Why It's Okay to Talk to Yourself

Originally published Monday, 15 July 2013.

It starts the moment we awake and continues all throughout the day. It happens while we work, eat, drive, and even while we talk to others. At the end of the day, while we lie in bed, it keeps us awake, making us toss and turn well into the night. It is so common place and such a part of us that we often don't even notice it.

Counselors call it "self-talk." Others call it our internal dialogue. You might call it talking to yourself. No matter its name, everyone thinks, ponders, and mulls over the events of their day and the circumstances of their life. After an argument with our spouse, we may replay it in our minds and think of all the things we would have said. We'd agree with ourselves that we were right and our spouse was wrong. When our kids do something wrong for the hundredth time that day, we think "What is going on? Why can't they just do what they are told?" And when someone cuts in front of us in line, we think "What do they think they're doing? That's not fair, I was here first."

Even more than just debating issues or pondering life's situations, we also say things to ourselves that just are not true. When something bad happens, the first thought in my mind is a sarcastic comment like this, "Of course, that's just how my life is." When the day starts off first thing with a challenge I think, "Oh great. This is going to be a horrible day." I also hear ongoing whispers of "Your just not good enough." "You don't matter." "Just stop trying and give up."

Our internal dialogue with ourselves is a powerful force in our decision making, our responses to others and to life's circumstances, as well as determining the direction of our emotions. My own internal discussions often snowball out of control. I tend toward too much introspection and often mull things over to death in my mind. One negative thought triggers another and they turn to each other and say, "Yes, that's right." They bring in more friends to join them, and then gaining speed, they produce an avalanche of tumbling thoughts and emotions.

Scripture tells us to "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." (Philippians 4:8) We are also taught to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Dr. Martin LLoyd-Jones put it like this, "I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing 'ourselves' to talk to us! Do you realize what that means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is that, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self...Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?" (from his book, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure).

Rather than allowing our thoughts to take over and push us over the edge into worry, fear, depression, and hopelessness, Dr. Lloyd-Jones suggested that we stop listening to ourselves and instead talk back to ourselves. The writer of Psalm 42 does this very thing. "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God" (v.5). He talks to himself asking, "Why are you so upset?" Then he tells himself what he needs to do--put his hope in God. When we hear ourselves speaking lies, we must talk back to ourselves by speaking the truth of God's word.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones goes on to write,

"You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: "Why art thou cast down'--what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: 'Hope thou in God'--instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do."

While we may joke about talking to ourselves, it's actually something we should do. We ought to preach the truth of the gospel to ourselves, reminding ourselves of who we are because of Christ. As a child of our heavenly Father, we are heirs of the Kingdom. We have been cleansed and made new by the sacrificial death of Christ in our place. God looks at us and does not see our sin but Christ's righteousness instead. We are new creatures; the old is gone, the new has come. God is even now molding us and shaping us into the likeness of his Son. He's not letting go or giving up on us and there is nothing that can separate us from his love.

How's that for speaking the truth to our self?

So go on, talk to yourself. Speak the truth. Remind yourself of who you are. And stop listening to the lies.