I’m not much for police states like in 1984, but there is a value in one policing his own thoughts. I’ve quite a history with this and it goes all the way back to the ’90s when I was in grade 8.
Back in grade 8, I hit that awkward time when I started looking at girls a bit differently than I had before, and having thoughts about them that felt terrible. I knew this was wrong, but I dove into self hatred about it. The thought life of a boy going into puberty changes dramatically and I rebelled against the lustful thoughts with all my heart. This is kind of interesting because I was not religious at the time. I just knew right from wrong anyway. I listened to the radio they subjected us to on the school buses where the DJs were very inappropriate, and I knew that they were wrong, too.
My initial approach to policing my thoughts was, at the same time, quite self harming, but also approaching something very wise. The wise part, was that I simply, in my mind, yelled over the unpleasant thoughts with other thoughts to drown them out. This absolutely works and works well. The self harm part was that I spoke very nasty self hating things. This should never be done. In the mental health field, we call this self talk. My self talk was downright abusive to myself.
Later on, I learned that Christians need to hold their thoughts captive and drown out sinful thoughts. What I did not know was that sinful thoughts are by no means a reason to hate oneself. Honestly, if God loves us, how dare we hate ourselves? Are we to hate the objects of God’s affection? Further, I have always found instruction in the command “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The more one genuinely loves himself as a creation of God, the more he can love others in a righteous way. I would suggest that proper love for self necessarily flows into love for others, but I am not enough of a philosopher to know for sure. I do know that loving God and loving your neighbor have to go together and that one always flows into the other. Also ending one, ends the other.
After I graduated high school, and I got into recovery from my mental illness, I found instruction on self talk. That’s the little voice in your head that speaks your own thoughts for you. Obviously this one, we control. I learned to make it say nice things. I started looking for good things about myself to say and I repeated them. As I learned that I was not so bad, I came to be able to accept other people’s love for me, and then of course, God’s love for me. This is still a work in process. All truths have a balance and the balance to the truth that we are beloved, is that our sin is hated. We must hate our own sin and yet love ourselves. It’s quite the balance.
So I began to say nice things, but then I found something rather interesting. I longed to say the bad things. I missed them. I felt deprived of some sort of sick pleasure when I stopped myself from saying the bad things. When I slipped up and said them, I noticed something strange. It was like cutting.
Now I am lucky enough never to have fallen into self harm by cutting or other physical methods. I suppose there was a time when I bruised myself, but that was short lived. Many people around me did struggle with self harm using blades so I heard a lot about it. Apparently, when one does that, they feel a release from the emotional pain in a number of ways. The physical pain distracts them, but also drugs are released to address the pain when one is cut. Some cut themselves for this drug effect. I found that I seemed to get a similar effect when I said nasty things with my self talk.
Speaking kindly to myself was like quitting a drug, but it was worth it. For the first time, I began to really love myself. This enabled me to love others better. I’m currently in the process of reclaiming this ability. Previously, I could so control my thoughts that I could feel a bad thought coming and squash it before I even found out what it was going to be. I’m slowly getting there again. The LORD is an incredible healer and will bring me there once more.