Someday I might set my stopwatch to see how many minutes I go before telling myself a lie. I’m serious. If I’m honest, I might make it twenty minutes into the day at best. “I’m so tired that I might not make it through the day without falling asleep at the wheel. If I’m late to work this morning everyone will hate me. If I don’t pack a healthy lunch for the kids, then surely somebody will see and think I’m a horrible mom. Everything looks terrible on me. I’m never going to lose this belly fat. I swear I got more wrinkles overnight. Joel got so much more sleep than me last night. The reason everyone is more successful than me is because they get a full night’s sleep. When was the last time I got to sleep past 6:45? Never?” And guys, this is all before 9am. Without fail. Add to that list, “I’m such a failure for not waking up earlier to workout before everyone is awake. And when was the last time I woke up early to pray or do a devotional reading.” and “my house is such a disaster; I have got to get the kids to pick up all their toys before going to bed every night” and then you’ve got a nice, full picture of the self-talk I lambaste myself with every morning. Yours is better? Worse? I’d believe it. Both sides of the spectrum.
Now, I have pretty good self-esteem. I might throw a bunch of shade my own way, but that doesn’t mean that I beat myself up over all of it. Some of those seemingly negative thoughts are simply observations that I don’t allow to control me or to affect my mood or my perception of myself. Like my wrinkles…I AM getting more! But I don’t really care. Isn’t that just part of growing older? And on the days that I do care, I just take the extra time to apply the wrinkle cream that hides in my bathroom closet. Also, most of the time I have the audacity to suspect that I’m the only exhausted adult in our house, I remember to ask Joel how in fact he did sleep. Usually, he’s just as wiped out as I am. We have two young kids, jobs, and a sexual appetite that has an annoying tendency to kick in around midnight when we should both be drifting off to sleep. So see! I’m fine. But what happens if I start to let those lies sit unexamined? Even the ones that I don’t think are really affecting my internal life and my moxie? Oh, let me tell you. They build. They sink angry, silent roots deep down into my heart. And like a carrot, they grow bigger and sweeter while they are cold and ignored. The simple, sneaky everyday lies that I’m sure are the running dialogue for so many besides me are the very unsuspecting building blocks that lead to depression, anxiety, and emotional breakdown. And yet I find myself there from time to time in complete disbelief as to how I could let it get that bad. How did I let the negativity get so out of control? I’m better than this! I’ve read a bookshelf of self-help books! Heck, I write this stuff! I’ll tell you how. My silence. It is precisely when I think my negative self-talk is “OK” because I don’t let it all sink in and really get to me, that is does exactly that.
I didn’t grow up with the practice of confession. My church’s Pentecostal roots snuffed at most of the traditional sacraments of the Catholic faith, but it’s curious how when one attends Seminary all the little fragments of the Christian tradition that so many denominations have left in the threshing fields are right there to be rediscovered through new eyes. Confession, though rarely practiced in Protestant denominations, is deeply Biblical. The sacrament of confession, for me, was a found treasure- one that terrified me but even more powerfully freed me. And in each season of my life since my Seminary days, God has revealed deeper and more nuanced reasons why confession to another person is so deeply important. I’m not just talking about the confession of acted-upon sin, which bears so many obvious reasons for being valuable to a person’s mental and emotional health. I’m talking simply about confessing the way we feel. What we worry about. How we see ourselves. What would happen if I confessed out loud to another person, “I worry that I am ruining my children.”? Or, “I feel like I can’t keep up with any of the goal’s that I’ve set for myself this year.”? Would my husband or my mom or my sisters or my friends respond back to me with judgment? With a curt, “well, try harder then.”? No! Absolutely no, they wouldn’t. My friends and siblings that are in the trenches of parenting young kids right along with me would regale me with their own hilarious, frustrating, wonderful, and agonizing parenting tales to show me that I am surely not alone in anything I walk through on this motherhood journey. And my mom would remind me of how much I have been through and done and how strong I am when I put my mind to something. And my husband would tell me that the woman he sees every day is a loving, wise, sacrificial person who always gives her all and does her best. Do I get any of that when I keep my lame negative monologue to myself? Nope. So just because my bleak, angsty self-talk doesn’t spiral out of control does NOT mean that it isn’t allowed to fester. Spoken words are words brought into the light with the ability to be examined. They can be seen for the lies that they are and cast off. The words that you speak silently to yourself can be weeds, my friends. They can slowly choke out every good and thriving thing if you don’t pull them up by their roots and disengage them from the soil they are trying so hard to take root in. You might think your daily comparison of your forehead wrinkles and upper arm definition to just about any woman you come across is harmless, but I dare you to speak those silly lies out loud to a friend one day and just see how much freedom you feel after putting them out there. Maybe all you need to stay afloat this month is to have a soul-sister remind you of how kick-ass your strong legs are and how everyone thinks you’re the “fun mom”. Maybe a little confession to your husband that you don’t have the energy that you used to have and how OLD that makes you feel is the only thing standing in the way of him reminding you that you run an entire household while keeping your kids, pets, plants, marriage and friendships alive. You freaking Rockstar you!
Can we agree that even the most self-aware, psychologically balanced, co-dependent no more, Oprah’s book-club, prayer warrior, oily, yogi goddesses of us can all do a heaping load of a lot better in this department? Can we speak the ugly lies that dance around our hearts out into the safety of another person who loves us, so they can remind us of how amazing we are? Together we can. I believe that. We were created to live and to flourish in the safety of community for this very reason. So that the little lies that we tell ourselves don’t become the wrecking balls for our big dreams, and even more importantly, for the lives that we were put on this earth to live. And for every lie, there is a bigger and more profound truth that our souls are yearning for. That we are good, that we are worthy, and that we belong.