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Roles should shape but not define your identity

Rusty 1 2c906f25
Rusty Jackson has been on a steep learning curve. When we first talked a year ago he said, “Seth, you and your blog have wrecked my life. I prayed that God would do something radical and I lost my job. Now what do I do?” “Well Rusty, I say, ‘Go for broke.’ Why don’t you buy a ticket to join the …
By Seth Barnes
Rusty JacksonRusty Jackson has been on a steep learning curve. When we first talked a year ago he said, “Seth, you and your blog have wrecked my life. I prayed that God would do something radical and I lost my job. Now what do I do?”

“Well Rusty, I say, ‘Go for broke.’ Why don’t you buy a ticket to join the World Racers for their debrief in Machu Picchu in a week.”

“That’s probably an expensive ticket, but if you think I should do it, I’ll buy it.” Since that first conversation, he has been around the world with last year’s Racers and then signed up to lead this year’s team.

It’s been a blast to watch him process his experiences. I like what he recently wrote about what he’s learned about roles and identity:

As soon as we enter in to a role, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we are in danger of that role defining us. For example, growing up in my small town I gained the reputation for being a wild and crazy kid. Truth be told, I really wasn’t – in the beginning. I had only gotten in trouble a couple times, but as in any small town word got around quickly. That, coupled with the fact my own father had the same type of reputation when he was growing up, made people instantly label me. Next thing I know, I’m in this role as the “wild, party guy!”

Roles create expectations. Expectations create false behavior. And once we receive approval or validation from our false behavior we find ourselves creating a false identity so when can continue to please the people around us. Because, after all, we just want to be accepted. But the problem with this false identity we created is, we are now forced to keep “putting up a front” to continue meeting the expectations that have been placed on us by our roles. And operating out of this false identity creates fear, shame and guilt. Because, deep down, we know this “false identity” is not who we really are. In fact, we are ashamed of this life we live and it makes us sick. We live in constant fear that if we are ever “found out” no one will like us.

Let me show you how this has looked in my life. So, here I am this 15-year old kid and already I had the label as a drunk, wild, party guy. Now I’m not trying to throw a pity party here. I fully accept that I did some things that would warrant such a label. I do take responsibility for my actions. However, I still had the label, or role – and it hurt. I just figured, “OK, so ya’ll expect me to be crazy, I’ll freakin’ show you crazy then!” And off I went.

As Rusty is learning, ultimately, our identity is going to be rooted to some degree in the roles we’ve filled. But we must continually go back to Jesus and what he says about us to find our identity as God defines us.

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