Being versus Doing

Too often the essence of who we are is wrapped up in what we do, such that people rely on an individual’s occupation as a judge of one’s character. She is a doctor, he is a teacher, she is a writer, he is a lawyer…. But do these roles truly define who a person is?


What a person does can tie quite closely to tangible things that society deems ‘successful’ and valuable. But is that all there is to life? The next promotion, the next award, the next publication, the next… Imparting such a definition to one’s own being (or character) seems like a life of never ending pressure to prove oneself. Moreover, a heavy emphasis on accomplishments places the definition and control of our identity in the fate of a fickle pressure-driven society to prove self-worth. The more one attempts to prove self-worth to another individual or entity, the more likely one will lose him or her -self in the process. So much so that one forgets the authentic self, and life in itself becomes empty.


It is easy to fall into this trap. After all, society predicates self-image on quantifiable and tangible actions or deeds. But what if we were to live ‘counter-culturally’, by starting with a paradigm shift in our own minds? Such that we view what is of importance and of value through a different lens so that our being is preserved or perhaps even revived or reborn? When we ask ourselves what do we want to be, our answers should no longer be dependent on what we do, but rather in relation to our character – Who am I? How do I want to live this life? How do I be true to myself inside and out?


Instead of focusing on the tangible ‘do-ings’ that defines our lives, we start focusing on the intangible ‘be-ings’. When we have the courage to be honest with ourselves and be who we are meant to be, we begin to come to terms with who we are. We being to understand what we want to be, and the testimony of our character is found not in what we do, but rather in the lives of others whom we interact with and nurture relationships with. Remarks from friends, family or strangers stating that we are considerate, kind, loving, appreciative, funny…become the testimony of who we are, not a piece of paper from a university, job promotion, or trophy. Are not the fondest memories of times when we are honest and authentic in our relationship with others and ourselves? When we don’t have to pretend to be something that we’re not by carrying out behaviours and actions that inhibit our true being from shining through?


Being sets us free from the pressure of doing. Is it not easier to be generous than to prove one’s generosity? An identity tied up in society’s expectations will always be conditional and will enslave us in an endless cycle of proving, failing, and proving again. In essence, we become addicted to what society values, while our deepest needs go unfulfilled. When we start to look at ourselves from the inside out, versus the outside in, our frame of mind changes and we start living through being versus doing. Then the pressure is off and we can be who we are truly meant to be – authentic beings on the inside and out.

Breaking away from conformity

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

How often are we pressured into conforming to the standards of society? Sometimes we don’t even know that we are shaping ourselves to fit with the trend and mindset of society around us. The obvious covert form of conformity would be the presentation of our outward appearance and the attainment of materialistic possessions. Whereas, the internal form of conformity would be to accept the diversity of cultural, religious, philosophical, political patterns in the world and allow one’s way of thinking to be shaped by ideals and values that provide the least amount of resistance and maximum amount of relativism.

However, the more and more we allow ourselves to be pulled by the “latest and greatest” and be swept away by fleeting emotions, the more unsustainable our lives become. Deep within we know there is something missing. An emptiness and a void which cannot be fulfilled by conforming to the patterns of this world. We may not be able to (or want to) put our finger on what this emptiness stems from, but a deep seeded longing for something sustaining will always linger, so long as the pulse of this world continues to controls our lives.

Therefore, who or what is doing the thinking for us? If we are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, then are we not called to take up the potentially painful struggle of asking, thinking and reflecting on some life changing questions?

Who or what are we faithful to? Who or what do we live for? What is at the root of the emptiness inside and what can be done to fill the void?

Romans 12:2 points to conformity in this world as an aspect that fuels the insatiable longing for fulfillment. So it is not time for a renewing transformation or will pluralistic ignorance continue to be empty bliss?



Beware of no man more than yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.
G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936)