In every devotional I am reading (some are old and some new), the focus is on hope and the danger of losing it. These next posts will deal with the different types of attacks from the enemy that are pinpointed to cause us to lose hope. We will see how they affect us, and how we can combat them.
Today, I want to talk about negative self-talk. For many of us, it is pervasive, it is habitual, and we don’t even notice it. We’ve listened to the negative voices for so long that when they start talking, we just accept them as normal. But they are NOT normal. They are, each and every time, an attack from Satan.
The goal of negative self-talk is two-fold: to cause discouragement or doubt. Discouragement causes us to feel defeated and hopeless and results in our giving up our service to God, others and even ourselves. Doubt tempts us to give up our faith that God is good, removing from us our only shield against the fiery darts of the enemy.
Since the overwhelming oppression of my depression has lifted, God has started showing me the underlying negativism, self-criticism and external fault-finding that has historically brought me to a dark place. Most importantly, He is showing me that those baseline habitual thoughts are STILL THERE, and need to be dealt with. I will give you a few examples from my own life.
Once upon a time, my teenage daughter made a comment to me and applied to me a negative name (not profanity, but something like “dummy”). It wasn’t in anger – she said it probably more jokingly. I still told her that it was not appropriate for her to say something like that to me. Her response floored me. She said, “I hear you call yourself names like that all the time.” BAM! I stopped and realized she was right – her room is right next to my office, and she hears my self-talk all the time.
I am notorious, when I mess up in anything, from cooking, to overlooking something, or finding an error in my programming, for saying, “Penny, you are such a doofus!” Now I would never say that to another human being, because that would be negative and tear them down. However, I was in the habit of saying it to myself many times a day!
Now, when I catch myself saying that, I immediately reverse it by saying out loud the truth: “I am not a dufus. I am an intelligent woman who sometimes makes mistakes!” In this way, I am learning to undo the damage I continually cause to my self-worth by my own tongue. I must make positive talk my habit, my norm, because there are enough external sources in the world trying to continually tear me down (the media and advertising being a huge one). One small step for Penny, one huge step toward the elimination of discouraging myself!
Another example of negative self-talk I experienced this weekend was during praise & worship practice. To understand my background, I used to lead praise and worship in a church for many years, off and on. When people I know think of me, they think of me singing. However, after we left our church in 2002, I stopped singing. I even stopped listening to music. And the further I got away from God, and the more my depression and self-condemnation continued, the less worthy I felt to ever sing for the Lord again.
Now fast forward 8 years later, my depression has lifted, and my husband and I have finally been able to plug into a church where we trust the leadership. They had heard about my leading music, and asked me to be on the praise and worship team and to also help with keyboards. You would think that I would just leap at the opportunity. But guess what I found out was continually bouncing around in my head – and coming out of my mouth, and making me sick to my stomach at the thought:
- First, everyone needs to understand, I am NOT a keyboardist – I can accompany myself or play basics with a band, but I can’t improvise or do any kind of riffs. I feel very insufficient as a keyboardist, despite 10 years of lessons and decades of playing.
- Secondly, I am not a band director – I can lead praise and worship, and I can direct voices, but normally I allow the instrumentalists to just do their own thing unless they’re doing something really distracting.
- Thirdly, I am a good singer and harmonizer, but I’m far from perfect. My voice might crack, I can’t do all the cool trills that other people do and I don’t sound like those girls on the cds do now.
- Lastly, the only thing I’ve ever had going for me was the anointing – so I’m really nothing special unless God shows up and does something through me. And I’m not so sure God’s going to show up and do that through me. There’s a lot of doubt there now.
Just re-reading what I’ve written down makes me realize how incredibly negative and discouraging my self-talk is to myself when it comes to one of the gifts God has given me. Honestly, now I’m not surprised that attending praise and worship practice has been so utterly painful for me. Then, if I compare myself to the young woman to my left who can sing like Jennifer Hudson, and the singer/band leader on the keyboards who plays and sings and directs the instruments with such deftness, I feel absolutely dwarfed and USELESS. I repeat over and over in my mind – “Why am I even here?”
I get so discouraged that I don’t ever want to lead praise and worship if it entails playing keyboards or running the band simply because I pale in comparison with one band leader. And as far as singing alone, all I can hear in my head is my husband once telling me that the sound had been too loud that night and they could hear every bad note I sang. That was like a knife to my heart, and I hear that in my head constantly.
However, my husband faithfully points out the truth to me whenever I share my insecurities. When people remember my singing from the “old days”, they don’t remember how “great” I sounded – they always mention how anointed praise and worship was. It wasn’t about me, it was all about the anointing. Beautiful singing is wonderful, but what I had was the ability to allow God to shower His grace and power over the congregation while I sang. That’s it.
So now, the only thing I have to say to contradict and combat the discouraging mental assault with which I bombard myself is to speak the simple truth. It never had anything to do with my voice or keyboard talents. It had to do with my broken and contrite spirit before the Lord, and my willingness to be open emotionally in front of God’s people. God hasn’t called me to be as talented as other people. He has simply called me to be me, as He made me, and be faithful with what He has given me to be used on behalf of His church.
I’m also now aware of the constant attack on my self-confidence and attempts to discourage me so I won’t even open my mouth. I actually say to myself, “Penny, ignore them. They are lies from the enemy meant to paralyze you. Just be faithful right now to do what God has put in front of you this minute. Just enjoy singing.”
What negative self-talk are you allowing to echo in your brain? Or maybe I should ask, in what areas of your life do you feel discouragement? I’ll bet that behind those sickly feelings of discouragement are negative voices attacking your self-worth and self-confidence.
Write down the negative statements. Then write down the truths to combat the lies. And remember, that if God calls you to do anything at all, He will equip you and be satisfied with what you do if you give Him your all.