I used to think I could quickly grow a mustache.
My beard is always patchy and hole laden and bad. (Not bad meaning good like Run DMC intoned but bad meaning bad.)
But mustaches? The Acuff family mustache is too fast and too furious. I always thought that was the one bit of facial hair I could hang my hat on or at least a mustache comb. Until I met my friend Daniel.
He sits next to me at work and over a weekend is able to grow the thickest, most committed mustache I’ve ever seen. It is so impressive that when you see his mustache on a Monday, it confuses your sense of time. In your head you think, “Have I fallen asleep for a few weeks or stepped into a parallel universe? I swear I saw him last Friday but the robustness of that mustache would argue otherwise. What year is it? When am I?”
He can grow a quick mustache.
The other thing he’s good at is dropping some wisdom, which is exactly what he did a few weeks ago in a conversation we were having about fear.
With my new book Quitter coming out on May 10, one of the questions I have bouncing around in my head is, “What if it fails?” The Stuff Christians Like book did well and there’s a part of me that fears that Quitter won’t do as well. I know that’s a negative thought, but I want to be honest about what’s bouncing around in my head right now.
Here’s what Daniel told me:
“The problem is that we all start off with an identity. It’s who we are and who God made us to be. Then we have some small degree of success and we add that to our identity. That success becomes our identity. So now, when we try something new, we’re not just afraid to fail, we’re afraid to lose our identity. That’s what’s terrifying. That’s why people are afraid to take risks or try new things. It’s not just failure at stake, we think we’re going to lose our identity and that’s overwhelming.”
That mentality is easy to see in a city like Nashville. I have musician friends who released successful first albums and are now afraid to release a second album. Because if success is their identity, if they fail, they’ve lost their entire identity. But I don’t think that’s just something artists struggle with. The truth is, I think on some level must of us wrestle with the temptation to let other things become our identity.
You see this in parents who turn the performance of their kids into their identity. Sometimes parents get crazy with pushing kids in sports or school because more than a soccer goal or a spelling test is at stake. Their identity is up for grabs.
You see this in dating relationships. Sometimes we’re desperate for them not to end for the wrong reasons. With popular song lyrics telling us, “What am I supposed to do, when the best part of me was always you?” it’s so easy to think, “If I lose this boyfriend, I’ll lose my whole identity.”
You see this at work, when someone scraps and fights for a surprisingly small amount of power and politics inside a cubicle. It’s not a bonus at stake or a plaque or a recognition, it’s their identity they’re fighting for.
Over and over again, whether you’re writing a new book, or dating a new girl or applying for a new job, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of “identity addition.”
But that debate is over. You’re identity has been decided. How you perform in a new opportunity will not finalize that.
You are a son or daughter of Christ.
You are an heir to the throne.
No success or failure should become your identity.
No rise or fall can determine who you are.
And though that feels simple and sometimes even impossible to believe, that is what I remind myself of every day. We are God’s children.
And you and I can rest in the truth of that and be bold in the risks we take and the hope we have. Because our identity is not at stake.