I wish I could take back the words—the silent unconscious tape that plays endlessly in my mind. Push each syllable, every consonant, backward, and hide them from my conscious thought. Unfortunately, they have been spoken. The recording has been played and repeated. Words are powerful, and their power has taken up residence in the tender parts of my heart.
I do not fully understand how it happened, but at some point in my journey, I became convinced that each negative, shame-filled comment was true. I began to wrestle with the woman that gazed at me in the hallway mirror. She had plans, convinced she was made for a purpose, an image of her Father. Yet, I settled for the false truths inspired by the relentless repeating comments.
Words Are Powerful—Especially Those We Tell Ourselves
As young girls, we encounter life with a naïve fearlessness, confident in our uniqueness and individual beauty. Then the pre-teen years hit and the messaging of what we are supposed to be shifts. We are no longer encouraged to be fearless or unique. Culture starts to ravage our value and worth, one small comment, word, or thought at a time.
Our social media feeds consume our perceptions as young women. The responses either inflate our egos or blow up our self-esteem. Each thought, every reply becomes far more important than discovering the truth and lingering in its freedom. If left unchecked, we become obsessed with our appearance, careers, significance, and possessions rather than living life in courageous authenticity.
By the time we become adults, we have grown accustomed to carrying the lies we have created, those we have unintentionally adopted, and those imposed on us. We feed them with our inattentiveness and wonder why we feel detached from ourselves, those we love, and the God who created us.
Society tries to tell us what to think and how to behave. It presents unattainable goals and we struggle to meet the mark. Nonetheless, the tape in our heads continues to gain authority over our minds and we remain blinded to the destruction it is causing to our souls.
How Do We Stop the Lies?
So how do we silence the endless chatter? How do we live unencumbered by societal pressure and our homegrown deception? How do we change our thinking?
I believe it is a slow, step-by-step journey. It requires us to humbly surrender to God and allow His merciful intervention to change us. Given time, our distortions will be replaced by God’s truth.
John Stange, author of Overcoming Negative Self-Talk: With the Truth of the Gospel, puts it this way, “Is your mind set on things that are above or are you still keeping yourself entrenched in the very things Jesus rescued you from?”
I would be so bold as to rephrase it this way: Is your thinking keeping you so burdened in the past that you cannot see that Jesus died for your freedom today and in the future?
There is no bondage, no mental recording, that God cannot provide a way out.
Freedom Comes When We…
Recognize the Words
“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Proverbs 4:23
Recognition, in many ways, is the hardest step. We have to be real with ourselves and acknowledge the destructive conversations that go on in the solitude of our minds.
The next time the recording begins to play, stop and listen. Do not allow shame or guilt to enter the scene. Rather, acknowledge that words are powerful and draw awareness to the ones you’re saying to yourself. Perhaps take a few minutes to consider the following questions.
—What prompted the mental discussion?
—What was your emotional response?
—Are the words true or false?
This simple examination will help you identify patterns associated with your negative dialogue.
Stop the Tape
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Once you recognize you have a false dialogue rattling around in your brain, it will be time to do the hard work: stop the tape and “take every thought captive.”
So how do you make it stop? First, admit that you have collected distortions throughout your life. Then, recognize the words for what they are—lies. They do not represent how God views you nor do they dictate who you are. They are tools Satan uses to keep you defeated and broken. Finally, pray. Ask God for the strength to stop clinging to the comfort of your distorted past, to calm your mind, to change the way you think.
Replace the Lies with God’s Truth
“Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right…Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about it.” Philippians 4:8b
Once you have turned off the tape and you have stopped letting deception rule you, then you are ready to walk in the truth.
Psalms 139 tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully” made and Genesis 1 reminds us that we are created “in his (God’s) own image.” These truths have the power to transform our thought life, shifting it from incriminating to inspiring.
To help us replace the lies with God’s truth, consider:
Reading your Bible consistently helps you make this shift from convicting to encouraging. To know the truth we need to know God’s Word, because that’s how we begin to hear his voice and understand his heart. A consistent study of the Scripture is a necessary tool in undoing the lies we believe, because it tells us the truth.
Prayer is our mightiest weapon. Prayer is simply talking with God. You can be painfully authentic with your Father; after all, He created you and knows you intimately. Spend time daily talking with God, praising Him, sharing your needs, and confessing your sins.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
Let us be honest, we are all human and there will be times when the old tape tries to play. When that happens, be ready to REFOCUS: Redirect Every Falsehood Toward Christ’s Unwarranted Sovereignty.
Capture each lie, every negative thought, and all the words that work to condemn or criticize you and turn towards the cross of Jesus. You can confidentially leave them at His feet and walk away in His freedom. Remember, His sacrifice defines you. His love gives you value and purpose. His words are powerful, because they provide light for our life.
I will be honest; I still struggle with a tape that plays relentlessly in my mind. However, I am learning to recognize the lies and hold fast to God’s truth. I hope you find the courage to let go of all the words that hold you captive and I pray you will allow yourself to rest in the freedom that is Christ.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
Do you struggle with discerning who you are because of all the voices you hear around you? Instead of conforming to the painful or untrue image others might place on you, listen to what God has to say. Incorporate His love and truth into your self-talk: