It's crucial to know who you are.
Over the past few years I've been thinking a lot about being vs. doing. In our Asian culture, we're very geared towards doing. Appearances -- "face" -- is important. Image is important, reputation is important. When it matters so much what people think, doing becomes the be-all and end-all. You have to be seen to do what is acceptable and praiseworthy... it's not about doing it because you are that kind of person, it's about doing it because you should do it or are expected to do it. Duty. Obligation. Responsibility. And lots of pressure.
We forget that doing ought to flow from being. If you are a generous person, you don't have to remind yourself to act in a generous manner; it comes naturally. And if you are not a generous person, but force yourself to be generous for whatever reason, you tend to resent it, to feel put upon, to struggle to give and let go.
Don't get me wrong, of course we need to cultivate good habits and there will be times when we have to make ourselves do things we do not want to do. There's still such a thing as doing what is right, and being human, we aren't always inclined to choose that particular path. So yes, I'm not saying that if you're not a generous person, it's a good excuse to hoard and keep all the goodies to yourself. But I'm saying, perhaps one should work on becoming a generous person, rather than work at cultivating the appearance of generosity.
But it's not just about what kind of person you are, it's also about who you were made to be -- your innate gifts and talents, your natural inclinations, your passion. When you listen to people advising teenagers about career choices, what do you hear? "Be a lawyer, you can make a lot of money." ... "Try medicine lah, you'll never be out of a job because there'll always be sick people." ... "Teacher also not bad, you get a lot of holidays."
See, "success" -- defined in this context as being financially stable and respected and enjoying a comfortable, if not luxurious lifestyle -- is something we think we should have, and we allow it to drive our decisions. But we're not thinking of who we are, who we were made to be. What happens? We end up in jobs we don't like, striving and striving, pushing ourselves, going through the daily grind and the rat race, climbing up the ladder, feeling exhausted and never quite satisfied. We feel we have to "get there", and however much we do it's never enough, however much we achieve it's never enough, however much we acquire it's never enough.
But if you know who you are, if you know what you were made to do, if your doing flows from being... your doing comes naturally, you are not striving, you feel you're in the place you are meant to be, doing what you're meant to be doing. There's joy, there's fulfilment, there's purpose. And peace. Above all, peace. Because you don't have to prove anything to anyone. Because it's not something you HAVE to do; it's something you WANT to do. You want it, not because you think you should or others say you should, but because it's part of you.
As a Christian, I think this is even more crucial because, if I truly believe that God has a plan for my life, I need to be who He has made me to be in order to fit into the destiny He has in mind for me. God's purposes for my life cannot be fully realised until I find my identity in Him and am doing what He made me to do, in the place where He's called me to be. That's because, if I'm uniquely crafted, I've been given specific talents and gifts, and I'll have an inclination towards certain fields or areas of interest; and if I fight these, or leave them to languish by the wayside in favour of more seemingly desirable achievements or skills, then how could I possibly be effective in the way He designed me to be?
So, identity is a big deal -- it's really important to me. To know who I am. To be true to myself. To be doing the things that God wants me to do. Not to simply go with the flow. Not to do what appears most logical or practical. Not to fall in with others' expectations of me or of what is acceptable and proper. Not to be seduced by the lure of "success" and money. Not to listen to those voices in my head that tell me I need to do more or be different in order to be significant and valued.
It's a struggle. Still a struggle, I would say, although less than before. But here's the point I've been trying to make: That core in you, the part that makes you uniquely you, was placed there by God. Why do we let other people, other things, tell us who we are supposed to be or who we should want to be? He made you. He knows you. His is the only voice you ought to be listening to. In Him, you will be most authentically yourself. And there's security there. Because, once you know who you are, you can never be shaken. Let people say what they want to say, and suggest what they want to suggest. You'll know you are doing what's right for you, and, deep within, a peace will settle over your heart. And I think God will look upon you and smile.