The Spiritual Discipline of Self-Talk

by Christine Sine
Self talk

by Jeannie Kendall,

Have you ever noticed that the more you concentrate on not doing something, the more likely you are to do it? St Paul said something to that effect….

This week I was painting an awkward piece of woodwork around our garage door, which was white, in contrast to the blue garage door. It is also on a slight incline, and the one thing I did not want to do was knock over the small tin of white paint onto the surrounding concrete.

You know what came next, don’t you? Sure enough, that was exactly what I did. Fortunately, other than a small splash, it was caught on the paper it rested on. Huge relief.

But this capacity to do the one thing we try to avoid is not actually the topic of this blog. Instead, it is what happened next.

The first words out of my mouth, spoken only to myself, were ‘You stupid woman’. At the time, I gave it little thought, too occupied with trying to catch the creeping white paint before disaster struck. But later, I reflected on it, and indeed on the way in which for decades I have spoken both about and to myself, almost always self-deprecatingly. It is something about which friends and colleagues have sometimes challenged me.

There are many spiritual disciplines – prayer, study, fasting, simplicity, and so on. For the first time this week, it occurred to me that perhaps this negative self-talk, which I had simply laughed off for so long, might give birth to another one? What if to work at speaking accurately about ourselves in a way that accords with God’s view of us were to be seen as a part of worship and growing in Christ, instead of some kind of arrogant self-indulgence?

What I am suggesting is not about self-inflation but to begin to ask God to show us how he sees us and to speak to ourselves – and in time, about ourselves – in that way. As a starting place, we know theoretically but so often fail to carry in our hearts that we are first and foremost loved children, who he views with the compassion we so seldom gift ourselves.

So this next season I am going to try, recognising that like every discipline it takes time to become truly ingrained, to use self-talk which honours God because it recognises that he made me, and always, always, sees me through the merciful eyes of Jesus.

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