I’m going to tell you something tonight that may come as quite a surprise to you. It’s not really a part of mainstream thought. I would even go as far as to say that you may be besieged by thoughts to the contrary. It seems so irresponsible; so laissez-faire; even reckless. It sounds ostentatious; lacking forethought, presumptuous. It may quite threaten the way the western world thinks. Nevertheless, here it is…there is no profit or value or benefit or lesson or good outcome in thinking negatively or critically about yourself.
On the surface, you probably agree in premise. But, can you agree in practice? Can you do it? Should you do it? Do you feel there is a value in chastising yourself or that critically evaluating your behaviors helps you get better? I think most people do and as a result take themselves through endless loops that never end up at – good. I’m not talking about honestly evaluating what you could have done better. I’m talking about rehearsing mistakes you made or reliving negative scenarios. I’m discussing that all too familiar human tendency to berate yourself for saying that dreaded thing or performing that shameful act. Do the people you berate transform themselves? Does feeling ashamed prevent poor choices in the future?
I’m sure you’re curious, so let me explain myself. When you do something wrong, you know it is wrong. Wrong things have a way of communicating a painful message to you and it happens rather quickly. Stubbing your toe may hurt like hell, but is nothing to be compared with willfully stubbing it over and over again. Well, how about your thought life? Will rehearsing that negative scenario make it go away? Is there a remedy or benefit to be found in the rehearsal? If you dutifully replay the event on the VCR of your mind, will you somehow arrive at a place where it now makes sense? Oh, if you could just go back in time, right?
Maybe it will help you to think in terms of the physical. Let’s imagine that you just put your hand on the hot stove. You weren’t seeking to bring pain upon yourself, but because of distraction or ignorance or some competing idea, you set it down on the burner. And as burners do, it burned you! The lesson is immediate! Ah shiiiiiiiiiiii*! You briefly contemplate what happened and then quickly seek a remedy. You most likely won’t ever do it again. Now again, imagine that three days later you are still going through the painful scenario in your head. People would rightfully conclude that you are nuts. But, isn’t that exactly what you do with the other mistakes you make in your life and most likely you did for similar reasons? (Distraction, ignorance, competing ideas) I’m here to tell you today that there is absolutely no profit in it. In fact, there’s grave danger in it.
Dwelling on past mistakes is almost a surefire guarantee that you are going to make the same mistakes again. And, even if you are smart enough to avoid them, dwelling on them only serves to reinforce the idea that something is definitely wrong with you. Not your behavior, you! What possible chance could you ever have of succeeding or overcoming if down deep something is wrong with you?
I’ll put it in terms of the spiritual. Let’s say that there is a force in the world that seduces or deceives you into doing things that are bad. So that force, that the world is woefully unaware of, tricks you into doing something evil. I would say that in itself is bad enough. But, what if you could derive a greater damage to a person by getting them to rehearse the matter for the rest of their lives? I would say you have done an excellent job of defeating that person for a lifetime! Well folks, that is exactly what is taking place when you innocently or ignorantly hold your mistakes; your faults and failings in your mind. It’s insane. No manner of self-chastisement atones for the wrongs done, but instead only hurts you in the process.
This notion of incessant focus on your shortcomings, or more importantly perceived shortcomings is epidemic! It’s a cancer that eats away at all that is good. When a child makes an error he immediately seeks forgiveness. He doesn’t try to undo the wrong. He doesn’t evaluate what might be wrong with him to cause such a thing to happen. He doesn’t review the matter in his mind for two years. He simply seeks forgiveness from his parents and once he receives it, as he knows he almost always will, he moves on – quickly and emphatically. Well, the same is true for you and me. When you hurt people or damage things or hurt your own heart, you make an effort to immediately seek forgiveness and then move on. Refuse to rehearse it or think about or give it space in your mind. If it’s God’s forgiveness you need, get it as He is faithful and just to forgive you, every time!
So, I’m asking you to make a pledge to yourself, for yourself. Do not give the mistakes you made or your faults and human failings or your shortcomings (perceived or real) another thought. Don’t allow them to take up residency in your mind. Put an end to all negative evaluations of yourself. Just stop it! There is no profit or value or benefit or lesson or good outcome in doing so. Being critical of yourself will never make you a better person. Being critical only serves to weaken you from being everything you really ought to be in this life!
Will you take the pledge? I hope so…
Just some good thoughts…