The tent-maker question.

I’ve grown to hate this question: “What do you do for a living?”

Why do I hate it? Because, it forces folks to paint such an inaccurate picture of themselves. I’ve seen quite a few highly skilled and intelligent men and women get asked this question and simply wilt in response. They don’t want to answer it because they feel it unfairly boils down who they are, and what they’re capable of to simply what they do to earn money.

Can you be an extremely adept philosopher, but do lawn care to take care of your family? Certainly.

Is it possible to be a highly skilled artist and choose to be a home maker? Absolutely.

Are there bank tellers who are experts in political economy? I have no doubt.

Is the lady serving your table at the cafe also heading a non-profit? Wouldn’t surprise me.

So, the real question here is this: Is it possible to choose, or be forced to have an occupation that doesn’t represent the totality of your talents, skills, wisdom and gifts? The answer is that it’s not just possible. It’s likely. That scenario, in fact, describes most of us.

As an example, my wife spent some time talking to a janitor at a local church the other day who had gone to Faulkner University and spent many years of his life studying black history. The label of “Janitor” doesn’t even begin to represent who this man is. We all know people like this.

It’s the lucky few who will be able to earn a living doing a job that truly represents them as a whole person. In fact, I’d bet that a large percentage of people would rather keep their work separate anyway. There is always the risk that a particular passion you have would die if you were forced to do it as a job. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right?

So, I propose we ask different questions to the people we encounter. Instead of saying, “What do you do for a living?” How about, “What do you like to spend your time on?” Or, “What things are you passionate about?”

This gives people the opportunity to explain themselves to you in a way they feel most accurately reflects their whole person. And, that’s what we want anyway. We want to truly know what others have to offer and how we could fit into their lives. That is what real relationships are built on after all.

Building a framework.

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