ReFrame: Identity

Engage Work Faith
April 23, 2024

Panel Q&A script

At Reframe: Identity, the panel session looked at how our identity interacts with work and the workplace, how it connects with purpose, and what actually drives internal change. Here is a taste of what was covered. The transcript has been anonymised and edited for length.

Q: The show Gruen is about marketing and advertising in Australia and I wonder how that would actually fit with my faith and Christianity. How does a Christian work in advertising and marketing when they're not even necessarily believing in what they're producing?   

Respondent A: It's really important that we all locate what we've been called to do in the broader project of human flourishing, and there are no hard and fast rules about that. When Jesus was asked about the meaning of life, he spoke about working out for yourselves what works based on your call, faithfulness, maturity and skills. In most professions there are grey areas which are messy ethically, and there's also great capacity to contribute to human flourishing. Marketing and advertising is a fantastic example of something that you could do really well with a Christian ethical base. What matters more is who you are; the character comes first and then that can be applied in many ways. As someone once said: the fleas will always come with the dog. There is not one profession that is completely morally and ethically pure in which you can work with complete effectiveness of heart and mind in an ideal way—no one's doing that, so we’re called to embrace the imperfections in here, embrace the imperfections out there, and do what we can.  

Respondent B: I do think that there are issues about character that need to be addressed within yourself, and sometimes you need to stand up and be counted, and that may mean that you might actually lose your job or lose a friendship, so there's a relational issue there as well as a professional issue. 

Q: That relates really well to something that another questioner has brought up: when you are critiqued or receiving negative feedback in your workplace, maybe because of your faith, or maybe just because of the way that you've conducted yourself at work, how do you cope with that and how does it affect your identity as a Christian?  

Respondent C: The question of who we really are comes into play, in other words, we're looking at how our identity is based on who God is. When you remember that God defines who you are and he's called you his child whatever happens, no matter what the weather is, your identity doesn't change. My bad performance review or whatever negative feedback is coming towards me doesn't change who I am, but it does mean that I would need to do some work to clarify if it's because I’m underperforming.  

Respondent A: We do need to be humble and open to the possibility that we're being criticized for something legitimate. When Jesus said, ‘Blessed are you if you're persecuted for my sake’, that's quite clear, but I think the problem that most of us Christians have is that we think whenever anyone treats us badly, most of the time it's because we're either a jerk or we’ve done something badly. If you read the rest of the Bible, the odds are if someone is criticizing you, it could be for good reason. There’s that story that Jesus tells about the Pharisee and the tax collector. We are all thinking, 'Thank God I'm not like the Pharisee’, and we middle-class twenty-first century Christians think we're the tax collector, but in our brokenness, we are more like the Pharisee. If you're a Christian, our Saviour's always right, but we're not always right. 

Respondent B: My first reaction is a very sinful one, a very defensive one: I want to defend, then go and find some people who might agree with me about that particular issue. Being vulnerable and open is really important, and sometimes it means being quiet and still and letting God speak to you. 

Q: Flourishing: is it about what you want or is it about what you're made for? A lot of the time we hear that your desire is your purpose—what do we make of that? 

Respondent A: 'You do you’, ‘Your best self’, ‘Your best life’, Frank Sinatra’s ‘I Did It My Way’ — everyone from Shakespeare to Beyoncé has been pumping out this self-actualization message, and our desires are an important part of who we are, but the preceding question we need to ask ourselves is: what's shaping those? Yet Jesus doesn't condemn desire; he says he wants us to become the kinds of people we were meant to be, so if we desire the right things then that will become our purpose. Therefore, it is countercultural when we say, no, I'm anchoring myself not to my desires but to my purpose or my identity — what I'm here to do. For other people that can be powerful. A good example is love: most people will agree that love is really important, but most believe in a love that's anchored in affection and desire, whereas Jesus said love was about something more important: ‘Greater love has no one than this: that they lay down their life for their friends’.  

Q: In the context of Christian character, is renewal of mind the thing that comes first, or renewal of heart? How does that actually play out when someone is living as a Christian and trying to develop that kind of character?  

Respondent B: Does the heart rule the mind or does the mind rule the heart? I often talk about an act of the will: there's clearly affection as you fall in love and find your life partner, but often, acts of love have to be made with discipline and with will. Sometimes people have a very emotional experience, or a very spiritual experience that can be quite emotional, and then they tie that in with their renewal of the mind, but I think in most cases for me personally it's the renewal of the mind that comes first, and then wait for the emotions and feelings to catch up. 

Respondent A: I think experience is important because it will be potentially something different for different people. In Scripture we see that there are some people that are more emotionally attuned, and some people that are more intellectually aware, and God meets you where you are.  

Respondent C: My automatic answer would be that renewal of the mind comes first, but one thing I remember hearing is that ‘The mind justifies what the heart desires’, so I have found that it's easy for my heart to deceive me into thinking that this is the way to go.  

For more resources visit the ReFrame: Identity Resources Page

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