negative self-talk

Is Listening to What God Says About You Wrong?

Spending time in God’s Word has become very important to me. I find myself drawn to Scripture that tells me who I am in Him and how God feels about me.

I wrote about a verse Jude a few weeks ago that tells us we are beloved, called, and kept.

Twice I’ve written about how knowing we are clothed in His righteousness makes me believe blanketing myself in shame is something God would hate. (link 1 & link 2)

I spend a lot of time thinking about how God feels about me. I even changed my Instagram name to knownseenliked because I needed to focus my head and my heart on the true identity that God knows me, sees me, and likes me.

All of this focus on me feels wrong. I get a little sting inside that says, Shouldn’t you be focusing on who God is?

Is it wrong? Is my sting right? Should I be focusing more on God and less on me?

My youngest Hezekiah does this really cute thing, but it hit me yesterday that it was very telling to how our brains work as human beings.

Every time I say something complimentary to Hezekiah, which I try to do because I want his 3-year-old heart to know he is amazing and loved, he rejects what I’ve said and tells me his name — which he adorably says as Kia.

Here’s how the conversations go:

Me: “You are such a good boy.”

Hezekiah. “No, I Kia.”


Me: “You are so cute!”

Hezekiah: "No, I Kia!”


Me: “You are a good brother.”

Hezekiah: “No, I Kia.”


Spider man fade, listening to God, identity.JPG

I laugh every time. His insistence that his identity is just his nickname hasn’t stopped me from telling him all the things he is in my eyes. As a parent, I want more than anything to nurture love and kindness in him towards others and himself.

As humans, it is not easy for us to accept positive comments. We are protective and defensive. We easily accept criticism without question, but we are skeptical of praise and complements.

I know this because I had a Christian counselor tell me that I was doing this. He made me start writing down things people said to me that were complementary. It felt silly, but I did it because I wanted to get better. I was so mentally unhealthy, berating myself with negative self-talk.

Earlier this year I saw Curt Thompson speak at the IF:Gathering, and he presented the brain science behind the principle of accepting compliments differently. He shared that research shows that it takes our bodies about 3 seconds to absorb and believe a negative comment and about 30 seconds for us to absorb and believe a compliment. He encouraged us to not push away and deflect a compliment out of humility or false humility because when you do that, you have no chance of ever accepting it. He asked us to take a deep breath and let those kind words that were just spoken about us sink in. He asked us to go back to those words later in the day when we had time to really let our mind believe those words.

If this neurobiologist, psychiatrist knows it is important for good things said about you to be absorbed and I as a parent long for good things said about my children to be absorbed, then can we agree that God wants the good things He has said to His children to be absorbed?

It is important that we listen to the good things God says about us, and I’ve come to believe that that small sting inside of me that says I should only be focused on what is said about God is evil shame that does not want good for me.

Shame is the enemy that keeps us blind and in a corner. It keeps us from connecting to others and sharing our faith.

Obviously, we need to commit time to learn God’s character, and what we believe about God must line up with what Scripture says about God.

This knowing God does not mean knowing how God feels about us is then unimportant. Don’t skip absorbing what God says about you because of humility, false humility, or shame.

God says you are Beloved. God says you are known. God says you are seen. God says you are liked, friended, and included. God says you are chosen. God says you are called. God says you are commissioned. God says you are kept.


New Head & the Heart song this week. Ekkk!

If you’re interested in reading Curt Thompson’s work, he has published these two books:

Marking Changes By Changing my Instagram Name

Changes are coming.

How do I feel?

Do I feel excited? Yes, because of the possibilities.

Do I feel scared? Yes. I don’t want to feel hurt again.

How can I know it will be different?

I’m different.


This year is going to be full of change for me. We are walking fast towards changing cities, changing ministry jobs, changing homes. We are going from dry to humid, from comfortable to new, from local ministry to global ministry at Wycliffe Bible Translators, from Texas to North Carolina, from Amarillo to the JAARS headquarters near Waxhaw.


It seems fitting to make a simple change to mark these changes. I am changing my Instagram name because AmarilloJennifer doesn’t fit what God is telling me about who I am or what God is calling us to.

How did I get here, to such massive changes?

It started with pain as all new things do.

Childbirth.

Pruning.

Turning over a leaf without pain isn’t realistic. Is the leaf removed from the tree, in the process of dying, crackling even with your gentle touch?

It’s a common refrain in this Christ-following life: church hurt.

I was in a season feeling out of control (as if we are ever in control.) In Annie Down’s book Remembering God, she said the place she wanted to be when she felt church hurt was an old, sturdy, reliable cathedral.

When I read this, I laughed out loud because I realized this is exactly what I did to respond to my church hurt. I asked my family, cleared it with my pastor, and we started attending a very traditional, early church service. We went and listed to their pipe organ, choir donning robes, hymns with obsolete words, high ceilings. I felt safe in those pews.

We did those early services for about three months, and God met me there.

God met me in other ways in those hard months when everything about my life felt as if it had forgotten about gravity and was hovering and threatening to crash down.

I was asking God, “Are we suppose to leave?”

I realize now I was asking God the wrong question. In Jen Wilkin’s book In His Image, she talks a lot about being in God’s will. She says this:

For the believer wanting to know God’s will for her life, the first question to pose is not ‘What should I do?’ but “Who should I be?”
— Jen Wilkin, In His Image


I was asking “DO” questions, but God in His loving way was answering my unasked “WHO” question. In every good thing He was putting in my path meant for my healing, He was telling me who I was.

I started therapy around the same time I was finding solace in that unchanging church sanctuary. Over months of talking through feelings shoved in corners, patterns emerged. God showed me that I could ignore my past hurts not allowing them to come into my thoughts, but they were going to drive my brains reaction to every current hurt whether I acknowledge them or not.

I saw that hiding in the bathroom during times of stress or feeling ignored was directly related to experiences I had as a child. I saw that my urge to run away when I felt like I wasn’t measuring up to other’s standards was directly related to my flight responses. I saw that my anxiety to enter situations had everything to do with fears of rejection.

I began to turn those fears, anxiety, and hurts on their head. I looked to Christ. How does He feel about me?

  • I know I am seen. I am never ignored by God, and He hates being ignored by us.

  • I know that I am known. God takes pleasure in knowing me.

  • I know that I am chosen. I could never be rejected by God because we are forever family.

  • I know that I am loved. God first loved me, and His pure love for me cannot be matched.

  • I know that I am liked. God sees and knows me, and His opinion of me is that He likes me.

  • I know that I am friended. God calls me friend, and He lets me know what He is doing.

  • I know that I am included. God never pushes me away; He always draws near.

  • I know that I am commissioned. God has given me all authority of Heaven and earth to make disciples in His name.

When I look at my current Instagram name, AmarilloJennifer, I think of me three years ago before I was graciously showed who I was. I was looking for identity in my role in ministry here in Amarillo. I saw what I was doing for God in my outreach, church, service, and good works as who I was. If you asked me to tell about myself, I couldn’t get through three sentences without mentioning my ministry in Amarillo.

I am not AmarilloJennifer.

As we pursue this calling to join Wycliffe, I have learned some lessons. I know I am not WycliffeJennifer. I cannot define myself by the temporary or what I do.

I can only define myself by the permanent and what Christ did.

Which brings us to the new Instagram name:

KnownSeenLiked

I am KnownSeenLiked.

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You might wonder why I picked out these three truths. You might be especially wondering why I would choose liked over loved.

My pain centered around being misunderstood. I wanted desperately to explain myself to all parties involved and the world at large in a way that would end in everyone’s approval. I wanted to be known.

We all have this longing deep inside us, and I believe this longing is good. What is not good is selfish ambition and bitter jealousy. It is hard to separate those good motives of sharing myself with others from the motive of wanting approval from this world.

God meets this need to be known and understood on the deepest level. He knows me better than I know myself. When I get brave and be honest with God, when I let down my false selves that I can easily hide behind, when I allow sharing of my true, real thoughts and feelings with God, I feel that need to be known by others slip away. I understand now it was an unattainable goal that would never give me any satisfaction.

In my pain, I wanted to be seen. Feeling ignored sends me to a very dark place very fast. I do not mean failing to be recognized or not applauded for doing good. What I mean is feeling like I have been hurt and no one notices or cares. This feeling that I am on my own, left to bandage my wounds myself causes overwhelming feelings of distress and anxiety in me.

Others sometimes do God’s work in showing me love, they show me that they care about my life — the good and the bad. More often, others are too busy with their own life to notice valleys or mountains in my life. God sees every step. He is never too busy to see me.

Why liked instead of loved?

One of those healing, good things that God put in my path was Sonscape Retreat. Sitting in front of printed out results of online tests I had taken before we arrived and a couple who was there to counsel, mentor, and guide us toward healing from ministry burnout, I was faced with some truth. I was confronted with the fact that I was not objective in my thinking. I had the tendency to illogical and self-absorbed instead of fair-minded when it came to thoughts about myself and how I was perceived by others. My surveys had also revealed the fact that I had a big problem with negative self-talk. These things together pointed to a deep-seated hurt in my past that had not been dealt with. I was advised by these wise guides to listen to a sermon. The sermon was delivered by Brennan Manning.

I had never heard of Brennan, and like the overachiever I am, I took notes. I wrote these quotes in my notebook.

  • God loves you intimately. His love reaches into my dark places.

  • God loves you uniquely and reliably.

  • God loves you tenderly. God likes you. Do you believe it?

  • I dare you to trust that God loves you as you are because you’re never going to be as you should be.

  • Self-love is a profound act of faith.

This sermon challenged me in a way I had never been challenged before. I began the work of accepting that God liked me just the way I am.

These words were not new. They had been drilled into my head as a child from the television set. I had let shame and untruths cover over this beautiful, childlike truth that my friend Mister Rogers had told me over and over every time we met in my living room.

You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.”
— Mister Rogers

What I didn’t know as a little girl is that Fred Rogers had trained at seminary and had been ordained by the Presbyterian church to minister to children through the medium of television. He was telling me how God felt about me by modeling our loving God in his words and actions.

There is something about knowing we are liked that feels so much more intimate than the overused word love. I feel a deeper connection to this God who wants to commune with me. God would have never sent His precious son to earth to die for my sins if He didn’t not only love me but like me also. And Jesus died not for some idealized version of me. Jesus died for me, the sinner - just as I am - me. I am His handiwork. He called His creation good. He made me, and He likes me just as I am.

I am KnownSeenLiked.

The best part of this new Instagram name is that it is you too.

You are KnownSeenLiked.

These truths about me are true for you too.

How amazing to try to avoid this trap of selfish ambition on this social media platform and instead speak truth to all of our hearts from a place of pure gratitude to our God?

I want you to know this joy of being known, this relief of being seen, this deep appreciation of being liked.


Lie #1: Everyone Berates Themselves in Their Thoughts

As long as I can remember I’ve had critical, shame-filled thoughts about myself. I thought everyone did.

It went beyond correcting myself when I did something wrong. 

An example of a correcting thought might be, “I knocked off the cup. I need to be more careful next time.”

An example of a shameful, berating thought might be, “I always knock off things off. I’m so clumsy and awkward. I have no coordination and I take up too much room. Other people aren’t like this. What is wrong with me? I’m the worst.”

After a retreat leader brought up my negative self-talk at a ministry retreat we attended last fall, I asked my husband about his thoughts toward himself.

“Don’t you have these types of thoughts?”

The retreat leader had me list out all the negative thoughts I had about myself. I was on my third page, and I wasn’t done yet.

“No,” he said emphatically. “I don’t think that way about myself at all. It worries me that you do.”

I tore myself down in my thinking, and I was shocked to find out that everyone didn’t do the same.

I’ll be sharing some of those negative things I thought about myself this month because all of the things I allowed my brain to repeat to myself in my head were lies. I reinforced those lies by repeating them and believing them in that invisible space no one can see and hear.

The effect of berating myself and believing those lies was not invisible though. It spilled out into my life in so many ways. It affected the speed in which I could slip into anxiety or depression. It affected my ability to be objective about my relationships with friends and family. It pushed me into perfectionism. It enabled my people-pleasing to continue because I if I could get approval from others then maybe I could prove the voices in my head wrong. It made me wear shame-colored glasses that changed how I viewed everything in my life. I was constantly on the warpath of striving to prove my worth.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
— Proverbs 23:7a NASB

It was daunting to think about changing the way I thought. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t think that way about myself.

Realizing that not everyone had pages and pages of negative self-talk gave me hope.

Not everyone rakes themselves over the coals in their thinking, and I didn’t have to either. 

If you need to hear this because you believed this lie too: Not everyone lives with negative self-talk. You don’t have to think that way. You can change the way you think. You can stop berating yourself in your head.



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Here’s a song for you today. John Ortberg says that the soul is needy like Bob from What about Bob. That’s accurate.

To All the Lies I've Believed Before

A Write 31 Days Series

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Introduction:

Life as a Christian is filled with spiritual warfare, and the harshest warfare for me has been an internal battle — lies from the enemy and negative-self talk in my head. The great accuser’s currency is lies. These lies are like arrows thrown where we are most vulnerable.

For the next 31 days, I’ll be sharing lies that I believed, how those beliefs based in fallacy affected me and my ability to follow Jesus, how I decided to quit believing the lies, and how powerful embracing the truth can be in our lives.

I know there will be some overlap in some of the lies you’ve believed with some of the lies that I’ve believed. Join me, and I hope we can find some truth and freedom together.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one
— Ephesians 6:16 ESV

Table of Contents:

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