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Are We Harming Our Recovery With False Identities?

Sign Says This Is Who I Am

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him (1 John 3:1).

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

If we believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God, then the verses above are trustworthy and true. Numerous other verses in Scripture share the same message about our identity within the Family of God and Body of Christ.

Some years ago, I found myself asking why men keep calling themselves porn/sex addicts, abusers, cheaters, etc.. After all, that old identity died in and with Christ.

While this conversation is necessary, the scope of it is larger than we can tackle in this article. As I lay out my thoughts, please understand I am in no way diminishing the pain and trauma of a wife who has experienced betrayal. Nor am I justifying the actions and choices of a husband/man who has hurt and betrayed his wife or others.

I believe a more accurate description would be that addicts, abusers, etc., are men (adopted sons of the Most High God) with an addiction or addictive behavior. In labeling someone an addict, are we attacking their identity as the image bearer of Christ they are?

How about women (adopted daughters of the Most High God) with addictions or addictive behaviors? For an ever-growing number of women, porn is a real struggle. Are they addicts? Is that their real identity? Or, is this a false identity?

What about the wife or husband whose spouse betrayed them by having an affair or other sexual integrity failures who are called a betrayed wife or husband? Is that their real identity?

Where am I going with this, you ask? Allow me to answer that question with another question. Then, I'll follow up with how we can recast this discussion.

How long does one who has ceased to act out on their addictive behaviors continue to be identified as an addict? One year? Two years? More?

I'm going to be direct on this subject. I know I'm risking upsetting some, and that is not my intention at all. I hope to pause and consider whether we are harming the recovery of an addicted man or woman and delaying the healing of a wife who's been betrayed by unintentionally placing on them a label of addict, victim, betrayer, betrayed.

It's one thing to say you've been betrayed and another to adopt that label that attacks the identity given by Christ as children of God. It seems like we're playing into Satan's attempt to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10a ESV) our identity and potentially inhibit Christ's promise, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10b ESV).

What if, instead, he is a man/child of God with an addiction or addictive behavior? Or is she a woman/child of God who has been betrayed or victimized? Neither of these is a personal attack on their God-given identities.

Again, I'm not saying these things to in any way diminish the seriousness of an addiction or the impact betrayal has on a spouse and others. Not at all.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits (Proverbs 18:21).

I believe it's time to rethink our words and consider whether they are helpful or harmful to the recovery journey of both men and women, husbands and wives, and their families. Are we placing divisive labels on one another or living into our true identities toward reconciliation?

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

We are called to the ministry of reconciliation, not division. Let's start here.

Courageously forward.



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