When I was a kid my mom would talk to herself out loud ALL THE TIME. She would literally share her verbal brain while she was doing an activity. It stressed me out to listen to her audible to do list as a kid so I just learned to tune her out.
But in reality we talk to ourselves in our brain all the time. Sometimes it’s just a feeling- that guilt when you’ve said something you shouldn’t have, that anxiety before starting your first day of a new job, that pride after marking a new personal record. But sometimes it’s actually words or a conversation: “What are you doing? You’re a failure. No wonder she doesn’t love you anymore. Look at your thighs, your skin, you’re disgusting. No one is ever going to want to be close to you. They aren’t going to believe you. He’s going to leave you like the rest of them do. No one cares about you. They’re going to find out you’re a fraud. They’re laughing at you and how stupid you are. Here we go again.”
That’s VERBAL ABUSE, my friends.
This inner critic serves a primal purpose- to keep you safe and part of the tribe. But I also think this is Satan’s favorite tactic to stop us from doing God’s will: “Let’s make him strive to be perfect. We know he won’t be since he’s human. Then he will feel like a failure. He will tell himself over and over again that he is a failure, becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. Once he believes he is a failure he won’t have the courage or motivation to do God’s will. Works every time.”
When we are triggered to think something may be the case, we look for evidence to support it and go further down the path of self sabotage, reaffirming our perceived worthlessness.
But we don’t have to go there. This voice can ride along, it always will. But it doesn’t get to drive. We have the power to spiral up, too.
“You’ve always had the power, my dear You just had to learn it yourself.” – Glenda, Wizard of Oz.
The Bible says to take captive our thoughts and turn them towards him:
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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 Corinthians 10:4-5
That didn’t say we would have lovely thoughts all the time. It said we have thoughts that need to be captured, caught, arrested, bound, confined. It also didn’t say this is wrong- it’s human.
We need to stop beating ourselves up for being human.
These words are not the typical weapons of the world; they are the sly tools of the devil. BUT! We have been given the power to apprehend and redirect these flaming arrows (Ephesians 6:16).
One day when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed I wrote down everything my inner critic was saying. At first it wasn’t words, just feelings. I dug deep and gave it a voice. Half way through I was in a cry-writing frenzy. All the while realizing that I had a lot going on deep inside. And then my critic, Veronica (because that just sounds like a woman of sass), said “wow you are really messed up. You’re hopeless; look at all this mess!”
Later I went back and reviewed my diatribe to myself. There I sat, tearing up in the living room, reliving the most egregious string of abuse I’d ever seen in one moment. I was horrified that anyone would speak to another human being like that- and those were MY words to myself.
I then decided to go back through, line by line, and take hostage each thought and turn it to God. “You’re lazy and selfish” became “you are practicing self love when you a take rest and speak up when you need something.” “You’ve forgotten everything you learned in school, you’ll always be a dumb failure” became “you always try hard at work to do what’s best.”
“Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
This verse means a lot of different things to me. But in the context of how we talk to ourselves- imagine saying the same things you say to yourself that you’re saying it to Jesus’ face. Would He be hurt by your insults? Would He be offended by your implications that He didn’t make you ‘good enough?’ HE is inside you. He chose you as a vessel of his good and perfect spirit. And here we are tearing it down, one piece at a time. It’s heart breaking. But we get to have do-overs. We get to redirect our thoughts. We get to say “wow that is actually not how I’d like to see myself; instead, I want to see myself as valuable and holy in His eyes.” We get to say “the old me would have believed these lies, but today I’m choosing to count these phrases as irrelevant.” I still have moments where I catch myself in a 5 minute negative spiral. But the graceful part starts where I realize it and choose to spiral upward.
Take inventory of what you’re saying to yourself in the background throughout your day.
Write it down. Take away its power. Bring it to light. Then give yourself a heaping pile of grace and love.
Now, rewrite those phrases through Jesus’ smiling eyes.
“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Proverbs 18:21
1 Samuel 16:7
1 Peter 3:3-4