How to Handle An Identity Crisis With Grace

Dr. John Townsend

September 10, 2018

It’s very easy to confuse what we do with who we are. As one sociologist said, “Most people define themselves by their job. When they retire, they need a narrative about who they are now.”

Any change in what we do can easily trigger a crisis of identity. What is the story we are to tell others about ourselves when experiencing a change? How do we get comfortable with our new identity when it still doesn’t seem to fit right?

Weathering The Identity Shift

When your work is your identity, change can shake that sense of identity. Comparison to others can also drive you to maximize your identity. We all feel it: it is a longing for significance, to be known and recognized, to be validated for our labors and achievements.

This is nothing new. Even the author of Ecclesiastes saw this:

“Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4)”

The New Testament version of that insight comes from 1 Timothy 6:6–7:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”

Focusing on Jesus Shifts Our Perspective

When the transition of being career-focused to being parenting-focused is happening, this new season of life should not be taken lightly. At times, it might seem very challenging. In these moments, remember to have grace on yourself.

You will feel and experience many changes. Changes in your schedule, relationships, daily routine, and more! This is normal. Embrace it and see what you can learn!

Today the ability to have a career and be a good parent is possible, so long as your most important focus is your children. You can read more about finding balance when you’re a career-oriented parent here.

Putting your kids before your career may be a hard transition for the strong career man or woman. That’s okay! Growth isn’t easy! This transition can sometimes feel like you are giving a part of yourself away or “up” for the benefit of your children. I offer the following insight on seasons and timing from The Bible for your consideration.

Our affirmation does not come from the kind of labor we do.

As Christians, we are to be grounded in Christ’s identity, even as we add other roles and ways to express that identity in relationship to others. We might have an interesting job for a season. We might be married for a season. We might have children at home for a season. But those things can be taken away from us — or never given to us at all. They are gifts for this life only.

Jesus has promised that if we choose to sit at his feet, we have made the best choice of all. We will inherit the better portion, that which will never be taken away: a relationship with God, his word, and the promise of eternal rewards and life with Him in heaven.

Simply put, Jesus shifts our earthbound perspective, taking us high above our daily lives to see the importance of being his disciple. That perspective shift is all we need to settle a crisis of identity.

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