HOW TO DEAL WITH THE NEGATIVE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD

You wouldn’t know it by looking at my Instagram feed, but sometimes I move through the world like I’m moving through a minefield: hyper-vigilant, sweaty with fear, and certain I’m about to be blown to bits at any moment.

I’m not kidding. I’ve got a whole world of weirdness inside of me that neither the Sierra or Hefe filters can improve.

As the result of my minefield-mindset, I tend to hold back – in relationships, pursuing my dreams, developing my gifts, giving generously, serving others.

Instead, my energy drifts toward daydreaming about my goals, avoiding intimacy, and pretending to be ok when I’m not.

How did I get this way?

How did I grow up into someone that often walks around with fists at the ready, eyes all squinty with suspicion, neck all tweaked from constant swiveling?

It’s a long story, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes:

A long time ago, I caught the sound of a small voice in a tiny corner of my mind. It made weird little squawks and, at first, I could ignore it as easily as I could attend to it.

But over the years I increasingly gave more of my attention to the voice in the corner.

As I got older, the voice got louder and more articulate. It started to make really convincing arguments about why I was unworthy of love and how I didn’t fit in like the rest of the kids. It provided endless evidence that I was fat and smelly and unable to talk to girls.

Eventually, the voice in the corner came to sound like TRUTH, like the only voice that could really be trusted. And for much of my life, I’ve let that voice boss me around.

The problem is, when we give our attention to the lies in our head, reality gets twisted. The reality of who we are, of how the world works, of who God is and how he feels about us. It all gets messed up.

At least it did for me.

But at some point – through therapy, prayer, reading, writing, small grouping, listening – a spotlight came on and lit up the voice the voice in the corner.

And it turns out the voice that sounded so massive and terrifying…is actually the size of a Malibu Ken doll.

Don’t get me wrong – Malibu Ken can be terrifying. That blank, drug-induced stare. That “neither male nor female” body.

But my point is, what felt bigger and stronger than me could actually be knocked over on to his smug little face with just the flick of a finger.

Are there whiny little plastic lies that have bullied you for a while? Maybe for years?

Here’s a secret: you don’t have to agree with those lies anymore.

You can “break agreement” with those lies. You can shine a spotlight on them. You can name them, deal with them, then punt them to the curb.

Then you can point and laugh at Malibu Ken and his crack-less butt, and get on with your life.

Because the truth is you were set free to live free. To enjoy freedom and share it with others. Not to crawl on the ground, praying you don’t trip a mine and piss off God. He’s not that kind of God, and he doesn’t want you to be that kind of person.

Remember, a condemning voice is a lying voice.

So stand up with me, shake off the dirt, and take a good hard look at whatever lie is tormenting you.

Do you believe you’re unworthy? That your past will always define you? That you’ll never get free of that bad habit or addiction? That you don’t deserve deep friendships or satisfying work? That God isn’t real, or worse, that he is real but he’s really grumpy and judgmental?

Say this – out loud if you need to – every time MK speaks up:

I break agreement with the lie that I (I’m) _____________. I refuse to listen to you anymore. Suck it, Malibu Ken.

Then get back to work enjoying your freedom and living as a freedom-distribution channel for others.

10 Words That Might Change Your Life…SERIOUSLY

One day I was sitting in a coffeehouse with my friend Scott. I was pouring my heart out to him over a vanilla latte with whip because that’s about as masculine as my coffee ever gets.

I was telling Scott how it felt like all of the pain I’d ever experienced in life had coalesced into a giant sneaker-wave that grabbed me by the throat and was now pulling me out to sea.

Some of the pain had just “happened” to me because I – like you – live in a broken world and life’s not fair.

But to be honest, most of the pain was self-inflicted. The result of refusing to delay gratification, avoiding hard work because I felt “I shouldn’t have to do it”, and fear. Lots and lots of fear.

By not dealing with the bumps, bruises, and gashes that came along with being human, I slowly became a hoarder of pain. I felt like one of those people who fill their house with so much junk they end up on a reality show, ashamed and lonely.

Because that’s the thing about pain we haven’t dealt with: the more of it we have in our lives, the less room there is for anyone else.

Scott knew all that about me. He knew the chaos I was living in. He also knew I didn’t have to keep hoarding all that pain.

Scott had had built trust with me by first sharing his messes, his failures, and his doubts. So I knew he could handle my “stuff”2 and that I wasn’t crazy for having stuff in the first place.

So after patiently listening to me lament for about 45 minutes, Scott said ten words that changed my life. He said, “Jesse…

…it’s time to be a good steward of your pain.”

In other words, it’s time to turn and face the pain you’ve chosen and the pain that just “happened” to you. It’s time to own it, deal with it, and move past it. For your sake, and for the sake of a world that needs healing, too.

“Your life no longer has to be defined by your pain.”

So with help from others – good friends, a good therapist, even some good meds – I started picking up all the junk, sorting it out, and throwing it away. I started learning to be a good steward of my pain.

And in the process, I learned my healing could become healing for others.

So can yours.

So imagine you and I are sitting at a coffeehouse together. Knowing I want you to thrive, to get more and more free to be God’s best version of you, let me offer this:

You don’t have to keep living in all that filth. Shame and isolation do not have to be your predominant experience.

You have full permission to get started RIGHT NOW. 

WANT TO INFLUENCE A CROWD? TRY THIS.

Looking Cool Is Optional

I often have the chance to speak to an audience at a church or a conference, maybe at a college or a retreat.

I love speaking. I love getting to interact with a group of people that are hungry to learn and grow. Every cell in my body buzzes with electricity. My mind clears and I’m fully engaged in way I’m not with most other activities. I jump at every chance I get to do it.

And without fail, one of the first things I think about as I’m preparing to speak is, “I hope they think I’m cool.”

I’m halfway through life and I’m still worried about looking cool. Seriously??

God knows this about me, and I think he often smiles at my desire to show off. The same way I smile when one of my boys finds himself with an audience and wants them to know how he can do a somersault or climb a little higher in a tree than he did last week.

God gets it: I often look to others for validation and approval. And I don’t think he faults me for it.

But He also knows the stakes are much higher now that I’m a grown man. And that he wants to use me to help others become all that He wants them to be. And that maybe there are more important things than having people think I’m cool.

There’s a very short prayer he gave me a while back that I use every time I’m preparing and delivering some kind of message (even a blog post):

God, help me care more about what they think of You than what they think of me.

 God knows I want people to like me. He knows I care about their opinion of me. This little prayer helps me acknowledge that, to own it without being shamed.

But He wants more for me than I want for myself. And He wants more for others than I want for them. And He knows the only way we’ll all end up getting more – more life, more hope, more healing, more direction – is when He’s allowed to shine through me. When He’s not blocked by my very real concern about what others think.

That little prayer – God, help me care more about they think of you than what they think of me – has been tremendously helpful over the years.

It’s helpful when giving speeches, sure, but I’ve also found it helpful when meeting with someone I care about. Or when visiting a new place or entering a new context. Or when trying a new activity. It works anytime I run into my desire to look cool in front of someone, anytime I want to influence a person or a crowd.

Because I’ll probably still hope to look cool when I’m 80 (I won’t – I haven’t looked cool since the fourth grade). And God knows that. And he smiles at me. And he says, Jesse, I’ve got a lot more for you and others if you’ll let me shine brighter than you.

So Jesus, today, help me care more about what people think of You than what they think of me.