Last night, I was having a conversation with some people and there was a gal there who, in a moment of real vulnerability, shared with the group about how her mother was always on her back about her weight. You know how it goes…telling her how many calories are in each thing that the girl consumed and basically ensuring that the gal always had weight on her mind. One of the men in the room asked me if I had an opinion about this matter (probably because of my stellar poker-face: big round eyes and mouth hanging open in complete disbelief. Seriously, this face conceals nothing! Every thought I have may as well be written on a sandwich board for me to wear!) I couldn’t believe the words she was saying! This girl…is GORGEOUS! I mean, as far as physical appearances go, she is the freaking standard that other women compare themselves to and find that they are lacking! (which is an entirely other musing about comparisons…but I digress.) On top of that, she is intelligent and remarkably beautiful inside as well…it’s an honor for me to get to have glimpses into her character and thoughts. I was so bothered by this new information for so many reasons: her mother should be her strongest advocate, she is being taught that her value is rooted in her appearance, the mother is ensuring that the daughter inherits insecurities like her own, and then…well, we all know how traumatized women in America are over their body-images. So now, this young woman, is not only taking on life with all the normal challenges, but she is also being saddled with her mother’s baggage. Tragic.
Since I committed yesterday to sharing my advent heart-space preparations with you, you are probably wondering what the story above has to do with the price of eggs. Glad you asked! Yesterday, I talked about hitting the mute button on our schedules (instead of getting busier on our calendars to fit in more stuff, I suggested that we actually clear out our calendars some and do less so that we have the margin to be with people in the moment and experience real life.) I think my suggestion for today is to hit the mute button on ourselves a bit as well. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not trying to silence you…especially if you have been denied the right to a voice in your life…I would never want to add to your mistreatment that way. What I’m talking about are the self-focused thought patterns or self-talk (that frequently are quite negative and un-productive) which usually sound like this: I’m not ___________ enough. I’m too __________. If I could _________, I would be valuable. I need to be the most __________. Once I am __________, I will be satisfied/happy with myself. Now read over those sentences again slowly and see if any of those blanks automatically fill themselves in for you. Seriously…go back and read them.
If any of those blanks automatically filled in with a word for you, then you are plagued by negative self-talk. Whether your development of those thoughts were helped along by someone else or not is unimportant for this particular discussion (however, I would strongly suggest that you identify who that person/people are and create some healthy boundaries with them in a hurry because that is toxic and abusive and it is not ok for your spirit to receive it nor is it not ok for theirs to deliver it.) The problem with negative self-talk is multi-faceted:
First, we are image-bearers of our Creator (I know I talk about this a lot…but it’s important and I was literally in my 30s before this concept took root in my heart.) Every single human being was made in his image, was designed to reflect him in some beautiful way. THAT is where our value lives! In the fact that the God of the universe took his time to sculpt our bodies, design our minds, and breathe life and passion into us.
Secondly, when we develop negative thought patterns, it requires a lot of effort to break them (and the more ingrained they are, the harder it is.) Think of a dog that tends to run a pattern around its back yard (I grew up with a beagle that did this.) Year round, that dog runs the perimeter of the yard, and very quickly, a trail forms. The grass quits growing on the trail as the dirt gets packed down and forms a rut. It becomes a passive thing that the dog no longer has to think about. It just follows the trail without effort. It can take several seasons of not running the trail for the grass to begin to sprout up through the hard-packed earth. Similarly, breaking negative self-talk will require restraint from passively running through the patterns and several seasons of time (during which we may have to frequently re-set and re-commit to breaking the patterns…after all, the pattern is the default at this time…we will return to it when we are tired or worn-down.)
Thirdly, negative self-talk robs us of life and joy because it shrinks our world to encompass only ourselves. That is a terrible place to be! There is so much out there to see, experience, and learn…but when we are focused on ourselves, we miss it! Ministering to others is a huge source of joy for everyone involved (think about it: compare how it feels when you cook dinner for yourself
versus when someone who loves you prepares a meal for you with your tastes in mind. The two don’t even compare!) Thinking outside of ourselves, is where love lives…it’s where we are able share Jesus with others…it’s where life begins and hope forms.
So, how are you doing with this? Do you have some noisy, negative thought patterns that need dealing with? Can you identify what they are? How could you work toward breaking them? What effects have these patterns had on your self-image, relationships with others, and ability to think outside of yourself? If your patterns are well-ingrained, do you have a safe person who could walk through this with you? How has this affected your relationship with Jesus? Here is a particularly challenging question: if we are consumed with ourselves, even in a negative way, it is a form of worship because it dominates our thoughts, emotions, time, and resources…are you giving as much of those things to God who actually deserves your worship?
My prayer today is that we will hit the mute button on the lying voices in our heads that rob us of quiet, peace, love, and joy. I am praying that we will learn to quiet the noise so that we are free to experience life instead of running the same trail over and over again on autopilot. I am praying that the Holy Spirit would help us to hear life-giving truth over the constant chatter of lies so that our world can be the dynamic and vast creation it was meant to be. Much love friends,
P.S. To the girl whose story I used above: You are beautiful. That goes without saying. But you are so much more than that! So much more! 😘