How to break free from the lies and shame you carry

Stopped at the light, I was the third car back, which simply means I had a decent view. In an instant, the lights went green and the turn lane flashed yellow.

I wouldn’t blame anyone for getting confused in this situation. I live in a town where I can count the sum total of traffic lights on one hand. There are no turn lanes ordered by blinking yellow arrows. But in the bigger city, where I Costco, the turn lanes flash yellow which means something like turn left at your own risk.

An oncoming pickup, harnessed to a long trailer, understood the traffic signals about as well I do, because when all the lights turned, so did he, right in front of the stacked stream of oncoming traffic. Tires screeched, horns honked and multiple lanes halted as a collision was narrowly averted. The erring pickup and trailer, now nosed way into the intersection, awkwardly maneuvered his was on through while the honking horns and screeching tires watched and waited.

“What a terrible driver!” my 13-year-old son smarted off beside me. 

“Maybe. Or maybe not.” I cautioned him. “I’ve made my share of mistakes driving. It happens to all of us sometimes.” 

That tiny conversation left me thinking about my own past offenses. I always feel like such an idiot when I make mistakes like that. The foul we had just witnessed wasn’t really a big deal. It could have been, of course, but it wasn’t. Everyone stopped, everyone waited a few extra seconds and we were all safely on our way again. But I wondered what the driver of that pickup might be feeling in that moment. 

I feel such a fiery shower of embarrassment when I do things like that. I shrink inside and mouth a sorry while it feels like the whole world is staring at me. A couple miles down the road and I’m still a little sweaty because surely there must be an “I AM AN IDIOT!” sign tattooed on the side of my car.

 Why do I do that? 

I didn’t think those things about the pickup driver. I never once thought I should follow him for awhile and tell the world around him what an idiot he is. But what if he was doing that for himself? I know I would be.

Why do we let our failures stick with us? Even the tiniest mistakes or missteps can trigger our nerve endings and shoot straight to our brains, our hearts, and take up residence there. Even the tiniest mistakes or missteps can trigger our nerve endings and shoot straight to our brains, our hearts, and take up residence there.

We know it’s not true – missing a friend’s birthday, showing up late or under-prepared, burning dinner or taking a wrong turn a traffic light does not make you a failure. So why do we let lies linger?

The other day my daughter was full of words about how excited she is to be turning 10 next month. So excited. Because when you are 9, 10 is apparently everything. All the fingers, a later bedtime, everything.

I asked her if she felt 10, which spurred a whole new conversation about how old we feel. 

My freshly crowned teenager added his interesting perspective. “I’m not sure I feel 13. The voice in my head, whenever I’m kind of talking or thinking to myself, hasn’t changed all that much. It’s still about 7.”

Read this: How to cultivate deeper conversations with your child 

I giggled to myself; that explains a few things!

But I loved his perspective. I let my mind follow his words.

How old does the voice in my head seem? And what does she often say to me? It’s both an odd and interesting thought, one worth sitting with for a moment.

Is she kind? Or bossy? Is she derogatory and disparaging or gentle and encouraging? Does she speak to you in the way you would speak to a friend?

I may have completely lost you here, but it’s worth pausing to think about. Far too often I’m the guy in that pickup truck. I’ve made a dumb mistake and then I spend the next 5 miles cringing at my stupidity, berating myself for my inadequacy, shaming myself for my imposition. 

Serving that up in white space, removed from the emotion, it seems like a pretty ridiculous waste of time. Shame is an unhealthy method of motivation. We know better than to use that on our children, but why do we still use it on ourselves?

Could this be what Paul was talking about when he reminded the church in Corinth to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ? Is this what he meant when he told the church at Philippi to meditate on the things that are true and noble and just and pure and lovely?

My question to you today is this:  What is the voice in your head feeding you? What thoughts are you meditating on? Which lies are you letting linger, penetrating areas they have no business being?

You know Truth. Hold those quiet festering thoughts up against the Light and replace them. They don’t belong there. Choose the good.

Pay close attention to that voice in your head bossing you around and stand ready to boss it right back when necessary. No matter if that voice is seven years old or seventy, don’t let those lies linger. They have no place here. You are His.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 

Now read this: Powerful prayers for when you feel weak

This post originally appeared and was republished with permission. 

Katie Westenberg is a wife and mother to four, who is passionate about fighting fear and living brave. Married for 15 years, she lives in Washington state, enjoying life outside the city limits and any adventures that involve friends and family. She writes at encouraging women to fear God and live brave.


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