Last weekend I received that oh-so-fun call from my credit card company. Do you know the one I’m talking about? The one where they inform you that a charge has been made waaay out of your usual zip code? Yup. That one.
Thankfully, my credit card company was on the ball and sounded the alarm immediately, so we were able to freeze the card before much damage was done. As I listened on the phone to the very kind and helpful representative, I asked myself wryly, Geez, what about my identity is cool enough that someone would want to steal it?
These days, the phrase “identity theft” is equated with money. Compromised credit card equals loss of money equals stolen identity.
But is our identity gone? Are we defined by nothing more than a small plastic rectangle and/or a string of numbers?
Lord, I hope not.
True, my finances are a part of my life, and necessary, if I want to pay for food, rent, clothing, and other essentials. They’re not, however, my identity. I don’t say “I am my bank account.”
This begs the question: what is my identity? What makes me who I am?
The list is long, but would go something like: I am a runner. I am a writer. I am a daughter/granddaughter/sister/niece/aunt/cousin/friend/girlfriend. I am a Catholic. I am an American. And so on. I’m not including things I do, because I do plenty of things that I don’t associate with my identity. Household chores, for example, are precisely that: chores, not defining characteristics.
I’m realizing, though, that defining characteristics may seem permanent (I’ll always be a runner! My relationship is indestructible!), but are far from it. They’re just as vulnerable to compromise as our credit cards. Just as we have to be vigilant about our credit card information – Is that website really secure? Are we checking our billing statements regularly? – we need to be just as vigilant elsewhere.
In fact, our finances and our “real” identity have a lot in common. It’s generally considered wise to put money into a savings account, right? Well, when I run, those miles go into a bank. Call it the bank of mental and physical health. When I visit my family, that goes into a bank, and when I pray, that goes into a bank. Devoting time to the different aspects of my identity adds value to each one – and the more I add now, the more I can draw from when the need arises. The euphemism “staying afloat” is not just a financial one.
It’s also a common financial practice to invest – to branch out into new areas once we have a secure base. We do research, we pick something worthwhile to invest in, we give, and hopefully, we see growth. Isn’t this something we also do with ourselves? We seek growth, so we look for things to add to our personal portfolios, i.e., identities. How often do we say “I want to be a…”? Going from that statement to “I am a…” takes work, and a little risk, but how gratifying is it when that new investment pays off?
What’s your identity? What are you doing to keep it secure and help it grow?