Straightening Out Your Self-Talk
*Editor’s Note: Mark McCoy is a discipleship minister whose passion is to walk with people as they grow as followers of Jesus. He has noticed that one of the obstacles that can get in the way of people’s growth is false “self-talk.” I recently caught up with him and asked him to explain self-talk and how God is able to redirect it. For Part 1 of this conversation, click here.
Q: How can I understand my self-talk in the context of my relationship with God?
In between the Good Shepherd and ourselves is, well, us. We are in a sense a gatekeeper that needs to come in line with Jesus’ kindness and patience towards our deep, inner, vulnerable, fragile eternal soul. My self-talk represents a set of attitudes that can either be a barrier or a bridge from Jesus to our deepest vulnerable self.
Q: What is one way that the Bible helps us to have healthy self-talk?
The Bible not only tells us the truth about ourselves, but the Bible also tells us to speak the truth in love. That includes speaking the truth in love to ourselves. I’ve known people who engage in abusive self-talk, who nonetheless are incredibly compassionate toward others. We need to be able to extend that love toward ourselves too.
You can’t necessarily make a choice about how you feel or the thoughts that pop into your mind. But we have thoughts about our thoughts. We have feelings about our feelings. And it’s this interpretation of these thoughts and feelings that matters. It’s how we think and feel about our thoughts and feelings that matters. That’s where the choice comes in.
Q: What’s a Scripture that comes to mind when you think about healthy self-talk?
1 John 3:18-20 says, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.”
There will be times we feel things that are false. We’ll feel anxious, guilty, and negative even when these feelings don’t match up with reality. God gives us permission to assert what’s true even if it doesn’t match what we’re feeling. Even if we feel guilty, that’s not going to change things.
The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love. That includes speaking the truth in love to ourselves.
Self-talk is a part of making a decision. What are you going to do? It’s that internal dialogue. If there’s no question in your mind, you just do it. But if there’s a question in your mind, the dialogue kicks in. The Bible asserts continually that truth is how our minds are transformed. Asserting truth is the step we can actually make a conscious decision in. Self-control necessitates a healthy and true set of attitudes and thoughts toward yourself. Building on the idea that we have a relationship with ourselves, we apply the fruit of the Spirit and choose to show ourselves patience, love, kindness, etc.
Q: What’s the connection between confessing to others and talking to yourself well?
I am always fascinated when people know God forgives them, but they distinctly acknowledge that they have great difficulty forgiving themselves. That is largely why self-talk needs to rely on the experience of confession to another person. That response of grace is hugely influential in teaching someone how to forgive themselves. I think it has something to do with feeling permission to show grace to themselves.
Relationships with grace-filled people teach us how to treat ourselves. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”