November 11, 2009

I talk to myself

My husband constantly talks to himself. Sometimes I hear him and think he said something to me, but he is oblivious to his own self-talk and usually replies that he didn’t say anything! Now, unless I hear my name called, I’ve learned not to pay attention.

Self-talk is powerful though. I’ve read books about it. People who say negative things to themselves can build a deficit that shows up in the way they respond to life. If I continually call myself “stupid” or “lazy” I’m reinforcing a self-concept that will pull me down.

Another form of self-talk picks up on what I think other people think. This could be positive, but even when it is, I am setting myself up for disappointment. The thoughts of others are seldom consistent and eventually their opinions will discourage me.

The self-help gurus tell me to think positively, to tell myself that I am a successful person, etc. and eventually I will become what I say that I am. This philosophy has been called everything from psychocybernetics to ‘the secret’ and is highly popular. As I once told my dad, I can positively think all I want about becoming an opera singer, but it isn’t going to happen! He heard me sing and had to agree that self-talk needs to be based on reality.

God offers just that. Instead of meditation on me, or on what others think of me, I am supposed to think about and talk to myself about Him and what He thinks about everything.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:1-3)
In this passage, “meditate” means to mumble, or to talk to myself. When I am bombarded with all sorts of ideas and thoughts, I’m to respond by mumbling the Word of God. To do that, I need to know it, memorize it, and be adept at applying it correctly in whatever situations I find myself in.

For instance, in temptation, I can say to myself, “I am a born again person with new life in Christ. I do not need to give in to this temptation. Instead, in Christ I have overcome sin.”

When I am hurt by others I can say, “God is in control. He is sovereign over the affairs of life. He will use this for good in my life and has given me all that I need to respond in a Christlike manner.”

The psalmist refused to listen or walk in the counsel of ungodly people. They may not look like sinners, but unless they are indwelt by Jesus Christ and walking according to His Word, they are ungodly. That means I must pick carefully whose words I will repeat to myself.

The psalmist refuses to go along with sinners, doing the same things as they do. I have also learned that nothing is more deadly to healthy self-talk than the guilt that accompanies sin.

The psalmist also refuses to sit in the seat of the scornful. This means he will not mock, look down on, or insult and disrespect anyone. A scornful person is proud and thinks he knows it all. If my self-talk is going to be healthy, it cannot include a hint of thinking I am above others.

Long lists have been made for those seeking a healthy thought life and what truths to include in their self-talk. I’ve learned to be careful with such things. For instance, it does me no good to repeat, “I am forgiven by the blood of Christ” if I keep on sinning. It is useless to say, “I am a child of God” if I am fighting with His other children.

That said, self-talk based on the Bible is supposed to affirm what is true and also challenge and correct what is contrary. It is not a magic bullet to feel good. Instead, it is God speaking, and when He speaks I’m not only to repeat what He says but be careful to obey it.

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