Contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Tauren Wells did a good job in a recent interview explaining the difference between identity, calling, and assignment.
- Identity comes from God and God only. He’s the only one who can tell you what your identity is. No one else can (not even you with your negative self-talk!).
- Calling is the skills God has equipped you with and called you to use; it’s the passions He’s given you and called you to pursue.
- Assignment is a project (often temporary) that requires the use of your skills and passions. Assignments can be a job or your job title, a role (i.e. mother, family caregiver, manager, etc.), or a relationship. Again, these are often temporary.
Wells says it’s in the area of assignment where people confuse their identity. They think their assignment is their identity, but it’s not.
I see this happening with a lot of my clients. I also see people confusing their calling with their identity. They feel if they don’t find their purpose or discover their calling they can’t know who they are.
When I look back on my own career and the different roles in my life (i.e. friend, career coach, volunteer, etc.), I’m able to see how my skills and spiritual gifts have been used in every job and every role I’ve ever had. I know these gifts, skills, and passions have been given to me by God.
My skills have been more constant than my roles. But even those change over time as God gives me new skills, improves the ones I have, and gives me new passions and desires.
The only thing that has remained constant my whole life has been my identity (i.e. who God says I am), even when I wasn’t following Him.
And who does He say I am? He says I am His child. I am loved by Him even if I never possessed any of my skills or held any of my roles.
I am still valuable to Him even when my assignments and calling or skills have been stripped away from me.
It’s important to understand what your spiritual gifts and skills are so you can know how you can best contribute to the world, society, the church and God’s kingdom. But you must first understand whose you are before trying to understand who you are.
First I am a child of God. Second I’m an encourager (my top spiritual gift I’ve used in every job and role). And finally I just currently happen to be a career coach.
Who are you? More importantly, whose are you?
Are you confusing your identity with your calling or your assignment? If so, you’re probably feeling pressure God never intended you to feel.
It’s time to be free from that pressure, free from the tyranny of self and free from the doubts and opinions of others.