When I was younger, I lived in snow country. It snowed in the winter and we drove on snowy roads until it melted in April and May. As a teen, my father took me to an empty parking lot covered in snow and taught me how to handle the car, first by instructing me and then letting me test it out. To this day, if I drive in winter conditions, I rehearse several truths about driving: Turn into the skid, don’t put on your brakes, if you have to go off the road pick a ditch over hitting a car if you can, etc. As it happens, these “truths” are really true, and have helped me numerous times when driving in winter. They have been rehearsed over and over again. They are embedded.
“Truths” that are Not True
However, there are “truths” that we tell ourselves that are not true. You probably had one pop into your head just now. Let’s compare the following responses of a man undergoing a divorce that he does not want. The first option is the “truth” that is not true. The second option is the one this man was rehearsing.
Instead of: I’m a failure and no good.
He said: The marriage failed, but I am deeply loved by God. Therefore, I am important.
Instead of: I’m so lonely and miserable.
He said: I’m alone, but I am not lonely.
Instead of: I’m separated from my family and there’s no joy for me anymore.
He said: I’m separated from my family and that hurts. But I can function even though I hurt.
It is an accepted fact that how we think affects how we feel – both physically and emotionally. We know this to be true, yet we act amazed when our entire system is affected. If our bodies are unhealthy, it will affect how we feel emotionally. If our emotions are stressed, our bodies will be affected. My father was worried and anxious and ended up with an ulcer. Our bodies and our emotions will tell the truth on us in one way or another.
Our emotions are valid, but they may not be true. Emotions tell us about ourselves. However, the message they convey may not be accurate.
God is Greater than Our Heart
In Proverbs 23:7 the Bible says, “As a man (woman) thinks in his (her) heart, so is he (she).” In times past, that verse would have condemned those of us who thought negative thoughts. No hope. Finished.
But, this next verse explains the power of God in our lives. “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20).
Telling the Truth about Ourselves
Just as I rehearsed the winter driving rules until they were a part of me, so we can rehearse true truths about ourselves that are based on the Bible. Our emotions will sometimes want to dictate untrue “truths,” which we may have recorded as “tapes in our heads.” These tapes come from such places as childhood events, words our families have spoken, or our own skewed interpretations of situations.
It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Just change our thinking. Yet the challenge is that many of those “truths” are connected to a wound that has not been healed – or, in some cases, not even recognized. The healing of wounds and the changing of our thinking go together. One step here, one step there. And then we turn around, and see that we have made progress. And that we have also moved closer to God.
Christian Counseling to Change Your Thought Patterns
In the following article in this series on Self Talk, I will discuss how we can deal with our Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs). In the meantime, if you are struggling with the thoughts that you tell yourself, you may want to consider Christian counseling. A trained Christian counselor can help you to look at which thoughts you allow to define yourself and suggest strategies for coming to a truer understanding of yourself.
“Girl on a Cliff,” courtesy of Julia Caesar, unsplash.com; “1-2-3 baby steps,” courtesy of Tory, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0)