Identity vs. Role Confusion


I love when lessons in my professional life and my spiritual life overlap! It is just another example of where God chooses to meet me in my day-to-day life. Lately, I have been studying for pediatric nursing certification, which means I need to know developmental milestones.


One of the most important theories in pediatric nursing is Erickson’s theory of Stages of Psychosocial Development. I won’t bore you with the details, but I was reminded of the theory when this past Sunday, Pastor Tim brought up the three questions of “Who am I? Where do I fit? What difference do I make?”

Erickson posited that social development in adolescence centers around “Identity vs. Role Confusion”. Of all the stages, this one is the easiest for me to understand and see because I would argue that it doesn’t necessarily stop in adolescence. The questions of “Who am I? Where do I fit? What difference do I make?” is exactly what “Identity vs. Role Confusion” is about. That if you do not know to whom or where you belong, how do you know what your purpose is in this world is? How do you know what you are supposed to do?

Erickson is more concerned with the idea of choosing an occupation when identity is established, whereas finding our identity in Christ assigns us a higher purpose. There are so many verses in the Bible that speak to this identity in Christ. I especially like this:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

Peter lists out several parts of our identity here: “chosen people”, “royal priesthood”, “holy nation”, “God’s special possession”—I love that last one! He also shows one of our main purposes in life: “to declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness”. As we know God, we are to make Him known.

I’m not always good at believing my identity in Christ, since I’m not always good at my role or my pursuit of reflecting Christ into the world. Which brings me to my other lesson of the week. At a book discussion, I heard that to change habits or things about yourself, you need to not only set a goal and plan it out, but to describe yourself in that goal. For example, rather than saying “I am going to eat healthy”, you would say “I am a healthy eater.” By accepting that description of yourself, you make choices in line with it. I am probably butchering how the original author explained it, but it is how I understood it.


Identity is so paramount to how we live our lives; no one wants to embrace confusion about who they are. Maybe I can bolster my belief in my identity in Christ by describing myself in the present as Peter sees me. "I am chosen by God." "I am a priest in God's royal priesthood." "I am a citizen of God's holy nation." "I am God's special possession."


If I (or you) start thinking this way, our role may be clearer, our purpose more certain and our choices will change. And won't God's praises flow out?

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