Site last updated: 28/02/17

Who am I?

 

No, not a guessing game, but rather a question I had to face in my mid twenties when I had no paid employment. I knew what I had been. I'd been a shop-worker, then an insurance underwriter, then a claims negotiator. But when my circumstances changed and I was solely responsible for the care of three young children I no longer did any of those jobs that gave me that identity. I became a "scrounger on supplementary benefit" and a "house-husband" - an almost unheard of role back in the mid 1970s.

 Employment gives identity. Many names originate from a job.  "Smith" is one of the commonest names. I lived in a village where on one road we had a farmer called "Farmer" and a judge called "Judge". It is safe to assume that Alan Shearer the former England footballer had an ancestor who worked shearing sheep, that Mark Butcher the cricketer had ancestors who cut meat. Presumably somewhere in Margaret Thatcher's family tree there were people usefully employed keeping roofs watertight. Work gives a sense of self.

So worklessness takes away identity leaving an uncomfortable question as to who we are. However it is a tragedy to confuse who we are with what we are paid to do. We may be gifted in music, art, gardening, dance, writing or a whole range of creative activity.   Perhaps we're good listeners, good organisers, good at caring for others or helping neighbours.  We may excel at walking mountains, canoeing rivers, fishing or sport. All of these give us identity that is likely to be nothing at all to do with our paid employment. Moreover, relationships give identity. I might no longer have been a "claims negotiator" and become a "scrounger on benefit" but I was a neighbour, a friend, a son, and a father.

There is so much more to who we are than paid employment. I discovered that ultimately what gives identity is the value God places on us. Christian faith is that God adopts us as his sons and daughters. We are of infinite worth.  My identity as an adopted son of God is infinitely better than being a "scrounger on benefit" or even a "claims negotiator".

Robert Barlow