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Today’s Reminder: What That Person Said About You Is NOT Your Identity

kids playing walking in a line during sunset
October 10, 2022

When I was about 8 years old, we had a group of kids who hung out regularly and played together in the alley behind our house.

There was a conflict one day, and I honestly don’t remember what it was about – maybe something dramatic like who was out in kickball, or ownership of a certain Barbie doll. When you’re young, it all feels so serious, doesn’t it?

Whatever the issue was, it blew up. The new girl on the block Teresa, ran home crying to her mom and squealed on all of us. I remember standing at the fence behind her house. Her mom came out and took her daughter by the hand tenderly, and then turned to me and yelled, “Tracey! You are vicious! Stay away from my daughter!”


That word cut through and almost 48 years later I still think about it. Crazy right? It was a label someone put on me based on a story they didn’t know. It’s a word I would use to describe an attack dog. Pretty much the exact opposite of who I wanted to be and how I saw myself. These names people put on us can be so damaging.

Do you know what that “name” produced in me? I erroneously concluded that every time I showed strength, spoke up about something, protested in any way… that I was being “vicious.” Rather than raise my voice, I stuffed my voice.

Now, this little incident wasn’t the only factor in my learned passivity – there were plenty of factors. Growing up in a home with parents who fought, I thought it was my job to keep them happy. That’s a big job for a kid. Shoot – that’s a big job for anybody. Over the years, I took so many of these kinds of incidents in my life and formed a belief: To be kind, I must be quiet and compliant. I have mistakenly thought that disagreement was something to avoid, and to express anger or even to feel it – was very bad and would lead to being abandoned. If I sensed anger in someone, I would shut down in fear. Abusive relationships come in all sizes and shapes and words…can really stick to you.

I believed that I must keep the peace, and if I felt hurt or angry, never let anyone see the full extent of it. Just keep everyone happy at all costs. The cost though was my own self-respect and dignity. The name “Vicious” was never my name. I reject it along with all the other false names people called me in my life.

No one gets to name me but my heavenly Father and He says… I am loved, chosen, and I am His… And He invites me to be myself. He can take it. You know a person truly loves you when you can express your anger, speak up, and disagree – and it’s not only ok, it’s safe.

What names have you been called that have informed how you thought about yourself? If they weren’t the names God has given you – today is Rejection Day. Reject the lies. Embrace the truth. Beloved is your name.

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