It was one of those days that started with a to-do list a mile long. I ran from one event or meeting to another. Finally it was time to go to the high school to pick up my daughter Murphy, who was in the throes of adolescence — complete with mood swings and, at times, a disrespectful attitude. I wasn’t mentally or emotionally prepared to deal with a snarky 14-year-old. And, sure enough, as soon as Murphy buckled into the minivan, we started arguing. I drove to our house in anger, pulled into the driveway and happily announced, “It’s time for you to get out!” Murphy agreed and bolted out of the minivan.
I still had errands on my to-do list and quickly backed out of the driveway to pick up my son, Garrison. As I steered the minivan into the roundabout, we slid through some frozen slush. The minivan jumped the curb, slamming into a light pole not 100 yards from our front door.
The pole swayed, and, within seconds, it pummeled the hood of the minivan. Perfect, I thought. But I still needed to pick up Garrison, and the minivan was drivable, so I backed up and out from under the bent pole. As I drove away, glass shards from the broken streetlight fixture fell from the hood and littered the street.
I paused at a stoplight and wondered, Who should I let know that I just hit a light pole? I didn’t have the non-emergency police number handy, so my best option was dialing 911. The dispatcher asked if I had left the “crime scene” and I told her yes. She informed me I was “lucky” to have called, because leaving the damaged pole without reporting it was technically a hit-and-run. I would have been in major trouble if someone else had turned me in. She requested that I return to the crime scene to meet a police officer as soon as possible.
Being questioned by a police officer as my children peered out the front window of our home was a surreal experience. The kind police officer didn’t write me a ticket, most likely because of my tear-stained face. Yet I still felt shame. The short walk to my house and up the stairs seemed like a mile. I crawled into my bed and pulled the covers over my head. I planned on staying there so I’d never have to face another human being for the rest of my life.
As a result of that experience, I felt 100 percent “not good enough” and was convinced I was forever branded as the ultimate loser. My self-talk was tragic. I have a “crazy lady” in my head who lectured me about all the things I should have done differently. She reminded me what a lousy mother I was for arguing and, on top of that, I was a horrible citizen for damaging public property. I not only listened to her, but I also chimed in with more negativity and judgment. The emotional beating I endured was brutal.
Christian women may do a great job of treating everyone else with kindness and compassion; however, when it comes to self-kindness we often fail.
Everyone harbors hidden, negative thoughts; yet often people are completely unaware of them. Sadly, this self-talk affects how people — especially women — see themselves and how they interact with the world and their husband.
But there is a better way.
We all have lies written on our hearts
When I speak at marriage conferences, I pass out sticky notes and ask women to write down the negative self-talk they tell themselves. The first time I read a stack of sticky notes, I was so heart-broken that I cried. I was shocked at how cruel we women can be to ourselves. Looking at the long list, I realized the messages these women were telling themselves were lies. Every single one.
Here are a few of the lies women have shared with me on their sticky notes:
- I’m worthless. I’m not valuable. This has been true since childhood.
- I’m inadequate. I don’t have what it takes — didn’t then and don’t now.
- People will always reject me just like my daddy did when I was 4.
- No one will ever love me because I’ve made bad choices in my life.
- My first husband left me. I will never be unconditionally accepted.
- I’m hopeless or powerless to change anything — I’ve tried and tried.
- I’m a failure — I’ve never succeeded at anything.
- I’m unknown. No one is interested in the real me.
- If they really knew me and my story, they wouldn’t like me.
- I’m not good enough — my mom made that clear.
- I’ll never measure up — I could never do enough to please my parents.
- People will try to control me if I trust them.
- I’ll be alone — my friends all left me in junior high.
We often begin believing these lies as small children. And we continue to live them out in our adult lives. We escort them into our marriage and family relationships where they affect how we show up as wives and mothers.
These lies attack our very soul and influence our view of ourselves and of God, our Creator. The Bible is clear where falsehoods stem from. “[Satan] is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Satan loves that we cling to these lies, because he will continue to perpetuate and utilize them to stifle and silence us. In essence, these lies keep us stuck and unable to reach the potential God designed us for.
As we continue to live with these lies written on our hearts, our thinking is affected as well. Our deepest beliefs begin to be adapted to the lie — and we begin to live as if we are indeed wounded women.
The lies continue to be reinforced over the years through our experiences with others and our own negative self-talk. That “crazy lady” is unkind and often puts us down; she is our worst critic.
We can all seek healing for the lies in our lives
I don’t want to remain stuck living with the Enemy's lies controlling my thoughts. I want to be free from the negative self-talk by telling the “crazy lady” to be quiet. We can begin here:
Search your heart and become aware of the negative self-talk because “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Identify the lies that have been written on your heart. Think specifically about those memories of painful experiences and ask God to help you identify the lies.
You have an opportunity to govern your thoughts with truth. When you begin speaking truth to your soul, you can live out that truth.
Make sure your self-talk is both gracious and kind — just like you would desire to have others talk to you. Don’t speak to yourself in a way you wouldn’t speak to someone you dearly love.
Next, seek God for His truth. Replace lies with God’s truth because “the word of the Lord is right and true” (Psalm 33:4, NIV). Search His Word for what He says is true about you. This is the best way to heal the lies written on your heart.
Start believing and memorizing what God says about you. Write the thoughts on a card and think about them during the day to let them shine light on the lie.
- I am significant. (1 Corinthians 12:27)
- I am valuable. (1 Corinthians 7:23)
- I am forgiven. (1 John 1:9)
- I am treasured. (1 Peter 2:9)
- I am precious. (Proverbs 31:10, 1 Peter 3:4)
- I am capable. (Ephesians 2:10)
Surround yourself with people who speak kindly and graciously to you because we are to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Identify the negative people in your life and limit your time with them. If the people around you are persistently negative, you might adopt their attitudes. Of course, we all have those family members who are usually negative, and we can’t eliminate them from our life; but we can certainly limit our exposure to them — especially on days that we feel especially vulnerable.
The best news yet is that we don’t have to do all of this on our own. As believers, we have the Spirit of truth in us — to guide and lead us toward healing (John 16:13). Ladies, it is worth the battle to seek healing around these lies. It will affect how you approach every situation in life — even when you run into light poles.Erin Smalley serves as the strategic spokesperson for Focus on the Family's marriage ministry and develops content for that department.