We often duplicate our childhoods, even when we don’t intend to. If we grew up in a home of chaos, we may either have a chaotic home or live in constant reaction against that chaos, bending toward control. Neither is healthy. Neither produces freedom.
In childhood, I experienced harsh words of judgment. I felt I had to do everything perfectly to be loved (and even when I “achieved” perfection, love didn’t materialize). Because of those words and the subsequent neglect, I tend to bully myself inwardly.
I am my own mean girl.
As an adult, I listen to, then digest, really negative thoughts about myself. Whatever spite-spirited words jump into my head, I welcome and sit with them because they confirm my own fears about myself. Words like:
- “You’ll never amount to anything,” or
- “Who do you think you are to do ______,” or
- “No one cares about you,” or
- “Wow, you’re such a narcissist.”
All these voices reveal my fear of not mattering on this earth.
Am I alone here? Have you ever felt this way?
In order to access the beautiful freedom Jesus won for us, we have to heed the apostle Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV). Paul’s advice hints at war—to recognize the enemy lurking within the bullying thoughts and take them captive, so they are no longer able to harm.
Why did Paul advise such a harsh penalty to bad thoughts? Because destructive words destroy you. They don’t represent God’s heart for you. They’re the voice of the evil one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (See John 10:10.) Why give them power? Why let them take you captive another day?
Sometimes it’s hard to know what freedom looks like, to be free in your thoughts, to no longer be held captive by the negativity.
Here are seven ways to find freedom in this area:
- Silence the angry words directed your mind’s way by simply saying this out loud: “Jesus loves me.”
- Write this down and display it: “I am a child of God. I am worth loving, and my life is worth living.”
- Give yourself permission to feel genuine elation. Instead of downplaying a win or something monumental, choose to celebrate. Celebration counteracts destructive thoughts.
- Trust that God has removed your sins as far as the east is from the west. (It’s the truth!)
- Quiet the angry static in your head, replacing it by the affectionate words of the Almighty. Did you know He sings over you? Zephaniah reminds us, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV).
- Have a conversation with a friend and share the words you hear in your head. Voicing them does two things: you let them out into the air so they no longer burden you, and a loving companion bears witness to your hurtful words and can remind you of their untruth.
- When you mess up, choose to offer yourself grace, the same grace you offer your best friend when she wrongs you.
The question becomes: why do we love everyone else, offering grace and forgiveness aplenty, but we can’t seem to offer that same kindness to ourselves?
The Most Helpful Practice:
Here’s something practical you can do this year to combat your inner mean girl. Grab ten 3×5 cards. On one side, write a lie you believe about yourself. Then on the other side, write a Scripture that combats that lie. (My thanks to my friend D’Ann for encouraging me to do this. It changed my life.)
Lie: I am a failure.
Truth: Romans 8:37-39. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (ESV).
Lie: I will never conquer this sin.
Truth: 2 Corinthians 5:21. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (NASB).
I realized when I started this practice that ten cards were not enough. I ended up purchasing a little spiral bound 3×5 book, then slipped it in my purse to review. Retraining my mind took time. Combatting those entrenched lies with the truth of Scripture helped silence my inner mean girl. By God’s grace, I’m moving beyond my difficult childhood and finding the kind of freedom I’ve longed for. I want this for you as well.
Mind if I Pray for you?
Jesus, forgive us for listening to all those mean voices in our heads. We’ve wrongly thought You were the one who spoke those condemning words to us. Help us to renew our minds by thinking instead about Your kind words to us. Help us realize You love us and believe the best about us. Because of You, we are worthy. We truly want to believe that. Help us. Amen.
Mary is the author of forty books, including her latest: Into The Light : A Biblical Approach to Healing from the Past and We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis. She’s been on CNN and featured in The Washington Post, and she’s spoken in Munich, Johannesburg, and Monte Carlo and planted a church with her family in southern France. She is a mom to three amazing young adults and a wife of 28 years to Patrick.