from the archives
When we first meet someone and we begin the usual obligatory chit chat, we inevitably ask the question, “So, what do you do?”
And they give the expected answer. They state what they do for a living and talk briefly about their job or their career.
I have always found this to be such a depressing exchange. Sure, it’s just chit chat. You are talking with a stranger. It just seems to me that what people should be asking, and perhaps some of them are trying to ask is instead, “Who are you?”
To which we respond with…
A teacher. A business man. A homemaker. A student. An accountant. Those are our jobs or our careers. They do not and should not make up the whole of who we are.
When I meet someone for the first time, I want people to tell me why they do what they do, what it means to them, what is important in their lives, what they prioritize, and what they value.
Granted, I don’t think if Joe Schmoe walked up to me at a BBQ and said, “So, tell me…who are you? What is your life all about?” that I’d be too enthusiastic to answer. However, the point I’m making is this: Would we be put off if someone did just that? And better yet, would we answer them honestly?
The question is: does our identity stem from our jobs, positions, and titles, or does it come from knowing ourselves in relation to Christ? And are we willing to be vulnerable and transparent about our lives?
Being a stay-at-home mom, I can easily fall victim to thinking my identity is tied to what I do all day long. I feel some days like I am only a mom and that’s all I’ll ever be. I’m a cook, and a maid, and a servant. That’s it. It is so easy to let my identity slip into “the things I do” instead of who the Lord has made me to be and, ultimately, destined me to become.
Instead of feeling like an “only,” I have to remind myself that I am an “every.” I am everything God calls me: beloved, forgiven, righteous, redeemed, victorious, a warrior, a saint, holy, and adopted.
I am, of course, not alone in this. People often hide behind their careers seeking anonymity and safety. A stranger who looks like a confident corporate executive may in fact be a lonely, hurting, and fearful man underneath. It is a lot easier for someone to introduce themselves as the person they want to appear to be than the person they actually are.
But what if we took the time to find out that Mr. Corporate America just suffered through a divorce, or is chronically ill, or is foreclosing on his house? What if we didn’t settle for the standard answer of “I’m in business” and instead spent time asking people about their lives? What kind of impact would we have?
If we began to treat people not as cardboard cutouts but as individuals created in God’s image, we would see lives transformed. People crave intimacy, all people. A conversation with a stranger or acquaintance is not an intimate exchange. It is usually trite, shallow, and awkward. But it doesn’t have to be.
Next time someone asks what you do, consider more fully answering that question. Tell them about your life. And ask them about theirs.
What would your business card say if it didn’t list your company, position or title? Why are we more apt to share about our “jobs” than about ourselves?