Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling, illustrates the meaning of an academic term called reflected appraisals. This important term, used by social scientists in identity research, refers to the notion that our self-identity is in part, shaped and misshaped by the appraisal/opinion of those in our social network.
As you may remember, the ugly duckling was actually a young swan who was hatched by ducks and raised as a duck. Because his stepparents, stepsiblings, and the other animals in the barn assumed he was a duck, he too assumed himself to be a duck. It wasn’t until he met an adult swan that he discovered his true identity, finally making sense of his past and setting the direction for his future.
How about you? Has your true identity been obscured by the reflected appraisals of those in your social circles? It has for most of us.
The extent of other people’s impact on our self-identity is influenced by many factors, not least of which is the appraiser’s perceived credibility and the appraisal’s consistency with our own beliefs about ourselves. In other words, many of us have been raised in a barn (metaphorically speaking), completely unaware of our God-given priestly identity. Just like the ugly duckling, our True identity has never been acknowledged, reinforced, or nurtured.
No wonder it is hard to embrace a missional approach to life and work – we think we are ugly ducks! But 1 Peter 2:9 corrects this thinking:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
So, for those of us struggling to fully embrace our God-given identity in Christ, I have two suggestions:
With our identity in Christ secure, we can confidently show up each day in our workplace knowing that whatever our role, our influence, or our industry – God has placed us in these jobs, organizations, and teams to fulfill our role as a priest.
How are your words, attitudes, and good work reflecting God at your work?
By Scott Breslin,
Management Consultant in Sweden