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Todd Isberner “You Are Not What You Do”

You Are Not What You Do


You’ve just been introduced to someone for the first time. There are a couple of niceties exchanged and then without fail, almost on cue, here it comes … “And what do you do for a living?”


Of course you have to answer that question because that’s our social norm. And in the back of your head, you know that their perception of your worth is going to be based on what you tell them you do.


That’s where things get dicey because once you say what you do, the assumption is that’s who you are.


It’s your identity.


Now if you’re a CEO or a Manager, that’s a win. Or a radio personality with fans or a PD with big numbers or an artist who helped give you the big numbers, then you probably feel pretty good about what you do and consequently who they think you are.


But deep down you already know that what you do is not really who you are. That is not your true identity.


So what is? And if what you do is not who you are then do you really know who you are? And would your answer be the same as what others would say about who you are?


There is not a single one of us who doesn’t ask this question of themselves at some point in life:  “Who am I?”


For years I never really bothered to think that through because I was too busy doing what I do. Maybe true for you as well. And the longer you do what you do, the more you are identified with that role in life.


WIthout intending it, my personal name, Todd Isberner and my company name, ShareMedia and what we did in fundraising, became one and the same.


It wasn’t until years later when I was considering selling my company that it dawned on me I had been letting the real Todd be replaced by the ShareMedia fundraising Todd.


I let my worth and my value be determined by the stuff I got done. And since the stuff I got done seemed to have a good impact in ministry, I was letting it shape my identity. 


Can you relate? Be honest with yourself. Do people identify you by what you do in the role you play, or who you are and how you live your life?


Do they think of you as a compassionate, loving, grace giving follower of Jesus who is always eager to give encouragement and lift up others above yourself? Do they see you as a loving husband and dad, a faithful and grateful employee and co-worker, someone who is willing to go the extra mile without ever mentioning it?


Are you so identified as dead to yourself and alive in Christ that you can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)


Nothing we do can replace who we are and what we are becoming. That has been God’s plan from the beginning and the reason God has placed us here.


But in the hustle and bustle of your everyday life, it’s hard to keep that perspective.


So here are a few suggestions on how you can recalibrate your thinking about your true identity:


  1. Write out and memorize your answer to the question “Who am I?”                                                                              I am ….


  1. Ask a few of your closest family and friends who they think you are.


  1. The next time you’re asked, “What do you do for a living?” talk first about who you are apart from your role at work.


  1. Ask the Lord to show you more clearly your true identity and who He is shaping you to become.


  1. Write out a few sentences you want included in your eulogy emphasizing who you believe you became during your lifetime.


I’ll leave you with a great quote from one of my favorite movies, “Gladiator.”  I think it helps illustrate the difference between a role and true identity. 


The imprisoned and supposedly dead Maximus has been fighting in the colosseum as a Gladiator. Known only as “Spaniard,” he became a crowd favorite by defeating Rome’s highly trained elite gladiators. He was a warrior. It’s what he did.


His true identity had been hidden until he was commanded by the emperor to reveal himself. With every eye riveted on him as he stood in the middle of the coliseum, He slowly removes his helmet and turns around to face Commodus and says:


“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”


I encourage you to remove your helmet (or mask), acknowledge your assignment in life, but declare your true identity and who you are becoming.


Todd Isberner is a husband, father, grandfather, business owner and author of “What Every Man Needs to Know”.  Following his own life-altering conversion, Todd dedicated his life to telling others about Jesus and helping them walk out their faith. With a Master of Divinity degree and a media background, Todd founded ShareMedia, a fundraising consulting company devoted to helping improve and expand the ministry of Christian radio. In 2015, ShareMedia was merged with Dunham+Company, a fundraising agency based in Dallas, TX. 


Retired from fundraising, Todd draws from his years of experience in training, consulting and coaching, and invests his time mentoring other men along their journey of faith.

More at ToddIsberner.com



2 thoughts on “Todd Isberner “You Are Not What You Do”

  • I don’t think that this article reflects a biblical position on identity. With respect to Todd, consider the following:

    Consider that before there was sin in the world, God gave man a vocation. Even before his wife was created, before marriage, God gave Adam vocation. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). It was after this assignment that God created Eve to help him (Genesis 2:18-22). This does not mean that work is more important than our relationship with a spouse. It is simply to note that vocation, work, is a fundamental part of our identity.

    Can you imagine David apart from being a shepherd, a warrior, and a King? David’s identity, to us, is wrapped up in what he did in God’s kingdom. Can you imagine Moses as being something other than a prince of Egypt, or savior of his people? We identify Moses by what he did. How about Jesus? We know that Jesus is God in human form, but we relate to him by what he did for us as Savior, and as Lord. Before being known as Savior Jesus was known as a carpenter—by his vocation (Matthew 13:55) along with his relations.

    Vocation is fundamental to our identity. We cannot leave out our vocation as if it is not who we are, or a part of who we are. If you ask me who I am and I say, “I’m just Tom,” what does that mean? It doesn’t mean anything.

    Someone might protest and say that my job doesn’t define me. But, on the contrary, our jobs, our roles in life, do define us, very much so. Look back at the beginning of creation. How did God define for us who Cain and Abel were? Cain was a “tiller of the ground,” in other words, a farmer. Abel was a shepherd (Genesis 4:2). In order for us to understand something about their lives the first thing God does to identity them to us is to tell us what their vocations were, and then how their spiritual lives were expressed through their vocations. Even when we think of God, what do we call him? We say he is Creator. The very first words in the Bible that define for us who God is are vocational language, “In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1). The last words in the Bible about Jesus are positional and vocational language, “Amen, come LORD Jesus” (Revelation 22:21).

    Part of what it means to be created in God’s image is to imitate him in what he does. Being in God’s image means that we are designed to think what God thinks, feel what God feels, and do what God does. What we do in life is, in part, an expression of how we feel and think. It is the outward expression of the inner life. What does it mean to be in God’s image? Look at Genesis 1:28, which tells us. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

    This is what it means to be in God’s image. It means to do what God does (vocation). When was God fruitful? When he created all things. When did he multiply? When he created Adam and Eve in his image. When did he fill the earth? When he created all forms life in the sea and on the land. When did he subdue? When he brought the unformed mass of the earth under his control to prepare it for habitation. When did he exercise and rule? When he established order in his creation and gave commands to Adam and Eve.

    Doing (vocation) is fundamental to our existence. Without it we can’t say that we are becoming like our Savior. So, the next time you hear someone say that you’re a human being and not a human doing, you will know that both are true, because they are the same thing.


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