If you were to ask my childhood friends to name a character trait of mine growing up, I’m willing to bet more than one of them would say “honesty.” Yep, I was that annoying kid who you’d better not ask to go along with your schemes because she would probably end up tattling on you. I even had a habit of tattling on myself. I guess I’ve always had a strong belief in the principle of “be sure your sin will find you out,” so I figure I might as well get the issue out in the open before someone else does.
My children don’t seem to have inherited this trait to quite the degree that I did, but I would say we don’t have major problems with telling lies in our household. My older two girls, however, do seem to have inherited what I would call my “self-perfectionism.” We don’t require that everyone else do things perfectly, and we might even cut ourselves some slack in certain areas. But in many areas, we are convinced that we really ought to be perfect, even though we know we usually aren’t. And because we aren’t perfect, we quickly become convinced that we are worthless failures who could never get anything right. In other words, while we may strive to tell the truth, we often get caught up in believing lies about ourselves.
For my kids, this often translates to beating themselves up over their schoolwork. Within the first few weeks of school, my third grader was already claiming that she was the stupidest kid ever and that there was no way she could possibly do her assignments. (Yes, this is the same child I was calling “Child #2” in my last post. The drama is real.) In the past, I have typically tried to address this problem by pointing out all of her positives to counteract her negativity—showing her all the things she got right when she harped on the wrong, telling her about how smart she really was, etc. She would eventually come around and be her cheerful self again, but it often took 20 minutes of coaxing and counseling.
So when the same problem began to crop up this year, I was frankly a little tired of taking the “nicer” approach. While I still want to encourage and affirm her, I don’t have time to argue with her for 20 minutes every day over whether she is or isn’t stupid because she got four problems in her math lesson wrong. The reality is that most of the time, it is not what I say or don’t say that makes the difference; it is what she believes about herself. Once she finally persuades herself that what I say is true, her mood changes instantly. Until then, however, she can be extremely stubborn, often contradicting every little thing I say.
So after a few of these discussions this school year, I finally gave it to her straight. I told her that she could believe whatever she wanted, but that didn’t change the truth. The reason she felt the way she did is because she chooses to believe the lies her feelings are telling her (about how worthless she is) over the truth that she is beautiful and valuable and loved. And I told her that really, repeating these lies over and over again in our discussions was a form of lying, and I was not going to allow that anymore. She is free to express her feelings, but she needs to recognize when she is simply refusing to let go of a lie.
And, as frequently happens, I began to realize how often I do the same thing. When I am feeling down, it doesn’t matter what anybody says or doesn’t say to me (though I often try to blame them anyway). What matters is how I am feeling and what I am believing about myself. I hold myself captive in the self-pity because I just can’t get over whatever guilt or hurt pride I am facing.
But here is the Truth…
- I am fearfully and wonderfully made, carefully crafted by an Almighty God. (Ps. 139:13-14)
- I am on this earth for a purpose, and God is working through my circumstances for my good. (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28)
- I am forgiven by God for my past sins and mistakes. (1 John 1:9)
- I have the power to overcome my current sins and bad habits. (1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2 Cor. 12:9)
- I am uniquely gifted and don’t have to worry about being able to do the same things as everyone else. (1 Cor. 12)
- I am loved enough by God that He sent His Son to take my place on the cross. (Romans 5:8)
I wish I could tell you that beginning to think this way is eradicating discouragement and depression from my life. But that would be lying, and as you saw above, I do my best to avoid that. 😉 The more I focus on these truths, however, and personally accept them as the truth, the more my perspective does tend to change.
I’m beginning to realize that when Paul told the Philippians to focus on “whatever is true,” he may not have just been talking about rejecting bad doctrines or refusing to believe others’ falsehoods. I think he was also talking about focusing on the Truth of God’s Word when our feelings and Satan’s whispers about us try to lead us astray.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
Photo Credit: All images courtesy of Jessica Cole.