Today’s guest post comes to us from Nik Rasheta:
About a year ago I read a book that helped me gain some needed insight in order to survive my career as a law enforcement officer, a very psychologically demanding career. One of the biggest pitfalls described in the book is the concept of over-identifying with the career within your identity. So instead of looking at the career as your sole identity as some do—“I am a cop”—we are encouraged to look at the career with the mindset of “I am a father, husband, son, friend, neighbor, etc… and I work as a cop.” This view allows us to not over-identify and place too much weight on our identity as law enforcement officers.
The danger of over-identifying is that at some point in our lives, inevitably we will become disillusioned or feel betrayed by our career. It’s the nature of any organization to look for the good of the whole at the expense of the individual. This could be a sudden change in work schedule, like having to work grave yard shift or being removed from a detail to go work a patrol beat (detective asked to go back to the street). It can even come in the form of demotions, discipline, etc… The point is that one-day you will inevitably feel you have been injured or betrayed because there are aspects of your professional identity over which you have no control.
The solution, then, is to diversify your identity by adding stock to other parts of yourself. Just like a healthy investment portfolio, divide your identity into categories such as spirituality, hobbies, professional, arts, family, culture, politics, community, and so on.
Religion in general and Mormonism specifically becomes an all consuming identity factor. We identify wholly as Mormon and do not allow any diversification in our thought process. When asked what religion we are, we say “I am Mormon.” Perhaps a better way to diversify that idea would be to say that I am Christian and I follow the tenets of Mormonism. That simple change in words just diversified my spiritual identity into two parts, Christian and Mormon. In many ways one and the same, but if I suffer an injury to one of those identities, such as no longer believing in the Book of Abraham, I can suffer a blow to the identify of Mormon but sustain my health by maintaining the Christian identity. Thus, identity diversification protects us from suffering a crisis when one aspect of our identity collapses. If a severe blow knocks down our spiritual identity, we buoy it up with the others (hobbies, professional, arts, family, culture, politics, community). The more diverse a subcategory becomes, the healthier we will withstand the inevitable loss of control and feeling of betrayal to that identity.
Back to my example at work. I am a Father and Husband and Son and I work as a law enforcement officer. Within my career, I am a detective, a hostage negotiator, a member of the honor guard, a bagpiper, and I even do part time representation for the public information office doing interviews for Spanish media requests. For me to suffer a real identity crush at work, I would have to be attacked in all those areas of my career identity… Not as likely as just suffering in one area.
I don’t know exactly how a well diversified spiritual identity looks like, but for now mine kind of looks like this: I choose to culturally practice Mormonism, attend church when I feel like it and not attend when I feel like it. I believe in God (not sure of my definition yet) and I believe in Jesus who taught amazing things. I also believe that other amazing people have touched the divine truths of life such as Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Buddha, and Mohammed so I try to learn more about their teachings too. So I guess I have roots in my spiritual identity but I branch out as much as possible so that if one area suffers a blow, I can adjust my weight to another invested area and not be taken down by having placed too much weight on one area alone. Kind of like the concept of placing all your eggs in one basket…
Now that my Mormon identity has taken such a drastic blow (Book of Mormon historicity, priesthood restoration issues, Joseph Smith issues, Correlation, Polygamy and doctrine reversals and on and on), I can still feel comfortable holding onto the aspects of Mormonism that I enjoy but I can default to the other identities of my life and not get crushed or lost in the feeling of losing myself.
What do you guys think? Have you had similar experiences?