Most of us have heard this statement, “Don’t talk to yourself.” It is usually addressed to a person, or about a person, who may be “mumbling” to himself in audible words. Mental health experts say this may or may not be a sign of a mental issue, even schizophrenia or some other form of abnormal psychology such as a duel personality disorder.
Let me assure you that the discussion in this lesson is not about audible mumbling and persons who walk the streets mumbling incoherent words and phrases. Neither is about persons who claim their minds are being invaded by alien voices.
This lesson is about the amazing ability God has created us with—the continual ability while awake to practice what psychologists call SELF-TALK. You are using this ability right now. As you read these words you are “saying them in your mind.”
We understand that we are always saying things to others. But what do we say to ourselves? When offered an opportunity have you ever said to yourself:
“I can’t do that.” [ ] Yes [ ] No
“I will fail.”[ ] Yes [ ] No
“I’m dumb.” [ ] Yes [ ] No
“I will make a fool of myself.” [ ] Yes [ ] No
We let what others say not only enter our ears but get inside our heads. We (1) hear words, (2) let them continue to play in our minds, (3) think about them, (4) debate whether we believe or disbelieve them, (5) add our words to their words, (6) store them in our mental computer, (7) reinforce them, (8) replay them over and other and add to them continually, and (9) a new habit is formed. Yes, there are times when we delete or erase words without storing them. In reality however, they may still fall into our subconscious and pop-up; challenging us relative to how to now deal with the words or new habits.
The Bible and Self-Talk
As one might expect, there are some persons, even Christians, who want to argue about the use of the term SELF-TALK. They base it on their belief that it is nothing more than a “Pop-Psychology” technique used by the self-help gurus to promote books and seminars. Ironically those who take this position practice self-talk in their denial of self-talk. I assume they are not asleep or in an unconscious state.
It’s time to let the Bible speak on this question: Does the Bible confirm that mankind practices self-talk? Do human beings carryon inner-cranium self-talk, question and answer dialogues, and make plans? I affirm YES. Yes based on the following Scriptures:
Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Stop for a moment and think about how thinking about these words operate in your mind. You use words. You use mental pictures. You ask yourself questions: What does this mean?” Thoughts are seed that when planted produce fruit (cf. Jeremiah 6:19).
Luke 12:16-19: “Then He spoke a parable to them, saying, ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he THOUGHT WITHIN HIMSELF, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ SO HE SAID, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build bigger barns, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I WIIL SAY TO MY SOUL, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease, drink, and be merry.’” This man carried on a monologue with himself relative to what he was planning to do. But he was interrupted before he could carry out his plan: “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you provided?’” (Luke 12:20). Self-talk always precedes action.
Isaiah 14:4, 12, 13-14: Jeremiah is told to speak a parable about the treachery, arrogance, and doom of the king of Babylon (14:4). Then after describing the king’s terrible and sinful state, God pronounces his doom (14:9-12). Then we read in verses 13 through 14, what the king, who is identified as Lucifer (literally ‘Day Star’, 14:12), had said in his heart (i.e. self-talk): “For you have SAID IN YOUR HEART: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” All plans begin in the thoughts of man. Jesus affirmed this in Mark 7:20-23.
Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” While I know this is talking about the physical member in our mouths, there is a principle of application to the “mental tongue” in our heads.
Ecclesiastes 10:20: “Do not curse the king, even in your THOUGHT; do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; for a bird of the air may carry your voice, and a bird in fight may tell the matter.” Solomon wrote that we may curse the king in our thoughts, which obviously refers to the self-talk taking place in our heads. You may cruse or bless a person in your head—self-talk is how it happens.
Psalm 53:1: “The fool has SAID IN HIS HEART, ‘There is not God.’ They are corrupt. And have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.” The first step toward atheism takes place with self-talk in a person heart: his will, intellect, emotions, and beliefs. Therefore, a good place to begin a discussion with an atheist is to ask, “When did you first tell yourself there is no God?”
Acts 26:8-11: “Why should it be THOUGHT incredible by you that God raises the dead? Indeed, I myself THOUGHT I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (26:8). In his message before king Agrippa, the apostle Paul rehearsed his life and behavior toward Christians before becoming one himself. His THOUGHTs—self-talk—caused him to do terrible things to believers in Christ: “This I did also in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities” (26:10, 11).
There are numerous other Scriptures that affirm the truth that we talk to ourselves in our thoughts. This is called, psychologically, self-talk. Some days I am the best conversation with myself that I have all day. How about you?
Suggestions for Programming Positive, Spiritual, and Biblical Self-Talk
We’ve all heard the phrase: GI-GO, which is a computer related term referring to “garbage in, garbage out.” The computer only receives what we put in and only gives it back to us. In a metaphorical sense the human mind is like a computer. (1) there is a key board—our five senses through which we put millions of pieces of data; (2) there is a storage place where it stays until we remove it—this is our subconscious mind—which doesn’t know the difference between a real or imagined experience; (3) these produce some of the programs that activate our output (behavior), as we (4) bring them up to the monitor of our present state of mind.
We input into your conscience and subconscious minds what (1) we see, (2) taste, (3) hear, (4) say, and (5) feel though our five-senses. These create our thinking patterns which form our attitudes; thus a “sixth sense” is created called judgment, instinct, or hunch.
Just as we can secure various software packages to program our physical computers, God has given us a program package that fits all minds. It is the Holy Bible. It contains everything we need that “pertains to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). The Scriptures are inspired by God and are able to make us wise unto salvation (cf. 2 Timothy 3:10-17). The secret is to program our minds the way God intends; to use His word, not human wisdom. The Psalmist wrote, “Thy word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).
When you learn how to recognize your negative self-talk, you will then be able to reject it. This takes effort. You must continually monitor your self-talk, identifying whether it is negative, positive or biblical. The basic key to developing and using new self-talk scripts is learning how to state them. Here are some DON’TS:
Never say, “I will try” to_______________ (This is an escape hatch for failure).
Never say, “I am going” to_____________ (This is transferring to a nebulous future).
Never say, “I always fail” to_____________ (This is a self-fulling prophecy).
Never say, “I’m no good at”_____________ (Another escape hatch for failure).
Never say, “I wish__________would happen” (It doesn’t activate positive possibilities).
Never say, “Maybe I can do”_____________(This generates self-doubt).
Never say, “It’s too difficult to do”___________(This is putting on the brakes)
Here are some positive DO’s:
Always state the action in the present tense:
- “I am doing a great job in learning how to handle the public address system.
- “I am doing all things through Christ Who is giving me strength.”
- “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”
- “I am loved by God.”
- “I am happy right now.”
- “I am making positive progress.”
- “Right now I am choosing the right approach.”
A great way to imprint the positive self-talk affirmations is to pick one or two each day and repeat them in sets of seven, three to five times each day. Your computer mind will program them and they’ll become contributors to positive attitudes, beliefs, and behavior.
Remember God has given us a positive thinking agenda we can program our inner voice with, and in time it will become a positive and habitual way of thinking—self-talking—with ourselves. Read Philippians 4:6-10—“Think on these things.”
The outer world is constantly trying to send you messages to program into your mind and which will become an inner voice. You can reject it. You can choose the self-talk you engage in as well as obey. Replace the negative with the positive—God’s word.
How will you intentionally use this lesson to improve your self-talk?