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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Identity

Who am I anyway?

In our culture it’s just normal to identify ourselves and each other by what we do. Meet someone new and we ask “what do you do?” and we mean “what do you do for a living?” Sometimes it seems that everybody needs a job and a spouse and a mortgage to be considered a “whole” and “normal” adult person. Listen to us talk at church too. We tend to discount the contributions of our so-called youth who may indeed by highly educated, but who are identified as adolescents and adults-in-waiting if they haven’t yet acquired those essential identifiers of adulthood.

I’ve long noticed this phenomenon and was glad to see it articulated so well by Carol Howard Merritt, one of my favourite thinkers and writers. It's here if you'd like to read it more deeply.

About to join the ranks of the unemployed myself, I’m very aware of this idea that identity equals occupation. There’s quite a lot more acceptance when you can say you’re “retired” but there’s still quite a lot of the same uncertainty around. After the congratulations on your retirement comment, the very next question everybody asks is “What are you going to do?”

As I read Carol Howard Merritt’s essay I was struck by just how much it resonated for me. Who will I be if I don’t have a job? What will I be doing that will give me an identity that’s acceptable to all these people asking me what I’ll be doing?

What makes a person worthy? Can my life have meaning without a title or a job or a schedule of activities and contributions I’m engaged in or occupied with? Has my value to the community just been moved into a lesser status because I’m no longer gainfully employed?

Lest you are getting all worried and upset about me, you can relax. I think my sense of “self” is pretty healthy. I shall be just fine, thank you very much. But I do want you to think about some of these issues in your congregation. Do you have levels of members in your community? Are you able to see every person of whatever age or marital or employment status as a full human being, a valued child of God?

I’m encouraged by this article to consider my language too. While I may truly think of everyone in this way, I may ask the usual questions and be perceived in a way that’s different to my intention or even to my own heart. I’m going to work on some new questions to replace “What do you do?”

“What’s going on in your life just now?”
“What are you busy with these days?”
“What are you thinking about lately?”
“What’s at the top of your list today?”
“Are you reading anything interesting just now”
“Where did you get that gorgeous sweater?”

Now I welcome your suggestions. How are you going to get those conversations going?

Posted by Marion

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