“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:8-9 (The Message Version)
Most of the time I cruise along in steady contentment. Most of the time I enjoy the fruits of an all-around pleasant attitude. Most of the time. Then, like the flip of a switch, I don't. Like, SUPER don't. It's tough on my family because most of the time they get "predictable mom/wife," then out of nowhere they're met with the snappy, crabby, harsh, withdrawn version of me. Now, you may be thinking, "Yikes, you know Sarah, they make medication for that." Granted. Except that it's not a matter of chemical imbalance, it's a matter of thought imbalance. After years of prayer and a bit of painful personal dissection, I know that my mood shift is almost ALWAYS ignited by indulging in mean, ugly, critical, wholly discontented thoughts about myself. I think it’s important to share this because even after all these years into my journey of ministering to women about freedom from disordered eating and body image, I must still go to battle with it. The difference now though is that I believe the Lord gifts (yes, gifts) me with that struggle to help keep me effective and 100% dependent upon His strength, not my own. I want to encourage you that even if you wrestle with self-criticism, don’t stop fighting. You can be both free and yet still struggle, you simply need the tools to overcome.
For me, 99% of the time, if I'm short with, or nasty to my family it's got little to do with them. Though I may blame it on the "mom-life" or exhaustion, almost always if they encounter the unpleasant version of me it's because I’m thinking awful things about myself or my body. Sad. But, does anybody relate?
Okay, okay, enough about the struggle. Let's talk about the strategy to snap out of it! The answer is found in Philippians 4:4-9 - check it out!
Step one: Identify the thought culprit!
Get specific about the thought you need to take captive. No matter how true the thoughts may FEEL, most of the time they're not. For me, they're usually the result of three factors:
- Not following my own personal freedom/victory path to health
- Confusing fat with full (this is a health coaching topic, happy to expound if you'd like).
Step Two: Confession and exposure.
You've got to speak it out. I've talked many times about the correlation between confession and freedom. Confess to the Lord that you let a sneaky thought (or 10) get by. Take them captive to Him. Pray. Then, confess it to your people. This takes guts. It's a vulnerable place to be to say to your beloveds, "You know how I've been super cranky with you tonight and blamed it on _______? Well, I'm sorry for that. I'm actually struggling with unkind and untrue thoughts about myself and it's stealing my joy and peace. Can you forgive me?" POWERFUL I'm telling you!
Step Three: Eyes off yourself and onto others.
Finally, the most powerful step to getting back to your authentic self is to think of everything BUT self. As soon as I find myself in that place where I'm acting like a selfish, joyless, pouty toddler, I start praying for OTHERS. I purposely think bigger to get better. Just start praying. I pray for the big stuff like war and disease, and for the little stuff, like my friend whose engine just blew, or pipes busted. Anything apart from myself.
It's an ongoing battle for me, it is. If it’s a battle for you too, I understand. But be encouraged! There's a battle plan. Its time tested and if you apply it, it will free you from joy sucking thoughts and get you squarely back on the path to the fully abundant, peace filled, free life you were made for.