Psst… are you destroying yourself?
Are You Destroying Yourself?
Shoulders hunched over, face in a scowl, the thoughts come…
“I’m so lousy at this…”
“I wish I’d never started…”
“I want to quit.”
Or maybe, like the woman in the story in Matthew 9:21, she perseveres, knowing – no, believing – for twelve years – that she will one day be healed.
But a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. For she kept saying to herself, “If only I touch his cloak, I will be healed.” But when Jesus turned and saw her he said, “Have courage, daughter! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed from that hour.
What had she been saying to herself for twelve years?
We don’t know for sure, but we do know her one statement – “If only I touch his cloak, I will be healed” – after twelve years, her attitude was still positive. Certain. Through the crowd she made her way, touched Christ’s cloak, and He caught her. “Your faith has made you well,” He said.
When I first started having pain in my hands, I thought it was temporary. I spent several years going to specialists and heard everything from “it’s all in your head,” to, “you’re always going to feel this way.” We finally learned the pain shooting through my hands and up my arms such that I couldn’t pull up my underwear and had trouble holding a toothbrush was from bone-on-bone-style arthritis combined with severe tendonitis and a connective tissue disorder.
I spent about three years in non-stop pain until one afternoon, sobbing on the floor of my bathroom, exhausted from the physical struggles with a traveling husband and three little kids, I begged God for a break from it. The next day, all the pain was gone. My hands felt young, strong, useful again. As I slowly became active again, I learned my hands could be re-injured easily. This put limits on my activities – if I do too much, I am sore. I have to make choices about what I do – if I cut up peaches for jam, I cannot chop vegetables for several days for dinners. If I plant flowers in the garden, I can’t do laundry for several days. This disability has rendered me more dependent on others in my family, and humbled me. It’s also given my family opportunity to serve.
What I think about while dealing with it, however, is really important. I can focus on what I can’t do, in which case I become sad, my shoulders sag, and I easily become depressed. If I focus on what I can do instead, I stay positive. I can’t change my hands – only God can, and He’s chosen to leave me in this state. I’m okay with that. Who am I to question what He would do with my life?
At the risk of being associated with the “positive image” and “humanistic” view of God and the Bible, I want to talk about how we talk to ourselves. What we think about and what we feed ourselves thought-wise determines how many of our relationships will go – including the one we have with ourselves. There’s tons of research out there now about how what we think impacts us – and how body positioning impacts our feelings. We know that our physical being impacts our communication with others, but non-verbals also impact communication to ourselves!
Stand tall – feel confident and strong.
Shrug your shoulders, feel insecure or sad.
Frown, feel anxious or angry.
Smile – and generate happier thoughts.
The research is astonishing. The bottom line is that we just need to act as if we are the person we wish to be, stop focusing on what we aren’t, and we will feel much better. I’m guessing this makes it easier to manage our thoughts, too. Something unexpected comes out of this latest flurry of research, too. Self-esteem isn’t really the goal – self-compassion is. If we want to feel less anxious, we need to become more compassionate – toward self – and others.
It is nearly impossible to think of others first and love people well when we don’t know who we are and Whose we are. We will either feed our minds with earthly thoughts, or holy ones – and they will impact all of our relationships because these thoughts show up as attitudes and words. If you really believe your parents favored one of your siblings over you, the negative thoughts you have about that will spill over into interactions with them all – and their responses will just reinforce your belief. If you really believe your boyfriend or spouse is going to leave you, that it’s just a moment of time before s/he does, these thoughts also show up in the words you say to yourself and to your loved one – generating a response that lines up with your thinking, thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most people respond to negativity with negativity of their own – it’s human nature. So if you want to sabotage a relationship, start believing bad things about yourself and the other person. These thoughts are unhealthy, unhelpful, and things we want to avoid because they increase the likelihood of harming the relationship.
In Dare 4, we worked out getting to know ourselves better. In Dare 3 we talked about becoming self-aware. Today, we’re going one step further. Matthew 12:34b reminds us that out of the heart the mouth speaks. Whatever we’re putting into our minds and feeding our hearts is going to spill out onto other people, and be recycled by us again.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that God has specific things for us to think about – and as it happens, these things show up in our self-talk. Several verses come to mind:
After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, ‘The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.
2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Timothy 1:7
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
If we will recognize that we can influence our thoughts by “taking them captive” and choose to transform our minds by what we think about and how we choose to act, we can change the relationship we have with ourselves. This matters a lot because it is out of this relationship that the others flow.
What About You?
Choose to spend a few moments thinking about the last several days and what you actually did when responding to the first few questions:
- What thoughts about yourself do you have in your mind about yourself most often? Are they encouraging thoughts or do you tear yourself down?
- How do these thoughts then influence your behavior?
- Think of the last interaction you had (like a conflict) where you “knew why” someone did what s/he did – without even talking to him or her? How did this assumption affect your communication?
- Why do you suppose people think they know another person’s motives? What is the truth about Who knows our motives? What verse can you find about motives?
- How does your self-talk influence the way you hold yourself physically?
- Does your self-talk represent the person you are or the person you aspire to be? How?
- What is the difference between being prideful and having humble and healthy self-talk? (think self-compassion – check the link!)
Pray with me?
Heavenly Father. You have knit me together in my mother’s womb. I am perfectly and wonderfully made. I am not a mistake, but a beautiful creation of Yours. Thank You, God, for giving me a mind to think with, thoughts to share and give voice to. Help me remember the truth of Your Word – help me choose the right thoughts, take those that are not helpful or healthy captive and tame them to obey Your Word.
Transform my mind, Oh Lord. And renew a right spirit within me. Help me have thoughts that are holy – and thank You, God, for making my body communicate with my mind! I just love it that it is possible to change my mood by changing the way I’m standing or sitting and the expression on my face.
Give me the mind of Your Son and help me become an ambassador for You that makes You smile. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
This dare is very simple.
Perhaps not easy, however. Don’t get discouraged if you catch yourself stumbling more often than being successful with it. New habits take time to form. Persistence is the key.
Ready? Here it is: actively choose, multiple times a day, to smile and stand or sit with your shoulders back, sitting or standing “tall” if you will. Keep track of how this makes you feel, and how it affects your thinking. Try it right now, and keep the position for at least a minute.
During the day, as you catch yourself telling yourself things that are not encouraging and tear you down, turn those thoughts around. Physically sit or stand confidently, smiling (with your eyes, too, not just a mouth smile, but put on a full face sparkle!). Pay attention to how that makes you feel different.
Keep doing this daily. If you have trouble remembering to do it, put a sticky note somewhere you will see it often – write “smile tall” on it to capture both ideas and remind you to do both.
I appreciate the grace – had to find new technologies these last two weeks – computer and phone. Tough to write or stay connected when struggling with these!
Also, just an FYI – there’s just a few days left with the discounted rate for Boot Camp. If you have any interest in leading women Titus 2 style, you don’t want to miss this retreat. Your tuition covers your room Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night – plus 6 meals – and tons of training with the discipleship method that forever-style changes women. Don’t take my word for it, though. Listen to Laurie:
“I can tell you I grew up in the church, my father is a pastor, I’m a Christian counselor, and I’ve been leading women’s Bible studies for years – but there is nothing else like this out there!
I’ve literally never seen anything like this before – and I’ve seen a lot.
Our group bonded fast, and the REAL life change happened so quickly! I can’t wait to come to Boot Camp and I’m bringing friends. This needs to multiply!”
Laurie, NJ – Counselor, Respect Dare® & Daughters of Sarah® Small Group Leader
Here’s more info on Boot Camp if you want to grab a spot. We’re already at over 35 people, and are excited about whatever He’s going to do! 🙂 (You can also get the Daughters of Sarah and Respect Dare Small Group videos for 50% off for attending, too.)
And I’d just love to play with you – especially this year – we just keep growing and it gets harder and harder to interact with everyone one-on-one. 🙂 Nice problem to have, I suppose! LOL 🙂
Am seriously interested in hearing your reaction and thoughts about these things today.
Chime in on the comments section below with your initial response, and then after you do the exercises, come back and let’s keep talking.
Love to you,
Oh, and if you got this as an email forward from a friend who cares about you and your family, know we’d love YOU to join us on this journey.
You can join the journey, get marriage TIPS! articles, a free copy of my latest eBook to help with your marriage, and other marriage info here. We promise not to share your email with anyone, ever. You’ll get just one or two TIPS! articles a week, plus a blog post as they come, usually 1-2 a week.
If you are just joining us, these might be of interest, too:
Dare 4: Where to Start When You are Wounded
Dare 3: Who do you think you are?
I wanted to share how I put this into practice yesterday. Long story but I dinged up my car pretty badly yesterday when I ran into a cart at Walmart. I was distracted I guess.( NOT with my cell phone but with thoughts) A church member that I respect saw it and probably thought I was an idiot driver. I drove home and did my usual yelling at myself ( You are so stupid. What an idiot. Why can’t you pay better attention? Your husband will hate you.) Yes, I am yelling out loud. ( My daughter hates it when I do that when she is with me.)
But then I stopped and thought. No, you are a child of God who made a mistake. It wasn’t willful. The car is just scratched up. No one was hurt. God loves you. Although perhaps this would have been a big deal when we were first married, you husband is not going to get upset and get mad at you. You are still deeply loved by God.
I went home and did my usual stuff, but I had to repeat the good thoughts when the bad thoughts came back. I did show my husband and he thought it was no big deal. ( The car is 8 years old and has some dings and scratches already from who knows where.) We had a nice walk together last night.
So I’m trying to be better.
Thank you so much! I can’t wait to share this with my son and students and coworkers. Praying for you!
Thank you!!! This is a wonderful reminder that we need to act like the daughters of our wonderful God and stop focusing on what we aren’t. I also like the very nuanced point that self-esteem isn’t really our goal but self-compassion is. Hmmmm ––WOW, I never really thought about that before! Self-compassion and self-forgiveness are so very important. Equally important is to take what you said seriously: “Whatever we’re putting into our minds and feeding our hearts is going to spill out onto other people, and be recycled by us again.” How true!!! . . . . . So, what I do daily, and when I fail I just redouble the effort, is to beg Him to fill my heart with His thoughts, and then let His desires, as best I am able, become my desires flowing back to Him. If I neglect my heart even one day (––that is stop cleaning my heart, daily) all too soon it is overrun with worldly thoughts and snakes. To me, the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. (––yeah, I don’t know what that last sentence means either but it just came to my mind and it is sufficiently confusing to sound important. . . . ha, ha, ha.)
What is the truth about Who knows our motives? Well, obviously, God sees and knows our motives which is always a wonderful comfort when I go to help others and they misconstrue what I am doing. But on the other hand, Proverbs 16:2 says, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” Obviously, the human heart is very deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), I can easily fool myself about my own motives. I can pretend that I am choosing certain actions for God when in reality I have selfish reasons. I know God is never fooled by my selfishness, it never ends well so I try very hard to avoid any motivation that originates in my sin nature (Romans 8:8). I am constantly evaluating my own motives and making corrections. . . .The right motivation? 1 Thessalonians 2:4 “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” Always, God is interested in our motives even more than our actions. I try to keep my motives pure by continually surrendering every part of my heart to the control of the Holy Spirit. I have a whole bunch of daily heart cleaning exercises!!! But in the end it comes down to: Am I doing this for the praise of others or how it makes me feel? Oh boy, that always gets to me!!! The only way we can operate from pure motives is when we “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25).
What is the difference between being prideful and having humble and healthy self-talk?
. . . . I think a humble person is more likely to be self confident. A person with real humility knows how much they are loved by God. It is important to realize that despondency is not a state of humility. On the contrary, it is actually the despair of cowardly pride. Nothing is worse than that. I have been there. Whether we stumble, or fall, we must only think of getting up again and going on for our Lord.
Thank you so much for praying with us. I just love when we pray. I prayed that prayer multiple times. Oh, and your bone-on-bone arthritis and severe tendonitis both have been, and will continue to be, a serious prayer concern.
P.S. ––You shouldn’t be cutting up peaches for jam, chopping vegetables and especially NOT doing stinkin’ laundry! The Word of God says nothing about peaches, vegetables, jams or laundry. . . . You are to give yourself continually to prayer, to the ministry of the Word and teaching us to love our crazy families and helping us grow in Christ (Acts 6:4). . . . .ha, ha, ha, ha. . . . . I’m so sorry. . . . ha, ha, ha. . . . and obviously, I’m just kidding!!! . . . ha, ha, ha. ––Thank you so much for helping all of us!!!
Rebecca… I am just reading this now in July as I am new to this blog.
I love what you shared. I am renewing my mind and learning how to do things for Gods glory, especially in my marriage..what’s left of it.
The several past years have been difficult in my marriage. A year ago in July my husband asked for a divorce. My world came crashing down. I have belittled myself, shamed myself, tore myself up over this. I am now rebuilding up my core and believing what God says I am not what my husband says I am.
I have been in that state of despondency that you talk about. It has affected me on various levels throughout our marriage.
I am praying for a renewal in my heart, my husbands, our family, our home. I have got to live for myself and for Gods glory. No more begging, pleading, manipulating, and living like a coward.
Good for you in your journey to learn to love yourself and your husband. I will be praying for the restoration of your marriage.
Thank you for encouraging your sister! 🙂
Love to you,
I am amazed at how timely each of these posts have been for me and what the LORD has been doing in my life! Love that! This was a third confirmation of something this morning and I was doubting it til I read it here! Thank you! May the LORD bless you for sharing what
He has sown into your life. You are such a blessing to me! God is so awesome isn’t He? 😀
Great post and well needed today for me! How is your husband btw?
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