I am a millennial, though often I forget that I’m part of this age demographic. One thing that amazes me about my generation is our constant desire to brand ourselves. Obviously, I can’t be sure because I wasn’t alive during other generations, but I’m not sure that those older than us have embraced having a “personal brand” as much as us. It’s so tempting to try and stand out (whether in person or on social media) so that we’re seen as “unique” or “authentic”. But what if we didn’t have to try quite so hard?
In our story, Nehemiah naturally stood out because of his character and his passionate pursuit of God. He didn’t have to force or broadcast anything, he was comfortable enough to be himself and watch the Lord work.
“Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor. The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God.” Nehemiah 5:14-15 (ESV)
After all of his hard work and dedication to the project and the people, Nehemiah got a promotion—and a pretty big one at that! That’s a good day, wouldn’t you agree? He went from being the cupbearer of the king, to a professional people wrangler/project manager/builder, to the governor.
But he wasn’t like other governors: he knew who God was and who he was.
Nehemiah didn’t need to throw his position in people’s faces. He didn’t degrade the office or do anything to hurt the people he was appointed to serve. He didn’t get put into this position and then immediately forget why he was there: he maintained perspective even after he was promoted. And his character remained intact.
It’s so easy for us to try and manufacture our differences so that we stand out. Or we exaggerate parts of our personalities so that we can find our identities in them. It’s tempting to try to make ourselves more unique, more different, more out of the box to compensate for something we feel we’re lacking. But what if we didn’t need to do that?
What would it look like if we just let our character, our God-given personality, and our talents speak for themselves? What if we walked through life, as Nehemiah did, with humility, understanding our God-given place in the world and occupying no more or less?
I often struggle to do this. I want to paint an image of myself as more competent, less relational, and more efficient than I actually am. I secretly love the moniker of “workaholic” and take a sort of sick pride in being the one who can outwork everyone else. I want to display a certain image of me so that I can be the hero when things go wrong. But that’s not actually who I am.
I am, little by little, learning to drop the cold facade of efficiency and just be me. It’s not pretty and I often get caught up in the faux me, but I want to take a page out of Nehemiah’s book.
Today, I am choosing to be more mindful of my character instead of my title. I am deciding to take up my God-given space in the world. Will you join me?
Do you tend to project a “faux you” so you’re seen as different or unique?
How can you drop your well-crafted facade just a little today?