Stop Fearing Failure. Live Your True Identity. feat. Jamie Winship

Read Time: 8 minutes
By: City Gospel Movements

This week we have the privilege of introducing you to Jamie Winship from Identity Exchange, based out of Seattle, Washington. Jamie helps people live fiercely into their true identity. Jamie and his wife, Donna, speak all over the world on identity and how to live into your who God made you to be. Prior to doing this work he was a decorated Washington D.C. police officer and was recruited by the CIA to work in the Middle East in conflict countries for 25 years.

Jamie is an incredible thinker and storyteller. We hope this episode causes you to ask:

  • What am I afraid of?
  • What is my true identity?
  • And, how can I bring my true self to cities around the world?


I [Stephanie] remember meeting Jamie 5 years ago. he was speaking on stage getting really pumped up. He began yelling at us, “What are you afraid of? You have the King of Kings behind you!” For me it was a life-altering moment because I realized I shouldn’t be afraid of anything.

Jamie, You help people overcome fear in their lives. where did this start for you?

Thinking back to how I was on stage, for me, taking up physical space and talking loud was part of hiding my own fear. I remember distinctly standing in the parking lot of the Precinct my first night out of the Academy to go to work as a police officer. I was thinking to myself, I’ve been waiting for this since I was in 8th grade. Now, I’m 23, college graduate, married, and I’m getting ready to go in to meet my police squad and I was afraid. I was fearful for two reasons:

  1. What if I don’t make it? What if I fail people?
  2. What if I fail as a believer? What if I fail God?

I’ve committed my life to this work and Jesus, and I knew that in this vocation, I wanted to impact others. I’m standing there, realizing I am also not legally allowed to share my faith as a police officer. It hit me that I was going into a career where that is not allowed and yet it is what I wanted to do.

In order to be a police office and live out my faith, I was probably going to have to hear from God to tell me what to do because there’s no specific way to train in this and there’s no book on it. I didn’t want to get into a situation that would get me fired. Before I even walked into the door, I felt the pressure that I was a failure. Later, I realized that in this career a large part of it was going to be with dealing with fear itself.

what happened when your policing career took off? How did not being fearful propel You in your career?

What kills creativity in people is fear. You can’t operate on the creative part of your brain if the reptilian is all about self-protection and self-promotion. If my goal is to protect my own life it doesn’t allow for creativity, experimentation or risk. When I would have an idea on the job, I would pray and say, “God, is there something beyond my training that I need to think about or consider because we are stuck or talking to a person who is stuck.”

I would have these thoughts or ideas in my mind that I would attribute to the mind of Christ. When I would have those ideas it took faith that what you were going to say was going to achieve what you hope for. It is this constant recognizing of the fear and setting fear aside and being willing to move forward with what is true. The faster I could do that the more creatively I thought and the quicker I would respond. 

Give us an example of how YOU SET FEAR ASIDE.

There’s the dramatic and the not so dramatic. The dramatic for me was during my second or third year. I was working with a training officer and it was a day case. We were called to a school where a kid never got off the school bus. This was in 1984 and there were no computers or anything like that, so we started working backwards and realized he never even got on the bus.

We were interviewing kids here at the bus stop and no one remembered him being on the bus although the parents did drop him off at the bus stop. It was apparent that he had been abducted. In 1984 this wasn’t that common, so we start working this case and we realized we were two hours behind. At this point, every hour in that situation was really critical. We’re doing what we’re trained to do, but as I’m talking to the father of the kid, I have this strong urge to reassure him that we’re going to find his kid. So I do and you are not supposed to do that. My partner really challenged me when we walked away and said, “Why did you say that?”

I told him, “I had no idea why I just felt like it was the right thing to say.” We split up and I got in my car and drove down the street a few blocks and I pulled over.  I began to pray, “Lord I feel like you’re trying to say something to me. What are you trying to say? You know where this kid is. Do you speak about things like this? Please tell me what to do.”

Right away, this car comes driving down the road from behind me and I just have this really sick feeling in my stomach, another feeling I’ve come to know and trust really deeply. Without fear I just pull around and cut the car off. I jump out of my car and tell the guy to open up his trunk right now. He gets out and opens up the trunk and the kid is in the trunk of the car. Both me and the driver stood there staring at each other with our mouths open. He didn’t know how I knew and I didn’t know how I knew. I called the detectives and we made the arrest and the kid was not physically harmed. 

The detective pulls me aside and says, “How did you know to stop that car?” I didn’t know how to articulate it to him that I just knew. That was a very dramatic experience, its not often like that. I felt that the Lord was saying to me, “Learn to trust the voice of God. Perfect things in your life that keep an open channel with God.”

That was the Red Sea parting for me. I realized any career based on the thinking: “use your training and education as far as it will go” will at some point come face to face with the reality that your training will not go far enough. If we have the mind of Christ, what does that mean? Fear is the big blockade in going forward with the mind of Christ. 

The words bravery and courage can be synonyms at times, but how do you pull those two apart?

Bravery to me is more like animal instinct because there isn’t real thinking involved. Bravery can often be wrong. You’re in a situation where you do the thing that you need to do to actually survive. Now, being courageous is more thoughtful; it’s not pressured; it’s a deep understanding of the risks involved. It has to do with being encouraged and it’s the idea of joy that is measured.

You can go into a situation where a brave person might just react, but a courageous person will keep moving in a situation that has huge risk thinking through the whole situation.

Tell us a little bit about what Identity Exchange is and why you started this organization now?

Identity Exchange is what it says. It’s the idea that most of us are actually functioning in an identity that’s created by ourselves through fear, shame, trauma, or negative perception, so we’re operating in a false identity.  An encounter with Jesus and God is an opportunity for that false identity to be exchanged for what’s true. Then we’re able to walk upright in our true self which is where the way of my being matches the truth of my being in unity. It was the only thing with military folks who are operating in a hugely false identity based on real trauma could comprehend that their projected fear and false identity in a world would react to a false identity in war.

Why did we start this organization now? Well, coming back to the USA and seeing the level of division and conflict here was a big motivation. People are finding themselves in groups all based on fear, so we thought, “Wow, what we need is some type of process to get back into what’s true and stop being so fearful.” We endeavor to produce a small process that people can do that is not dramatic, where they can exchange their false identity for true identity.

Your mission is living fearlessly in your true identity and that resonates with every single human being whether they know Jesus or not. Fear manifests itself in all of our lives. How do you help people in these first steps of recognizing their true identity. 

All of us, growing up, experience life trauma. Trauma is relative to people. You can’t tell one person they haven’t been in trauma.  All people encounter trauma or negative situations which will form how we view our self. For example, when a teacher says to a student, “You’re not a very good reader.” The student will start to form a view of themselves that is negative and false. They will believe that they aren’t as good as those around them. Then, rather than trying, they figure out how to compensate for the false identity they believe.

It continues on throughout their life because they believed they were not a good reader, therefore believe they won’t get these jobs or they will encounter certain challenges they won’t be able to overcome. The false identity gains momentum through every negative experience in their life and it becomes solidified, so by the time this person is 45, they don’t even remember where they realized they aren’t as good as other people.

People end up living in a world of constant comparison. If we can’t sell 10 million books, we decide there’s no point in writing one. This false identity is solidified in us and the signs of it is negative emotion, self-protection, and self-promotion. It’s the belief that, “I can’t be who I really am because of the risk of exposure that I’m a failure.”

How do we move into that true identity or false when really the true self can’t be offended and can’t be intimidated.  The only one that can intimidate you is yourself. We walk people through the process of naming the false and we start to tell the truth about ourselves. For Christians we would use the word confession which just means to truth tell. 

It’s funny because if you are going to have a peace negotiation between two countries and their whole goal is to self-protect and self-promote you are never going to have peace because you don’t even have peace inside yourself. How will you gain peace between you and someone else when you are at war with your own false identity? The idea is to move into what is true about me and then what is true about me moves to what I believe about myself.  Then I need to listen to what is actually true about what God says about me. If you’re speaking to absolute love, which is what God is, then speaking to love will always affirm the truth of who we are and that’s what God does.

If our identities can only come from God, then how does that parallel? We believe that we are knit together in our mother’s womb by God with an identity that He gave us and it is unique, never created before, and never will be created again. If you have a unique identity, it is a tragedy to God that we would adopt some false identity which produces separation between us and God, ourselves and us with other people. Separation is the great wound of humanity, which is sin. 

We separate ourselves from God who would always be with you and who is always for you.  It’s even delusional that we’re separating from God, but that’s what we believe in. That’s how we act, we don’t participate in what God has for us.

So then what is Jesus? He is the blueprint of humanity. He is the picture of a human walking around in absolute pure identity that comes only from God. He only does what He sees the Father doing and only says what He hears the Father saying. I think it’s the ultimate model to us. Jesus is not saying imitate every thing I do and copy everything I say; He’s not saying that. Jesus didn’t come to tell us what to do. He came to show us how to know what to do. Which is hearing from God and moving with God. We are not on our own trying to not hit hell at the end of this thing.

It is very much a oneness with God into the true identity and then we encourage others into their true identity. When we worked with militants, we spoke to the true them and this is what evangelism is. It’s calling out the true person that you are speaking to and not fighting against their false identity because their false identity attacks me.

What is possible when we live in our true identity and what happens when we live in our false identity, specifically in a work stetting?

In the false identity, you have a group of employees trying to work together. However, their own false view of themselves and low view of themselves makes them either self-protect or self-promote. They are separate from other people and constantly living lives of separateness and scarcity. We believe this lie that we are not good enough and God is probably not for us. Thus, your interaction with other people is either protect yourself or promote yourself. In a job, when we see people not get what they need to promote or protect themselves, they respond negatively whether that be passively or defensive. There are a variety of ways people could respond.

In a room where people are functioning in their true identity though, they realize that they are unique and incomparable to anyone around them and there is no need to compare. They don’t feel the need to self protect or promote because they know that nobody can take their place.  What they can recognize is that they do need these other identities in order to move forward–true identity demands community.

A person in their true self never wants to be separate and alone. They realize that is the worst thing for humans, to be isolated and alone and that is a feeling of powerlessness. We see this in our country all the time. This is why middle school kids are killing others in their class because they feel so isolated and alone in the dark and in a trapped identity where they are trying to be seen. They want to get people to pay attention to them so that they can be in relation with others.

When people are working together with this happy sense of self and if someone around them melts down, they can look at that person and say, “Wow, you know what? I have mercy on you because I know you are speaking from your own woundedness and fear, so I’m going to love you and forgive you and cut that off.  I don’t get my identity from what you think of me and I have mercy on you and I want to work to see the real you come forward in this job.” 

If you have an HR department that knows how to do that! Wow! You don’t have to have conferences on racism and sexism because the true identity won’t compare people and won’t talk to people in that manner.

when I tap into The identity that is coming from the Father then, I’m looking at what is possible. 

Absolutely. Because then you are seeing what God sees when He sees you. You are seeing the potential He sees and healthy pride that He has when He looks at you. In that true self you see potential in yourself, because all you are looking out at is what everyone can do together. You want to be together and move forward together. Whether you are stocking shelves or leading a company, the joy is there.

False identity is killing our ability to work together. We see this in church unity. What would you say to people trying to do gospel movement kind of work?

My main responsibility is my own relationship with the Lord and other people. That is why the main commandment is to love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself. That is the key. People can’t do what they haven’t seen. They must see models of people who are walking in wholeness in their true identity. 

I can start a program with amazing curriculum for at-risk kids, but if I myself am living in self-protection and self-promotion then I might just be there to fulfill a need that I am a good person. The kids need to see someone who moves in their true identity and teaches them to do the same. When a kid gets a hold of that idea, Jesus basically says that “once you understand what I represent, it is better that I go because you yourselves can become this with the mind of Christ. You do not need to see it. You need to experience it and then demonstrate it to other people. It is not a workbook.”

Kids watch leaders who are operating in scarcity models, fighting for limited funding, and competing with other NGO’s and churches which is no different than the lost world. It is the belief that we aren’t going to win. It is hard to work with another group when you believe that they are the competition. If you believe that you have to have a certain number of people in your church to keep the money coming in, you need to go to confession and ask, “What is my view of God? Do I believe that God has a role in my resources?”

More recently, where have you seen people living in their true identity as they work together?

You can see it happen immediately when people realize it. Recently, we were in a public high school and we were talking about these ideas of false identity. I knew one class was studying Stalin so I asked, “What do you all think of Stalin?”

They sum it up as he is a bad guy because he killed people. So I say, “But if Stalin was in here talking to you, he could probably tell you pretty well why killing a core of his population was a good idea. He was deceived, but he was not stupid. He actually believed something about himself that made the death of other people seem like a good idea. Stalin might believe that he has such competition that this was his only option. Where do you think he came up with that idea?”

They were thinking about it and they answer, “Maybe somewhere young, someone hurt him.”

I asked, “Now, can you think of a negative emotion you have had this week that has made you think about hurting yourself or someone else in any way? Maybe it was through gossip, social media.”

Many of them said “yes.”

Then I asked them, “Are you able to point it out and when? What did you call yourselves when you were believing this lie of comparison?

It was silent in the room. I told them, “What you are calling yourself is an identity. Whether it is that your body doesn’t look right or you aren’t going to get into the right school.”

We entered into this deep confession and calling out of false identities that we have believed in. I told them, “These false identities are not true and how you can tell is if it is hurting you.”

The problem is we don’t know what to do after we have been hurt. So we have an exercise that we do. With the students, I asked them to close their eyes and imagine if you could take that negative emotion and hold it in your hands and then put it aside. Then I tell them to imagine if you were instead looking at absolute love standing right in front of you. What does absolute love call you?

There were tears. This was in a public school, I could not talk about God, but somehow all humans can hear the voice of love. Any child in there with a religious background that voice was God to them. I asked them, “Who calls you that? Was it you?”

They all said, “No, because we would have never called ourselves that.”

That is the beginning of the journey toward the Kingdom of God. The beauty of it is that when Christians are the ones running that conversation, we are the Kingdom and we are guarding that room so they can go through the beautiful process.

The teacher of the class reached out to me later because the students had a test on development. She sent me some of the students’ essays on how they had discovered their true identity in that conversation. The teacher is a believer and she has the ability to move with this now. The school has actually asked us to create a curriculum on identity.

Sharing our faith is not hard. we make it hard. Oftentimes we get tense thinking about sharing our faith. How does living in our true identity change how we share our faith with people?

Well first, it’s no longer a sales pitch that we are trying to get people to buy into, but an overflow of our true identity–the fruit of the Spirit comes out. I am no longer focusing on myself, but on the other person with love. I am able to listen to them and their woundedness or pain. When you are in a normal conversation with people they bring this us up and you just ask them how that makes them feel.

When these negative responses come forward you ask where they learned that and you are entering into the confession stage. Often this will lead to a deep conversation and you start to go into that process like I did with the high school kids.

If you are going to communicate the good news of the kingdom with anyone start where Jesus starts. He starts in their pain. He starts in their fear and doubt and moves them into what is true.

Christians talk like we are going to be judged on how much production we have. It is not about guilt or shame. God is not interested in how people work for Him, but He wants relationship with us. The process may take awhile, but I don’t get my identity for how many people I save.

When we unlock our own selves and walk in true identity then our joy is to help other people unlock that same freedom.

Exactly and that is abiding which is why the scripture says, “be ready in season and out of season to give reason for the hope that is within you.” It doesn’t ask for the apologetic, but the hope that is within us.

A hopeless person has a hard time bringing hope to other people. The Spirit of God moves in  hope.

Imagine a city of pastors who are unlocked and fearless. In many ways, the leaders we talk to are pioneers, so talk a little about pioneering.

In scripture, pioneering is about being the cause of something. As Christians, I feel like we are often reacting to stuff in not a lot of healthy ways which brings us back to that separation. Pioneer is referring to Jesus as the cause of our faith. Hebrews 2 says that what Jesus did when He came was take away death and the slavery of the fear of death.

Death is not an issue because Jesus has dealt with us, but the issue is with fear of death which is built in complete falsehood. Since Jesus came and took that away, we don’t have to have the fear of death.

The popular idea is that we have to be resilient because everyday we die multiple times from these little hurts, but Jesus has taken that away. So in my true identity, we should not be afraid of what people say about me because it does not hurt me.

Then I can become causal, not reaction-based. We are able to go into cities and we become the cause of love in these dark spaces. We can say there is another way to think about things! We have to allow resurrection to occur and present everything as a living sacrifice. We have to ask God how to handle truth around present issues like homelessness, gender issues and so many more!

Only Christians talk like they have the whole thing nailed down, but we don’t! Every other sector of society knows that the future generations have it all together, but Christians believe we have it together now. No, the future generations actually are the ones who are going to carry it forward. We have to pass on the hope to them so that they can become the causal.

When we talk to students like this, it is totally what they want! They want ownership and want to figure out what to do.

I love that word causal. it resonates with me and other leaders. We have to be willing to fail though.

Our definition of failure doesn’t come from God, it comes from the enemy. Jesus never considers a situation failure because as soon as we think that way we have to self-protect or self-promote. We can’t teach our kids that there is a win-lose scenario, because Jesus always looks at it with a win. Jesus failed in the most miserable way and guess what, He comes back! He tell us to stop being afraid of failure and to take the planet like it was supposed to be in Genesis 1.

What would you say to people who are hearing this for the first time and wondering what they can do now?

We can be a resource for sure. One of the first things we have people do is take some quiet time and breathe deep, imagine yourself being in any place in the world. Imagination is from God and it is in perfect peace when it is fixed on God.

Write down what that place looks like because that question is not a question of location, but of existence. Where would you be if you could be anywhere. Once you are in this place, what are you doing? This is a question of existence.

This allows you to become closer to your own heart. Allow yourself to be in this place. When you are in this place, ask God, “What do you call me? How do you see me?” Write these things down.

Then you can go over why these things would never be true. What are all the reasons you believe that this could not become true? These are the statements that are false.

Then you act from there to become that person you imagine and do the thing you have imagined.

This is not something you do once. You have to constantly come back and come back to the truth. Let God fill you back up and make you ready again. You have to keep practicing it until it is your natural thinking.

Learn more about Jamie’s ministry here.


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