The Power of Pronouns

Last year I took a fascinating class at the national American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Nashville, Tennessee. It was taught by Carrie Stuart Parks, an author and forensic artist and was titled “Don’t Lie to Me”. The premise of the class was how language can be an identifier to recognize deception. When I realized I was sitting next to a bonafide FBI agent who was absorbing the information to teach to new recruits, I admit I felt a little thrill. lies

I’m learning the same stuff FBI agents know.

Coolness.

One thing Mrs. Parks brought out was the importance of pronouns. Honest people take ownership for their actions and feelings. “I came home at 6:30. I threw in a load of laundry and then took a shower.” People who have something to hide (or don’t want to admit to something), either change “I” for “you” or omit pronouns altogether. If asked about his evening, a deceptive person might say, “I guess I came home around six or so. You know you’re tired if you come right in, take a shower and go to bed.” Notice the difference? Not quite as direct. A little less ownership is involved.

These subtle signs are called language bumps.

pronouns“Consider this statement by a husband who claimed his wife was killed accidentally: ‘I picked up the gun to clean it. Moved it to the left hand to get the cleaning rod. Something bumped the trigger. The gun went off, hitting my wife.’ ” (http://www.fraud-magazine.com/article.aspx?id=4294971184) Notice how he dropped the use of “I” when it came down to accountability. He doesn’t want to hold the blame. Whether it was because he couldn’t deal emotionally with his guilt, or whether something more nefarious was at play, this guy inadvertently distances himself from admitting he is the one who squeezed the trigger.

What am I getting at here?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of words, of speech, of our tongues to heal or destroy. Just as lack of pronouns can signal deception, I think they can also inadvertently cheapen affection. Speaking for myself, I’ve noticed I have a bad habit of typing, “Praying for you” to friends and family. Nothing wrong with that. But how much better would it be if I were to add the simple pronoun “I”?

“I’m praying for you” is far sweeter than “Praying”.
“I’m lifting you up to our Father” is so much stronger than “Hugs”.

“I love you” is infinitely deeper than “love ya”.

See what I mean?

love of Jesus crossI want to be authentic. I want to take ownership of my emotions, my motives and treatment of people. I want to love them the way Jesus does. He never shies away from loving with complete abandon. He displays His affection with lavish, scandalous splashes of delight.

Speak life. Own your emotions. Love like Jesus. You’ll find your words will be a healing balm to more people than you could ever imagine.

 

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Lie #5: Approval Means I’m Loved

We’re up to lie #5 in our series on exposing the enemy’s schemes…”Approval means I’m loved.” This lie was nearly my undoing.

I desperately want people to like me. There. I said it. The thought of someone being displeased with me in any way drops a sick feeling in my gut.

What’s one way to shake that cold feeling of dread? Work harder. Be more agreeable, more likable. Fit in. Be accepted and never, ever let them see the real you. After all, if they know what you’re really like, the acceptance will disappear. Right?   please love me

That’s what I told myself, anyways.

I’ve battled people pleasing all my life. I can readily admit it now, but I would have died a thousand deaths to confess such a thing ten years ago.

At one point, my people pleasing was so bad, and weird, that I couldn’t even express my own tastes for fear of someone thinking I was odd. One day, my friends were chatting about how much they loved fresh tomatoes.

One of them turned to me with smile. “Is there anything more delicious than a fresh tomato, Tara?”

I replied, “Of course not! Nothing better.” tomato

Confession: I hate tomatoes with a passion.

Why did I lie? Especially over something so trivial? Because I craved acceptance. I needed their love. And I mistakenly thought that disagreement led to loss of love.

At the time in my life of my “tomato lie”, I did anything that anyone asked me to do. If a deacon said the sanctuary windows needed to be washed at midnight, guess who was down at the church at the stroke of twelve with Windex in hand?

All of that changed one night in 2002. For lack of a better word, I snapped. My physical body reached its limit and my emotions lay in scattered wreckage. I crawled on to the bathroom floor and curled myself into a ball on the bathmat while I sobbed into the wee hours of the night.

I was so overwhelmed, so undone and so completely exhausted I thought I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t escape. Every fiber of my being cried out for relief. cry

I remember curling the long soft tufts of the burgundy bathmat in my fists, clenching my teeth as salty tears filled my mouth.

God, You lied to me. You said if I served You, You would give me joy. I have no joy. I have no peace. This is not the victorious life You promised.

I was lied to, but not by God. The enemy had fooled me into believing the best way to feel loved was by doing whatever it took to make people like me. I fell for it…hook, line and sinker.

It wasn’t until I found myself begging God to take me out of this life that I realized I had been had.

Somewhere along the way, I took my eyes off Jesus and began living for the applause of people. Men and women just like me. Sinners and failures, just like me. People who have made a mess of their own lives, just like me. People who didn’t die for me, yet I esteemed their opinion as if they did. And I lost sight of my Savior in the process. I gave away freedom and unconditional love and traded them for conditions, hopelessness and chains. hands in chains

I’m tired of shackling myself to others’ expectations when obeying Him is all that matters. I’m tired of being sucked into a spiral of exhaustion when He has promised me rest. I’m tired of living like everyone else’s opinion of me is more important than His. I have no desire to place people, and their approval, as my idol, my focus or my hope any longer.

And that’s what this lie breeds…idolatry.

The common ground sought by people pleasers the world over is this: we have a desperate need to feel loved. We search for unconditional love in conditionally minded people. We crave approval, using it as a gauge to tell us our own worth. But all that matters is what God thinks—and He loved me so much, He gave His own life to redeem me from the land of darkness. It doesn’t matter whether I’m on top of the world or scraping bottom at my worst…His love never changes. And I’ve discovered this amazing truth is what my heart has been searching for all along.

Approval and love are not the same thing. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar. Take it from a girl who learned the hard way.

approval vs lovegalatians 1 10

 

Lie #2: If my life were different, I would be different.

Welcome back to our blog series “Liar”, a look at the lies Satan tells us and how to defeat them. Lie #2 is a sneaky one, one that I’ve fallen for many times. “If my life were different, I would be different.” 

if only

If my job only paid better…

If my husband treated me like he cared…

If our house wasn’t so small…

If my health was good…

If my kids would listen…

Have you been there? It’s a tempting way to live life. The “If Onlys” provide us with a fantasy world of perfection. A land where all our troubles vanish and then, finally, we can be who we really want to be. Happy. Content. Joyful.

There’s just one problem. That fantasy land does not exist this side of eternity.

Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, this world is a broken, twisted mess. We know there’s a mess, but we mistakenly think the worst of it is around us. It’s our surroundings. Our families. The people we work with. Our houses. Our finances. Our money (or lack thereof.) Our own bodies. The world system. We complain. We scrape and claw, trying to find some way out of the muck and mire but fail to realize the biggest mess isn’t the one around us. It’s the one inside us.

Let me put it another way. Whenever there’s a long period with no rain, what do people do? Complain. Pray. They beg God and search the barren sky for one sign of a coming cloud. They want rain. They can’t live one more minute without it.

grumpy nateAnd finally rain comes. Boy, does it come. So much rain that soon social media is flooded with bitter complaints. “Okay, I know we needed rain, but I didn’t want to build an ark today”. When it’s hot outside, we say we want snow. When it snows, we say we want the beach. We are never satisfied. Satan lies and tells us that we have a circumstance problem, but quite honestly, the majority of the time we have a heart problem.

To quote Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “Circumstances do not make us what we are. They merely reveal what we are.”

If we aren’t content in our current situation, it’s doubtful we will be content in any other situation. Here’s why: contentment has nothing to do with our surroundings. It’s 100% about the condition of our hearts.

Truly content people aren’t content because they are living in a perfect situation. They are content despite the adversary they live in. Look at what Paul penned in Philippians 4.

I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances.  I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need.  I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” (verses 11-13 AMP)

horse tied to chairFalling for the lie that “If my circumstances were different, I would be different” enslaves us. It locks our minds into the mentality of a victim with no hope of breaking free. Trapped, empty, hopeless…that’s exactly where Satan wants you.

You don’t have to live in discontent. You have a choice. We have very little control over our circumstances, but we don’t have to let our circumstances control us or our attitudes. The best way to combat a lie is with the truth.

Truth:

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.” ~James 1:2-5 can cross

God may not remove you from an uncomfortable circumstance because He’s working to shape you more and more into the image of His Son. Lean into Him. Embrace the uncomfortable. Give thanks in all things…even those rough circumstances. He’s making you complete.

Have you ever been in the middle of a circumstance you couldn’t wait to get out of only to find it wasn’t easy street on the other side? Have you found ways to challenge yourself to be content, like a 7 day no-complaining challenge? What have you learned in the middle of difficult circumstances? I would love to hear!

 

 

 

Battered Bluebirds: How to Handle Lying Emotions

The poor bluebird above our basketball goal. He’s just so…dumb. Every morning I walk outside to see my husband’s driver’s side rear view mirror battered and smeared, evidence of another early morning fight.

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. bluebird car mirror

Every morning, the male bluebird perches in front of my husband’s rear view mirror and sees him. That vile, evil threat. Another male bluebird just like him. A threat to his woman. To his babies. So he does what must be done. He pecks the foul fowl until his head is nearly smashed flat and his beak resembles the blunt end of a hammer. Poor dumb, bluebird. He doesn’t realize he’s actually fighting himself.

He’s his own worst enemy.

I shouldn’t be quick to judge. I’m my own worst enemy too.

Do you know where the enemy lies to most of us? About our emotions. He tells us that because we FEEL a certain way, it must be so. We feel God doesn’t love us due to circumstances being out of our control, so therefore, God must not love us. We feel neglected by our husbands, so therefore, we are neglected. We feel hopeless in our circumstances, so therefore there must not be hope.

emotions

We see something that looks real, so therefore it must be real. (Ahem, cue Mr. Bluebird.)

Emotions are not good or bad. They just ARE. They are God-given ways of experiencing life in a profound way. The problem is, our emotions were damaged in the Fall.

The blunt truth here is this: our emotions usually have very little to do with reality. They swing and dive with alarming speed. Truth doesn’t.

When you’re threatening to drown in those suffocating, overwhelming crush of emotions, stop and breathe. Analyze the emotion. Name it. Then confront how you’re feeling with the Truth of God’s Word.

“Lord, everything about this day is falling apart. I don’t feel like You see me. I don’t feel like You care. But Your Word says You see me. You set me aside for a purpose before I was ever born. I will cling to You and Your truth.”

Take a step back. Just because it looks and feels real, doesn’t mean it is. Just ask my friend Mr. Bluebird.

god's truth

Whatever the emotion, bring it into the light of God’s truth. Cling to what you know and not how you feel. It will make all the difference, not just in how you manage your day, but how you live your life.

How do you usually deal with your emotions? Are you dictated by them or have you found ways to control them? What lie does the enemy frequently try to tell you? I would love to hear!