Have you ever seen someone out in public who appears to be talking to themselves? These days it's probably pretty common to see this and then realize that they’re actually on the phone talking to someone. I remember being in a line at a gas station where the guy behind me spoke up and I turned around to respond to him only to realize that he was on his phone. But as a kid we didn’t have the luxuries of cool Apple Airpods so when someone appeared to be talking to themselves they legitimately were talking to themselves. Honestly, if I saw this I would’ve deemed them crazy. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve realized that I actually have a habit of talking to myself when I’m focused and working on a project. While yes, I probably do need a straight jacket, I think this has actually helped me fully process my next steps and also evaluate myself.
The exact same thing applies when it comes to moments of anxiety. I believe that a God-given way we can discern our emotions is by talking them out — even to ourselves.
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? - Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Lloyd-Jones’ words are both counter-cultural and honestly very helpful for us when it comes to understanding who’s in control of our happiness or lack thereof. To regain that happiness, I believe there are three very important steps that are required.
STEP 1: TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE
As human beings, we are constantly gathering information. We’re consuming massive amounts of data on decisions to make, people to like or dislike, what to believe or not to believe, and even what reaction we’re going to give to a story being told. Because of this, we have to have a filtration system that helps us determine what is healthy to consume and what’s unhealthy.
Paul tells the church of Corinth this: We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. - 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)
Paul’s words are a reminder that we have to imprison and interrogate every thought that enters our minds. Without doing this, we’re influenced and directed by the most powerful thoughts. Most of the time, the most powerful ones are the negative ones.
That, in turn, leads us to our next step and that’s to know the difference between the healthy voices and the unhealthy ones.
STEP 2: KNOW THE VOICES
First and foremost, the best thing we can do is take an assessment of what things we are consuming. Are you consuming more TV shows than the Word of God? Are you consuming massive amounts of social media or cultural-influencing content? While this is a short list, all of these when out of balance can dictate our emotions and insecurities and will lead us to a place of bad decisions and unhealthy choices.
For me, my voice of insecurity speaks the loudest and when I assess what I’m consuming I can see that a person’s social media account makes me jealous of their new house or truck. If I focus on the negative parts of my job, it makes me feel unwanted when someone gets asked to do something over me.
By taking an evaluation of what you’re consuming, you are able to determine which voice is good for you and which is not. This filter allows your decisions to direct you towards happiness and not negativity.
STEP 3: TALK TO YOURSELF
The final step brings us back to that crazy beautiful practice of talking to ourselves. I’ve learned that when I say something out loud it no longer has a hold on me. It allows me to control my thoughts and not the other way around.
To use the illustration above, if I were to stumble onto someone’s social media account who had just bought a new truck, I could be jealous that I don’t have that or I could be thankful for what God has given me. By speaking my gratefulness out loud, I’m able to shift my thoughts from negative to positive.
If I’m overwhelmed with anxiety, feeling that the world is caving in on me, talking it out loud takes it out of the emotions and brings it back to logic. I have to say, “Aaron!!! Is that really what’s going to happen?” and then I can tell the difference between true and false assumptions.
So if you ever pass me on the highway and I look like I’m talking to myself, guess what? I probably am! And you know what?! That’s okay. It’s what is needed for me to live a positive and happy life.
Try it out and if it doesn’t work for you then you can tell people I’m crazy.
The quote that you read by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones didn’t stop there. Here’s what I want to leave us with as he finishes his thought: