inner core. We have self-possession – an ease under stress that reflects a command of our powers. Consequently we know we can handle what life throws at us – we can complete the assignment, juggle our schedules, organize our desks AND survive even if we lost our jobs.

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