Three Thought Patterns To Correct
How do you see yourself? Pause for a minute and think about it. What thoughts have you had about yourself today?
So many of us find ourselves basing our self-worth on how others see us and our accomplishments, feeling shame from our past, defining our value based on our looks, or setting unrealistic standards for ourselves.
But, it shouldn’t be this way. If only we could see ourselves as God sees us.
There are three thought patterns that can act as roadblocks to our thinking and living the way God desires for us. These destructive thought patterns were identified by a psychologist named Albert Ellis in 1873. Contrasting these ideas with what 1 Peter 1 tells us about how we can prepare our minds for action by adjusting our thinking to Scripture is the foundation of being holy in all we do (1 Peter 1:15).
Destructive Thought #1
“I must be loved or approved by virtually every person in my life.“
If we are living to make sure that others love us, we give them permission to evaluate us based on what we do – we give people the power to determine our self-worth.
When we leave home, many of us have “internalized parents” who are now voices in our head that tell us what we should do, what is important, and how we should do things. Have you ever been in a situation where you have to make a decision and you can hear your parents saying “That’s not responsible” or “I told you that would happen?”
Many of us are so concerned about being loved that we give the opposite sex permission to evaluate our self-worth. As adolescents, we might sacrifice our own identity to get attention and acceptance, even to the extent to pretending not to be bright or kind because we think the opposite sex won’t be impressed. Our we might deny ourselves food to lose weight to try and fit in with body images portrayed on TV or in magazines. Even as adults, we buy into the beauty myth, thinking that our appearance is our number one asset, and that it will bring us acceptance and approval from a spouse. Eating disorders about – anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating to name a few.
If we are living to make sure that others love us, we give people power to determine our self-worth.
We may even feel pressure from our church community to measure ourselves according to certain stereotypes – women are supposed to be nurturing, quiet and gentle, raise well- behaved children, and maybe even do crafts. And men should be competent spiritual leaders, provide for and protect their families, to be a manly man plus be in touch with their sensitive side.
As a woman I’ve never been quiet or gentle, I work just as hard as any man. I enjoy hunting, fishing, and love to barbecue my own food. Many find themselves negating the interests or gifts God has given us.
Destructive Thought #2
My past history is an all – Important determiner of my present behavior: because something once strongly affected my life, it should definitely continue to do so.
You may feel controlled by a secret. You may have had some happen to you that you have revealed to no one or perhaps to only a few people. Perhaps you feel shame about certain aspects of the family you grew up in, or maybe you have sinful habits you feel embarrassed about, such as gossip, lust, pornography, or a critical spirit. Maybe you are ashamed of some things you’ve done in the past. Or something that has been done to you.
If we don’t deal with issues I our past, they will continue to contribute us in some way in our present. But they don’t have to. We can deal with past sin, our family histories, as well as past violations to our bodies and minds.
It is important to identify whether our feelings in these situations are destructive shame or healthy convictions. Healthy conviction always separates our identity from our behavior. Shame links these two, so wring behavior taints our image of ourselves. Healthy conviction alerts us to the fact that we have done something that goes against our internalized values.
Biblical conviction is a God-given emotion that “red flags” a behavior and tells us it is an act of rebellion against God. It spurs us to confess our sin and experience the love and forgiveness God has provided for us through Jesus. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.”
Biblical conviction is a God-given emotion that ‘red flags’ a behavior and tells us it is an act of rebellion against God. It is possible to silence God’s conviction by ignoring it.
Any feelings of guilt that come after we’ve confessed our sin are not from God, but may be from ourselves or from the evil one. We still have to live with the consequences of our sin, but God does not punish us for our sin, God disciplines us to get us back on track so we can continue to experience God’s love and plan for our lives. Our struggles can bring us closer to God and heighten our faith as we experience His faithfulness in forgiving us and drawing us closer to Him (Hebrews 12:4-13).
Destructive Thought #3
I should be thoroughly competent, adequate, and successful in all possible respects in order to consider myself worthwhile.
Ten percent of people will struggle with some form of clinical depression in their lifetime. Depression can be biological or situational, and often can be the result of both. However, one of the leading causes of depression is setting your standards so high that you cannot possibly live up to them. You are constantly striving for a standard that is unattainable, but you wear yourself out trying anyway. One of the messages that can play over and over in our minds is that we have to “be perfect.”
We often fall into the trap of feeling responsible not just for ourselves, but the lives of others, whether our co-workers, friend, children, or spouses. We take on the weight of the world.
It’s often difficult for us to separate our identity from our behavior. We feel if we don’t measure up, it reflects on who we are as individuals.
God’s grace is a gift, in and through His grace, God heals us and brings us freedom to live a new life. Sometimes grace does not come easily to us. We have to work on changing our perspective and our thoughts. We need to humble ourselves to accept God’s grace and extend grace to ourselves when we don’t measure up, knowing that God already sees us as the perfect reflections of Christ that we are, (1 John 3:1-3).
Once we extend grace to ourselves we will be able to extend grace to those around us. We need to cease trying to live up to these distorted beliefs and learn to line our thinking up with the way God views us,
Instead of being so focused on ourselves and our fail, we will be able to extend a helping hand to those around us and be a vessel for God’s grace to those who we come in contact with wherever we go.