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Negative Self-Talk

Negative Self-Talk

I started my day by cleaning the large windows in my study. That is necessary to clarify what I see out the windows as I write. If only I were as diligent in cleaning the windows of my soul. Then I could truly see what's there, without the clutter.

All of us have an inner voice and wrestle with self-talk cluttering our souls.

Negative self-talk about relationships is not only a tool of the enemy in marriages, but the enemy is interested in sabotaging all relationships—including those of single adults; some before they start. The enemy wants us to be insecure in our relationships. Negative self-talk is a powerful theme in our culture of shallow, "here-today, moved-on-tomorrow" relationships and friendships. Groucho Marx once said he would not want to be a member of any country club that would have him as a member.

Likewise, too many single adults discount their potential for meaningful relationships. This is especially true for many who are divorced. One caustic divorcee said, "I only date them long enough to find out why no one else wants them." That reveals a great deal about this person's negative self-talk. I have long been saddened by the abrasive self-talk single adults unleash at themselves: "No wonder you are single!" they tell themselves. When we endure comments from others such as, "I just cannot understand why a nice person like you is not married," even if we don't respond, our negative self-talks dangles answers in front of us.

That's one reason why so many single adults are busy-aholics—we stay busy to distract ourselves from self-talk.

The Psalmist, however, offered a different strategy, "when you are on your beds, and for many of us, those moments before sleep become the parade ground for negative self-talk search your hearts and be silent" (4:4). Never agree to those tempting self-putdowns at bedtime or anytime with a negative: "You can say that again!" More than once, overhearing a person's particular negative self-putdown, I have wondered, "Why would that person say such a thing?" Because the person thinks it and even rehearses it. Many of us single adults say things to ourselves that we would never say to another human or let another person say to us.

I experienced a life changing moment in this area during a prayer meeting one night. Responding to a testimony, Pastor Millard Reed quoted John's assuring words, "This then is how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us," which is another way of saying "whenever negative self-talk plays havoc," "For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything" (1 John 3:19-20). One major spiritual goal is to let God's assessment of us permeate every fiber of our being.

God's great invitation is to "take captive every thought" (2 Corinthians 10:5) so we can create and enjoy stronger, more fulfilling relationships during this season of life called single.

Harold Ivan Smith, a faculty member for the American Academy of Bereavement and author of When You Don't Know What to Say (Beacon Hill Press), is a single adult who frequently ministers to other singles.