Do you tell yourself things that are not true? Of course you don’t. Why would you? That makes no sense, right? It sounds absurd! However, most of us do this every day and don’t even realize it. This starts at a very young age and we grow up with little consideration for how healthy our thought life is. William Backus and Marie Chapman in their book, Telling Yourself the Truth label our negative or false thought patterns as “misbeliefs.” Misbeliefs generally appear to be true to the one who is repeating them to himself. They can be hard to decipher because most of the time there is an element of truth in them and we have been saying them to ourselves for years. They can be even more challenging to decipher when we live in a society that feeds us misbeliefs through media on a daily basis. Some counselors who are not trained in this therapy may not even recognize these misbeliefs when confronted with them. Some examples of misbeliefs are, “no one cares about me so it doesn’t matter anyway”, “Nobody wants to be around me”, “I can’t do anything right”, “I must please everyone”. If you believe these type of statements, it is important to look deeper at them to examine them for truth and error.
This is so important because what we think determines how we feel and behave. Let me give you two examples. If you tell yourself your father-in-law is a horrible man that is good for nothing, then you will believe what you tell yourself. As you accept these words, your feelings and actions will follow. This will cause you to feel anxious around him and treat him more as an enemy than as family member. Or maybe you have a boss who is difficult to work with and you tell yourself that your boss hates you. As this thought persists, it won’t be long before you find it hard to continue showing up to work. More than likely, your father-in-law or boss gave you some reason to tell yourself these things, so you feel justified with your beliefs about them. That is why it makes it hard for us to see our own misbeliefs.
We often want to put blame on someone or something else. “If my husband were easier to get along with life would be easier”, or “My church is full of hypocrites and that is the problem,” or “My family is a disappointment”. We learn from Proverbs 23:7 that, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” What we think determines how we will feel. This is so important for us to understand. Consider the following:
I am a failure at everything
Including my marriage.
I CAN SAY:
My marriage is struggling but I deeply loved by my family and God.
I hate my job because it is terrible.
I CAN SAY:
This is not be my favorite job but that is OK. I can function well until I find another job that suites me better.
What does it matter, no one cares
I CAN SAY:
My life is valuable because I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14).
Our first step is to learn to recognize our misbeliefs and realize they are actually lies that bring us down, emotionally. Second, we need to remove these lies from our thinking. This takes practice but with time, we can become more skilled at recognizing these lies. Thirdly, we must begin replacing these false words with what is actually true. How do we know what is true? We have to take time to read the Bible so we can learn what God’s truths are. For example, it does us no good to say “No one cares about me” when we know scripture teaches us that the God of this universe loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3 and John 3:16) or “I can’t do anything right,” when the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:13 that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When you learn to replace false beliefs with the truth, you will experience a new kind of joy and freedom in your life. John 8:32 tells us “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” God desires for us to live a life of freedom and we see the truth has freeing power within it.
So, do you have thoughts that need to change? What misbeliefs do you have that need to be replaced with the truth? This week, think it over and pay attention to your self-talk. In our next article, we will discuss a life of freedom that Christ brings in part 2 of this 3-part series.
Backus and Chapian, Telling Yourself the Truth (Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1980), pp. 15-22.