How Negative Self Talk Hurt My View of God

“I was trying to find the right time to tell you something that’s been bothering me,” my sister Janet said.

“Well, you just made this the right time by telling me you are looking for the right time. So what’s on your mind?” I asked.

Stop the Harsh Labels

“I’ve been reading your blogs, and I don’t like it when you refer to yourself as a sinner.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve known you all your life, and you were a good kid who has become a good husband and father. I’m proud of you. Calling yourself a sinner is such a negative and harsh label.”

“But that’s who I believe I am. In fact, we are all sinners. We do things we know we shouldn’t do. We hurt people we are close to. We live with guilt from having done these things,” I explained.

“To label yourself a sinner is so heavy and negative. It doesn’t help you to have this view of yourself,” she said.

We went round and round in the conversation which got a bit tense. This went on for 30 minutes. In the end, we simply disagreed.

If I was right in my thinking, why did the conversation bother me so much?

I just couldn’t let it go. After all, my sister loves me and wants the best for me. I know it wasn’t easy for her to bring this up.

Recognize Your Change

I met with my friend Cortney who leads the Tuesday lunchtime Bible study I attend in midtown. I recounted the conversation I had with Janet and asked him what he thought.

He said, “Your sister is right. You shouldn’t label yourself a sinner.”

“But I sin so therefore, I’m a sinner.”

“I agree you still sin. As do we all. But the label of ‘sinner’ does not apply to you anymore. Before you accepted Jesus you were a rebel. So God called you a sinner. You weren’t in a relationship with him. You were on your own path. Then you repented of your sins and came back to God through Jesus. Now he calls you a child of God.”

“So I should call myself whatever God calls me. Is that what you are saying?” I asked.

“That’s right.”

I do have a tendency to be hard on myself, and I compound the issue by negative labels. Now whenever I refer to myself with a negative label, I am going to ask myself, “Is this what God is calling me?”

Thanks, Janet, for pointing this out to me.

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2 thoughts on “How Negative Self Talk Hurt My View of God

  1. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

    It took me over 30 years walking the Christian life before I really accepted I was a sinner. Surrendering to the fact I was sick was one of the most loving thing I’ve ever done for myself.

    I, like you, have a long history of being hard on myself. For me this “worked” because it made me better, stronger, smarter, and thus more successful. But, it was also a way I beat up on myself, and so I agree that it is not good. For me it was a pride mixed with self-harm. The word sinner is often used in such a negative way. It’s a word I used in pride (it got me lots of brownie points in religious circles) and as a way to self-harm (yeah I really do suck, I better step up my game).

    Thus, I didn’t really have any clue about what it meant when the Bible says Jesus did “not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” and when the apostle Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” It would seem a bad thing for Paul to call himself the worst sinner. What was wrong with him?

    In business, like life, we face problems. Imagine a company that has a problem – a serious one that if not fixed will ruin the company. One business owner ignores it and says, “My company doesn’t have a problem.” (i.e. “I’m not a sinner.”) Another person does nothing but weep and wail about it, “Woe is me, my company is over.” (“I am a wretched sinnnnneeeerrrr!”) A third acknowledges it but doesn’t really believe it, “Yeah our customers aren’t happy, but you can’t please everyone.” (“Of course I’m a sinner, who isn’t?) Another sees it, but has no solution. “Our business model is flawed but there’s nothing anyone can do, we’ll just do what we can to stay in business as long as we can.” (“I’m a sinner, but things will get better in heaven.”) Then there is the sinner I believe Jesus came to save. They see they have a problem, they know the solution, and take the right steps to fix it. “We made a mistake, we admit it, we see it. We did a search and found someone with experience in this matter who’ve we’ve hired to fix the problem.” (“I am a sinner and Jesus came to save me, and so I’ve given him authority to do what needs to be done, and I have faith he will do it.”)

    • I connect with how labeling ourselves a sinner in Christian circles sort of earns brownie points. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

      We can’t connect with God unless we come to believe we are sinners. As a business person and leader, we can’t connect with people unless we show we are struggling with something in our business. I found we need to tell our story, our struggle, and then people can connect. They connect their story to our story but we have to give them the truth.

      I heard something recently which really connected with me. “As Long as we insist on being the hero of our own story we will never tell the truth.”

      This is true whether Christian, business person or just plain human being.

      Jesus is the hero of my story.