When we define ourselves by what we are, rather than who we are, we risk missing out on our greatest potential as human beings. Far too often, people get swept up in the tidal wave of life and become slaves to their jobs and responsibilities. Of course those elements are important but they should never define us. We must look deep within our hearts to find the true person God created us to be – only then can we fulfill our destiny in this life.
For all the comforts it offers, modern society can take a heavy spiritual toll. With workweeks averaging between 40 and 70 hours there is very little time or energy left for self-discovery. Add in family responsibilities and social commitments – all of which are good – and one has the deck stacked against any possible spiritual awakening. This is something that must be remedied if we are to have any hope for the future.
When we define ourselves by our job or title, we immediately weaken ourselves. If a man has worked hard in a company to become a manager, he will often be required to work more hours and face higher stress levels. This will usually come with an increase in salary and the prestige of having the managerial title. Unfortunately what also comes along with it are shackles. The job becomes a part of the man’s identity. Ultimately it becomes what he is and if he allows it to progress he will develop a debilitating fear of losing it.
When mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey lost the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship to Holly Holm, she was devastated. Rousey later admitted she had suicidal thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the loss. It’s not uncommon or even wrong for an elite athlete to become deeply saddened following a loss, but the effect her loss had on Rousey was extreme. The problem lied in her career up to that fight. Rousey had been undefeated, finishing most of her previous fights in both dominating fashion and record time. The hype surrounding her had taken on a life of its own and Rousey got swept up in it.
Believe it or not, losing was the best thing that could have happened to her. Rousey believed she was unbeatable, even suggesting in an interview that she was ready to retire as the undefeated champion and move on to another stage in her life. She was blinded by the myth of her own invincibility and failed to see the dark horse threat coming at her. When she stepped into the octagon at UFC 193, she was completely dominated by the focused and determined Holm.
After a natural period of grieving and reflection, Rousey announced that she had come to terms with the loss and was ready to work harder than ever before to return to action and win back the title. Ronda Rousey was actually fortunate that her misguided belief in her own invincibility was shattered because she will most likely never make that mistake again. However, the extreme depression she suffered in the weeks after the loss goes to show how dangerous it is to let what we are define us, rather than who we are.
In this week’s video, I use the example of Muhammad Ali as a model for truly knowing oneself. Ali was a fantastic boxer – arguably the greatest – but if that was all the world thought he was, the world could not have been more wrong. He was committed to his values and he stood strong, even against the might of the U.S. government. This was significant because Ali was not a man with nothing to lose; on the contrary he had everything to lose, or so it seemed. He was wealthy, famous and held one of the most prestigious sports championships in the world.
The failure in logic is that those material things didn’t matter to Muhammad Ali. He knew who he was and what was important to him. His faith, his people and his honor were things that couldn’t be taken from him. It is written that the love of money is the root of all evil, because it draws us away from our faith. We avoid this pitfall by focusing on who we are, not what we are. Muhammad Ali did not waver and ultimately, he regained everything that was taken from him, while always maintaining his own personal code of honor.
This is the kind of self-awareness that we all need to strive for. We must decide who we are, what we believe in and what we will stand up for no matter the consequences. I believe that deep in the hearts of most people lives love. God put it there and people can’t remove it, but life will do its best to bury it with all the junk that fills our day-to-day existence. Once we learn to put aside the false notion that we are defined by our careers or our accomplishments, and begin to shine as the amazing beings God created us to be, we will be able to make amazing things happen.
This world is in turmoil and it will need nothing short of a miracle to fix it. We have all we need to make that miracle happen. We just need to stop focusing on what we think we are, and start living as who we are. I believe we will find that we are not so different – and we will change the world.