Change the Tape

What happens to the junk in your head?

The messy stuff that looks like a bruised peach – if you even go near it, the skin will break and all the flesh will come dribbling out.

The, ‘I’m useless, this isn’t where I’d planned to be, what on earth am I doing, life is pointless’ stuff. Your script will be slightly different to mine – but you’ve probably rehearsed the lines from infancy, depending upon your family, friends, temperament and life experiences. Maybe it’s less self-pitying and more angry. ‘How dare X treat me this way? This is totally unacceptable and someone needs to pay’. Or perhaps it’s about entitlement ‘This is completely unfair. I deserve better. I should be…’

Regardless of its shape, the question is this – what do you do with all that mental noise? Because here’s the thing. Whatever’s happened to put those accusations in place – we’re the ones who choose to let them stay. We decide if they determine us, or if we determine them.

Of course other people may have treated us badly. We may have been sinned against in terrible, unspeakable ways. But victimhood is not only conferred, it’s also assumed. And we can perpetuate the patterns of abuse that others have begun. In a sense, we have a choice. We can choose to listen to ourselves. Or we can choose to talk to ourselves.

When we listen to ourselves, we allow old patterns, beliefs, feelings and blood sugar to tell us how we’re doing. I feel tired and I’ve had a bad day at work. Listening to my feelings, there’s only one conclusion: I am rubbish. I’m bad at my job, I’m incompetent and disorganised and stupid and … the list goes on. I’m self-harming, but y’know, there’s a comfort in these lies, they’re familiar and controllable and I’m too tired to challenge them. Uncle Jim was right, I’ll never amount to anything. I’m a piece of junk. So I’ll wrap his words around me and relax into self-hatred, secure in the knowledge that nothing needs to change.

Or I can switch off the tape. I can talk to myself instead. I can recognise that I’m tired and I’ve had a difficult day. Some of it has been outside my control. The kids were sick, or the photocopier broke or my client was in a foul mood. Some of it I handled badly. I lost my temper with the twins, I kicked the photocopier, I lied about having finished my report. And now I’m tired and grumpy and it’s hard not to think about what my ex said about me being a psychotic nutbar.

But I’m not how my day went. (Even though on a scale of 1-10 it was in negative digits)

I’m not how I feel. (Even though I’m tired and my heel’s broken/I’m covered in baby-sick)

I’m not what I did. (I shouldn’t have reacted badly, but I’ve said I’m sorry to the kids and the Lord)

I’m not what my ex says. (Yes, I have hormonal episodes, but so does everyone)

Who am I?

Well Good Friday tells me I’m a sinner and I cannot atone for myself.

But Easter Sunday tells me I’m a new creation, risen beyond sin and judgement.  I am forgiven – past, present, future.

What’s trustworthy and true is this – that I am loved and rejoiced over by the Risen Lord.  Other people’s verdicts and my own assessments are flawed. I’m not destined to live out my gym teacher’s dire predictions. Or to pay penance for past mistakes.

But I need to listen to this truth. I need to fight those lies. I need to believe what Scripture says. And when I don’t believe it, I ask God to help me believe it. And when I don’t want help, I get others to pray for and with me.

And in time, by the grace of God, those bruises start to heal.

3 thoughts on “Change the Tape

  1. I have spent a large part of this evening discussing this very thing with my housemate. She says that every time I believe the lies I am sinning and it does her head in that I don’t trust God to heal me. I tell her that I have spent so long believing that I am worthless that yes, I know it is a sin but I don’t always have the strength to keep fighting back. How can I be trapped in sin yet feel like I constantly ask God to help me to freedom? That journey is slow and painful and it is easy to feel like everybody else is coming from the other side… Where they are standing smugly on the bank at the other side and I am floundering in the river and they are watching.

    So, thank you for your timely and encouraging post, Emma.

  2. Hi Jo

    Yes, diagnosing the problem helps, but it isn’t the same as solving it. As you say, it’s not as simple as choosing not to believe the lies. In some senses the truth is something that comes to us from outside us – it’s a fact ‘out there’ that the Spirit makes real to us in our hearts. This can be very slow and painful. It makes me think of times when I’ve been feeling low and people have said, ‘this will pass. You’ll come through’. I don’t feel it – in fact, I feel the opposite, but I trust them, so I accept what they say and hang on to it. How much more so when it is our heavenly Father who speaks comfort and the promise of rescue.

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