Identity. It’s a hot topic these days, which is no surprise given that we live in a fallen world that looks more like Babylon every day. When we’re cheered on by society for choosing our own identity, and jeered for being anchored in God’s truth of who we are, where does that leave us as believers in business?
In my BC (before Christ) life, from my earliest memories to age 46, my identity was tied to worldly definitions of physical attributes, family circumstances, wins and losses, achievements, titles, and income. As a recovering driver, striver, and achievement chaser, I routinely defined who I was by how hard I worked, “the hustle” of a rising leader, and my accomplishments. It became a slippery slope of manic moments: the highest highs when business was up, the lowest lows when business was down. In every environment, from parenting to corporate life to volunteering to entrepreneur life, my identity was at the mercy of my performance and outcomes. Sometimes that left me ugly crying on the floor wondering what I could do to turn things around (operative word: I). Identity crisis in full motion.
When I finally surrendered my life to Jesus in October 2014, approaching “mid-life,” there was both immediate peace and painful pruning. Layers of pride, idolatry, and misplaced identity came tumbling down as He prepared me for what life looked like with Him, walking in His will. In this, I learned, and still cling to, His authority to define me, and obedience to His direction to anchor my identity only in Him. Because the world and it’s definitions, standards and measurements are ever-changing. Shifting sands. Temporal. And that is no place to anchor who we are.
When we say yes to Jesus, we have the privilege of being made new. The way we view and do life and business, the way we see everything and respond to everything changes. Profound change happens as we are grafted into God’s family as co-heirs with Jesus. Profound change happens when we, as the branch, find meaning and nourishment solely in the vine (John 15:4-5). It impacts how we show up in the world as light bearers, reflecting Him in our words and actions, whether online or in person.
So how do we practically apply this truth as believers in business? We can unlock clarity of identity with the first key of the 4 Keys to Redefine Hustle: DEFINE.
“Define” is all about understanding that there is only one authority who defines you, and allowing Him to define you, your purpose, processes, and strategies. To define your daily mode of operation and work rhythms. To define what success means for you.
God’s ultimate priority is a deep relationship with you, and “success” by His definition is giving Him your whole heart. It is seeking, obeying, and glorifying Him in all He gives you to do. That means your business a vehicle for both administering the gifts and talents He’s given you, and also for Kingdom impact. Business is where you activate your mission in the marketplace and serve those He’s assigned you to serve.
You created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made your works are wonderful. I know that full well.
What I love about that last sentence is it reminds us that we already know full well that He created us each uniquely, fearfully and wonderfully, and He is sovereign over who we are. Our identity is in Him. It also means we were each created for a specific purpose (Ephesians 2:10), which you might say means we were each created to yield a specific type of fruit. Your fruit is different than my fruit, so we each yield our own fruit. No looking left and right, comparing (dare I say, coveting) ourselves to someone else. The world is loud and chaotic, always summoning us to cling to the latest atmosphere around us. We are never on steady ground when we anchor ourselves to that atmosphere and it’s broken promises. Anchor your identity to how He defines you.
And remember, you are equipped and qualified for what He’s planned for specifically for you. So the next time you question if you’re the right person for the assignment He’s given you, think again, friend: His works are wonderful and YOU are His work. Know this full well.
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath the waters below. You shall not have an idol.
Exodus 20: 3-4
What do you idolize in your life and business? My drug of choice was achievement, accolades and money. I idolized these to the point of thinking money was my savior, because growing up in poverty, it sure seemed like if we had more money, we’d have lived a way better life. Maybe you think you don’t have idols, so let me challenge you: an idol is anything you put on a pedestal as a priority ahead of or in place of the Lord. That could be the emails and social media that you have to check first thing in the morning before making time to commune with Jesus (guilty and repenting here). It could be money, especially if you’re sole focus is pursuing that $5K or $10K month that “gurus” say is a true measure of success. The issue isn’t that these things take up space in our work. The issue is how we pursue them ahead of God.
Are you willing to give God His rightful place above all those idols? If you don’t achieve the “big hairy audacious goal” that you set (maybe without consulting the Lord), will you identify as a failure? Will you give up and walk away from His assignment? Either of those responses could be natural if your identity isn’t anchored in the only one that can define you.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is. His good and pleasing perfect will.
There are a lot of worldly definitions of words like success, entrepreneur, and business owner, as well as a lot of expert advice on how to be those things. Yes, there are business principles to put in place. Yes, true progress results from treating your business like a business and not like a hobby. The challenge is are we conforming to the way the world does business? You’ll hear me say in my social media content, “God made you ambitious, but He didn’t make you to do business as usual,” and business as usual is conforming to the world’s patterns. “Hustle harder!” is confirming to the world’s patterns. We were made to redefine hustle and emulate Jesus by working with integrity, intention and purpose, at a pace that honors God and still serves His people, and always seeking our Father first. This is how Jesus worked, served and loved. Therefore, the way He defines us is different than the world. Anchoring identity in Him is how we “test and approve what God’s will is,” because we hold ourselves to only His definitions.
If you’re feeling like, “I am just getting to know how to let Jesus define me and lead me. I feel like I’ve lost so much time in my business,” I promise you this: You haven’t lost any time. It’s just been rearranged. And you’re gaining it back through Jesus because today you can return to operating out of His strength, power and identity. Anchor your identity in His truth. Let Him be the only authority that defines you.
For more on overcoming the business identity crisis, listen to episode 213 of my women’s Christian podcast Redefining Hustle: Pursuing Success as a Christian Woman.
Remember friend: God made you ambitious, but He didn’t make you to work the world’s way. As you cast out your nets, do so by tuning out the world, tuning into God’s truth, and turning up focus. He gave you a mission in the marketplace – don’t’ let overwhelm and overachievement stall your work for His glory!
I pray this speaks to you and your situation today. If you found this helpful, share it with a friend, and let me know with a DM on LinkedIn @erinharrigan or Instagram @erindharrigan
If your outward success is warring with your faith and priorities, I hear you. I see you. And it doesn’t have to be this way. God made you to be ambitious, but He didn’t make you to work the world’s way. I’m the coach that can help you break free from business as usual! Schedule a call to explore working with me: https://erinharrigan.com/discoverycall