“This is just who I am . . . I’m just a (fill in the blank) person . . . Have you ever infused a bad habit you have into your identity? I know I have. Sometimes we get so focused on the things we struggle with, that we let it define who we are. Let me explain.
Ever since my husband, Norris, and I have been married, he’s told me that I’m stubborn. And ever since we’ve been married I’ve emphatically denied that I’m stubborn. The conversation is usually sparked from a discussion about my daughter. It goes something like this:
“Niya is so strong willed,” I say, “and she hates to admit it when she’s wrong.”
“Yeah, you two are just alike,” he says.
“I’m not stubborn! I’m the most open minded, flexible person I know. I’m always willing to compromise and give up what I want for someone else.”
He gives me a half smile.
“Okay Bookie” he says. (Don’t laugh, that’s what we call each other).
“I’m not stubborn,” I insist. “Give me an example of one time I was stubborn.”
I cross my arms and lean back with a smirk, totally prepared for him to rack his brain trying to come up with an example and fail miserably. Instead, two seconds later he’s rattling off an incident that may have happened three years ago that’s a perfect illustration. (He has the memory of an elephant. (I don’t know how he does it!) The smirk slowly begins to disappear from my face as I realize he’s right. Well at least about that incident.
“Well, that was just one time,” I say. Then I proceed to explain why I just couldn’t give in about whatever the issue was. “It was just too important – I still think I did the right thing – you just don’t understand.” Blah, blah, blah.
He gives me that half smile again and goes back to whatever he was doing.
It took a while for me to realize that yes, I can be stubborn. Sometimes. A little bit. Okay, sometimes a lot. Stubbornness is something I struggle with, but it does not define who I am. Let me say that again. It is something I struggle with but it does not define who I am. It’s important that we don’t get what we struggle with and who we are confused. It can lead to inner turmoil, self- destruction and even giving up trying to live life for Christ.
When we discover something about ourselves that we know is not in the will of God, we struggle with it. We know it’s wrong, but we like it, and that in and of itself is a struggle. It’s easy to starting thinking of yourself as a “bad person” when you face the fact that you like something that God hates. But that’s the nature of sin. Things that are sinful have a magnetism that pulls us in. If it was easy to stop sinning, we would all stop!
Think about the temptations we face in the world everyday that lure us into sin: pornography pop ups on our computers, explicit lyrics on the radio, images of homosexuality on TV, advertisements and videos with half naked people. It’s everywhere and it’s hard to resist. But if you fail to resist the temptation and watch that video or listen to that song, you’ll find yourself wanting what you see and hear. You’ll catch yourself singing those lyrics, replaying that video in your head and feeling those lustful feelings without even realizing it. That’s how the enemy works, by finding ways to slip in sin triggers wherever and whenever he possibly can. It happens to you, it happens to me, it happens to everyone. But it doesn’t define who we are.
If you struggle with pornography, it doesn’t make you a pervert, it makes you a child of God that struggles with pornography. If you struggle with pre-marital sex, it doesn’t make you a slut, it makes you a child of God that struggles with pre-marital sex. If you struggle with alcohol it doesn’t make you a drunk, it makes you a child of God that struggles with alcohol. Don’t define yourself by your struggles. The minute you convince yourself that you are your sin, the devil rejoices. You are not your sin! I repeat. You are not your sin! Don’t let your sin define you and don’t let anyone else define you by your sin.
Many of us have fallen into this trap because the world is a master at turning things that are sinful into an issue of choice or rights. Homosexuality is a sin (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-28) but the world embraces it as a choice. Lust is a sin (Matthew 5:28), but the world embraces it by bombarding us with explicit images. A person’s lifestyle should be their choice, but just because you have the ability to choose doesn’t mean the choices you make are right. The world has embraced pornography, explicit images, vulgar language and homosexuality. It has embraced it so much, that many people no longer look at them as sin. So, if they struggle with these things, they just accept is as part of who they are. Don’t get it twisted. Just because the world accepts something, doesn’t mean that God does. One thing I love about God is that He is consistent. He doesn’t change. He is the same today, tomorrow and always. His expectations for us don’t change and thank God for that! If His expectations changed, we would constantly be trying to find out what He wants from us. What God wants from us is perfectly clear in His word. Don’t let the world define you by your struggle. Let God help you work through your struggle and overcome it. Don’t confuse your struggle with your identity.