Measuring the self against others is the modus operandi of the human mind.
For NFL teams that missed or underperformed in the playoffs, the win/loss record serves as a barometer by which “success” or “failure” is ultimately casted. For the coaches of those teams, the societal pressures, the expectations of fans and the musing of the media only exacerbate culture’s approval rating of the coach accordingly. And in a game of inches, every detail counts as high-profile coaches are merely a win or loss away from entering the coaching carousel — the proverbial ride that unfairly compares coaching contemporaries and the various coaching vacancies in a hiring and firing frenzy that signals the beginning and end of coaching regimes.
In pressure-filled moments like these, the place one finds personal identity is paramount.
Sports has an uncanny ability to relate to real life. Sports often serves as a rallying cry for commonality. Real life issues like personal identity and self worth strike a chord with everyone at an uncomfortably close level.
Regardless of whether you’re a head coach, a Hollywood actor, a hotel clerk, a hairdresser, a housekeeper, or a homeless vagrant, for some people, personal identity is wrapped up in what they do.
Other individuals seek significance through relationships such as a parent or a spouse. Still others choose to define themselves by appearance, financial status, grades, or successes. Meanwhile, others will relegate themselves to a specific race, religion, or people group. At the core, most people are seeking acceptance, love, and significance in an ever-changing world.
It’s natural for our hearts to seek approval, power, control, prestige, and achievement, but we ultimately need to redefine our identity by something outside ourselves. More importantly, we need to rest assured because of what, or rather whom we allow to define us.
Author David Benner states that “an identity grounded in God would mean that when we think of who we are, the first thing that would come to mind is our status as someone who is deeply loved by God.”
This means that regardless of external measures — regardless of wins/losses, failures or successes — the very foundation of our personal identity doesn’t change as our circumstances change. It remains unshaken on the truth of God’s Word that says, for the Christian, “If God is for us, who [or what] can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). As we have been forgiven and unconditionally loved and accepted, we don’t have anything to lose.
For Christians, these aspects of our identity can never be altered by what we do or don’t do. It is only by seeing ourselves from God’s vantage point, and taking our cues from Him alone, that we can ultimately rest secure in our own identity. So no matter if you’re the coach in the public spectacle or the person in the crowd, when your personal significance is not tied to your external circumstances or society’s approval, you can genuinely trust that no matter what comes your way, you can have genuine peace in your daily purpose and reason for existing.
And that’s an identity worth clinging to!