That’s Not My Name: Overcoming the Voice of Shame and Reclaiming Identity

There is only one mirror in my bedroom, and it is covered from top to bottom in hand-written notes.

“I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.”

“I am known completely and loved perfectly.”

“I am forgiven and clean.” “I am not a burden.”

“I am never alone.” “I am blessed, called, healed, and whole.”

These notes have accumulated over the past three years. I call them my faith declarations.

There was a time when I would look in the mirror and hear:

“You are so fat and ugly. No one could ever love you.”

“You’re just damaged goods. Your past has disqualified you from God’s call on your life and you will always be weighed down by it.”

“You are broken and worthless.”

“You’re such a bad daughter, sister, and friend.”

“If anyone knew the real you, they wouldn’t love you.”

These lies tormented me for so long, stuck on repeat in my head, until they began to affect the way I lived and how I carried myself.

One day, in the middle of my hopelessness and shame, the Lord spoke to me and said, “My daughter, you are not wicked in need of punishment. You are broken in need of healing.”

In that moment, I realized that God was not punishing me; I was punishing myself. He was not just trying to change my behavior; He was trying to heal my heart and restore my identity.

Behind every sin is a broken belief system about who God is or who we are. Our fight is to believe the truth. That’s why we fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). The woman who struggles with sin is the woman who believes she is a sinner. If I can believe I am washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Corinthians 6:11), then I will, by nature, live accordingly. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (NKJV).

We ultimately become what we believe that we are. Therefore, we should intentionally meditate on and declare the truth about who God says we are until it becomes manifest reality in our lives. And as we traverse the journey of sanctification we can find comfort in knowing that we are loved perfectly as we are and that our Father is always faithful to finish the good work he began in us (Philippians 1:6).

This is not to say that we should allow our hearts to grow insensitive to the correction of the Holy Spirit. Rather, we must learn to identify and reject the voice of shame, while embracing the conviction and comfort of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (NIV).

Conviction tells you that you did something bad. Shame says you are bad. Conviction pulls you back up onto the path. Shame kicks you while you’re in the ditch. Conviction drives you closer to Jesus and community. Shame isolates you to destroy you.

Shame is not from God. When we continue to punish ourselves for what Jesus already paid for, we diminish the finished work of the cross. Godly sorrow (conviction and genuine repentance), on the other hand, leads to a life free from shame.

I am often reminded of Jesus’ beautiful and gracious interaction with the woman caught in the act of adultery. After shutting down her accusers, He spoke again to her and said, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11 (NLT)

Even when I do mess up, even when I have a legitimate reason to feel ashamed, my Father continues to meet me with grace, mercy, and gentle correction. He is not bashing me over the head with a law I could never meet; He is constantly calling me higher, reminding me who I really am.

So now, when I hear: “‘Dirty’, ‘Worthless’, ‘Without reason to hope’, ‘Unlovable’, ‘Broken.’”

I can answer confidently, “That’s not my name.

He calls me ‘Child of God’ (John 1:12), ‘Loved’ (Romans 5:8), ‘Free’ (Galatians 5:1), ‘Beautiful and clean’” (Song of Solomon 4:7).

We are because he is. His name is Redeemer. He makes all things new. And in the middle of our brokenness, in the middle of our struggle, He is making us new even now. So the next time you lose your patience with your children and hear, “You’re the worst mom,” or when you look in the mirror and thoughts of self-hatred flood your mind, I pray that you would be able to reject the voice of shame once and for all.

I pray that you would choose to listen to and believe the voice of your Father.

Cayla Rheins
Women of Warren Writing Team