As a young child, I loved attending the county fair. It only came around to our area once per year so it was always exciting when it was that time of year again. My family didn’t have a lot of extra money so it was a real treat when we were able to go.
Of course, I enjoyed the rides and attractions but I can still remember the first time I was old enough to enter the infamous “fun house.” The fun house was full of mazes and air spurts that spooked you as you rounded corners. What really caught my eye were the large Circus mirrors that waited for me down the hall. There was one mirror that made me look six feet tall; another that made me look like a toddler. There was yet another set of mirrors, one that made me look extremely overweight and another that made me look skinny. As a small child, I just thought these distorted mirrors were a hoot. I would stare and stare at the mirrors and imagine what it would be like if I really looked like the “me” in those mirrors, while all the time knowing the “real” me was not like those images at all.
I often encounter people in life who struggle with their own identity. In reality, we all probably have at one time or another. As we move through this journey we call life, we sometimes begin to take on the images of what we’ve been taught; what we’ve been told; what we’ve observed; and what we have believed. Unless we have God’s firm foundation to base our reality on, it becomes very easy to distort our own self-image and—over time—-start to believe the lies that life throws our way.
There are many lies that life can throw our way, but let me share with you a few of what I think are among the most common. Maybe some of these sound familiar to you:
- If I feel it, it must be true.
- The destination is more important than the journey.
- I have to be perfect to feel good about myself.
- I must have everyone’s love and approval.
- My unhappiness is someone else’s fault.
- My past predicts or restricts my future.
- I am the way I am and cannot change.
- Things never work out for me.
- I can’t be happy unless things go my way.
- Things happen and I take them personally.
- People owe me for what I do for them.
- You shouldn’t have to wait for what you want.
- God’s love must be earned.
- Life and God are always supposed to be fair.
- I don’t need other people to function in life.
- I have been hurt, so I can never trust anyone.
- People “like that” will always disappoint me.
- God doesn’t have time for my problems.
- A good Christian doesn’t get angry, anxious, or depressed.
- I either magnify or minimize the importance of things.
Any of those sound familiar? If so, you should remind yourself that they’re not true. The bigger question is how do I erase those lies that have held me hostage all these years? How do I take steps to see the real me instead of the distorted me? In my experience, I have found that the following steps can help you over time:
- For each of the lies you believe about yourself, think back on the triggering event that caused you to feel that way. It may take some time and may be painful, but write down what event(s) in your life you believe caused you to believe the lie in your life.
- Write down what is wrong about the way you are thinking about these events. What exactly has been your wrong thinking pattern over the years about this event?
- Next, write down how you felt emotionally about the event and what you have been thinking and believing. Are you angry, hurt, sad, embarrassed, showing lack of faith? This will be painful and cause you to re-live some of the hurt, but be honest with yourself and write out your true feelings.
- Then, write down your unhealthy actions resulting from how you felt. Did the pain and hurt or the sadness or embarrassment cause you to do something you wish you had not done? Write it down.
As you proceed through the next steps, you will begin to view a different perspective which will offer some healing over time:
- Write down the correct way you should have thought about the triggering event you identified above. If you had been thinking the correct way about the event, what would that have looked like?
- If you had reacted correctly to the triggering event, what would have been the correct emotions that you would have felt? Instead of feeling angry, sad, or hurt, how would you have felt?
- Finally, write down the positive actions that would have resulted had you reacted correctly and had you felt the proper emotions.
As you work through the exercises above, remember the lies we all believe are just like the Circus Mirrors in the fun house–they aren’t real and they aren’t representative of the real you. It’s our choice to replace the lies with the truth.