“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
This question gets asked of kids a lot! I never really thought much about this question and subsequent answers until yesterday when a friend of mine posted a inquiring thought of his own.
It read, “I find it interesting that in America when we ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we’re looking for an occupation rather than a quality (i.e. honest, kind, loyal, etc.)”
Makes you think, right? Even when our kids are little and they answer, they usually immediately offer up an occupation. So I was curious, why is that? Why do we immediately assume our “what” is somehow connected to our “who”; our identity?
In his article, American Identity Crisis: Are You Your Job?, Joe Robinson points out that “It’s automatic for strangers at any American social setting — right after “nice to meet you” and within the first two minutes of conversation or your citizenship is revoked. “What do you do?” It’s a line that would be considered rude in many lands, but not here, where inquiring minds have to know: What’s your status and how much money are you making?“
He goes on to say, “The answer could be “I like to bike” or some other expression of your real identity, but the instinctive response is to go with the very real-appearing but pseudo-identity, the job ID. In a rootless culture with no obvious class markers, the job defines the person and the pecking order. You are what you do.”
Yikes! I don’t know about you, but that is certainly not the value or the identity I want myself or my children to have. But realistically, in America, that tends to be our focus. At a recent conference I attended, one of the speakers (Larry Osburne) pointed out that one of the “gods” we serve in America is the “god of potential.”
We see this especially in the areas of sports, academics, and extracurriculars.
Parents are told from the second their child is born about that child’s potential and how to maximize it. The best schools, the best sports teams, the best programs…making sure that their kids have the best chance to have the best future with the best experiences possible; to fully live up to their potential. Whether the goal is a sports scholarship, a cheer championship, highest academic honors or just plain winning at life, parents are willing to sacrifice A LOT to make sure their children can play ball, dance on stage, be in all the classes, attend all the functions and do all the things so they can succeed.
Is it any wonder then when we ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, they give us an occupation, rather than a characteristic?
So what can we do in our homes and churches to help our children form a core identity that is other than what job they are going to do when they are older?
We can intentionally and repetitively remind them of WHO they are”
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