The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

One of my favorite Bible verses is found at 2 Corinthians 10.  Paul is writing to a church in ancient times and he tells them, among other things, to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.”  Here we see him addressing one of the biggest battles that we all must face – the battle of the mind.

You see, we tell ourselves all kinds of stories.  Stories about ourselves.  Stories about our spouses or children or family.  Stories about our friends, our church, or even our pastor.  And stories that we tell about complete strangers that we see in the car next to us or sitting at another table in the restaurant.  Have you been there?  I know I have…

I have been working in a new co-working studio in my city.  It’s a great place where anyone who needs space to work can rent space at a very low cost and have room for them to work alone or hold meetings in a conference room.  This is somewhere I enjoy working not only because of the atmosphere, but also because of the people that I come across.  But, there is one person that I must tell you about…

A few weeks ago when I was at this co-working space, there was a guy who did not look like the type of entrepreneur that I’m used to seeing working from one of the tables.  He looked…well homeless…  Ok, begin throwing stones at me now.  It’s ok, I know…I’m an awful person.

But, what I found myself doing was making up this entire story about this guy.  What was HE doing in here?  How could HE afford this place?  What business could HE possibly be starting?  Who let HIM in here?  Do you get it?  I was being downright mean…in my head.  It was a story I was weaving about this guy that I had never even had one conversation with…only seen him from across the room.

I do this all the time.  Once again, I know…I’m a terrible person…

This time was different, though.  I caught myself.  I stopped mid-story.  I recognized how mean, judgmental, and insensitive I was being to this guy…in my head.

Then, I started telling myself a different story.  I began to think, you know, this guy could be a millionaire.  This guy could be working on a business idea that could cure cancer or solve a world crisis.  He probably has a family that loves him and he is probably a really great guy.

I also began to think about the stories that I’m sure others make up about me in their heads.  They imply motives that don’t exist when I have to make a tough decision.  They think awful things about me when I have to discipline my children in public.  They read into my quiet personality that I’m cold or indifferent to life…or to them.  They look at my gray hair and wonder what I’m doing married to someone who is so much younger than me.

And, of course the stories that I tell me about me.  I’m not athletic enough.  I’m not a good enough dad.  I fail often at my job.  I let others down regularly.  I disappoint God with my mistakes and shortcomings.  Ever been there?  I have…too many times…

I could go on and on with other relationships and the stories that I make up about them.  The bad thing is that the people we know the best are the ones that we tend to make up the most stories about.  And what happens is that those stories become reality.  All of them.  Because we tell them over and over.  And we “see” things that confirm them – things like “I knew they didn’t like me…see they didn’t invite me to their ______________.”   When in reality, they do like us and it has nothing to do with why they didn’t invite us to something that we felt entitled to being invited to attend.

So what do we do?  What do we do when we find that this describes us?  There are 2 steps: first, “take every thought captive.”  In other words, we have to be aware of what we’re thinking.  It’s easy to think these things out of habit and years of prejudice and jaded relationships.  But when we are able to grab a hold of the stories that we’re telling ourselves before they reach a conclusion and recognize that it’s not the truth nor is it healthy, we stand a better chance of changing how we view people and the world.

The second thing is to “make it obedient to Christ.”  What does Christ tell us about ourselves?  What does He tells us about others?  We are all “beautifully and wonderfully made.”  We all have value and He loves us all.  He wants us to “love others as ourselves.”  When we make our thoughts obedient to Him, what we’re really doing is seeing people the way that God Himself sees them.  And, don’t forget this includes us too!

So, are you with me?  Are you up to the challenge?  What would happen if we stopped telling ourselves stories about ourselves and others and started living life looking at ourselves with a renewed sense of how God created us and looking at others with the best thoughts in mind about who they are? I think our lives would be revolutionized and we would start something that would change the world!

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