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Performance-Based Identity

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Performance-Based Identity

Boston Celtics superstar Bill Russell’s name is mentioned in the discussion of who is the greatest basketball player in history. He played for the Boston Celtics from 1956-1969 and, though he was known for his passing and was never the focal point of the team’s offense, he amassed some incredible statistics: 13 seasons, 12 time all-star, 5 time MVP, one of only 2 players to grab 50 rebounds in a single game, and scored 14,522 points. And this was after he led the University of San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA championships and the USA to an Olympic gold medal!

In the heyday of his career, Russell was approached by an older woman in an airport. She looked up at the 6’9” Russell and asked, “Are you a basketball player?” His answer is absolutely incredible and profound. Russell replied, “No. Basketball is what I do, not who I am.” Wow! Russell got it. He refused to accept the all too common, albeit subtle, trap of a performance-based identity, where one equates who they are with what they do.  Despite nearly every person with knowledge of Russell ascribing value to him based on his incredible talent and career, Russell was wise enough to reject that.  We must resist the pull of equating our value or worth with our performance. Doing so leads to a never ending roller coaster of exalting oneself at the top and thinking oneself a failure at the bottom.

Who you are ≠ what you do.  Who you are is bigger than what you do.  Your value is not tied to your performance, but comes from God.  He created you and loves you.  Losing or winning does not affect His love.  Playing great or playing lousy doesn't determine His love for you.  Your worth has nothing to do with your success, size of your bank account, salary, sports accolades, GPA, SAT, college scholarship, accomplishments, etc.  There are some who, due to physical and mental challenges, will never have such worldly success.  Yet, they are just as valuable!  

Jesus challenged His disciples to focus on who they are versus what they did.  Look at these Bible verses in Luke chapter 10: v.17 When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”...v.20 "But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”  Focus on who you are, not on what you do.  Paternity (God is my Father) over Performance!

To dig a little deeper, click below:

Video Discussion of how Christian Athletes Battle Performance-Based Identity

Great article by LifeCounseling Solutions

Sports Spectrum Podcast - Pro Athletes Discussing Performance-Based Identity


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