I heard a sermon this week that made me reflect on my first few years as a child post divorce. “Garbage in, garbage out.”, the pastor said, as he spoke of the consequences of an uncontrolled mind. So true. Garbage was about all my mind was fed for the remainder of my childhood. It sounds pathetic, but it proved to be the starting point of who I am today. Imagine that? It had purpose!
Mrs. Radar’s 5th and 6th grade class was only the beginning of the in-school bullying. It was ramped up in middle school, as it is for all children. I don’t always remember much, but I swear I can retrace every fine line on the face of Ms. Patty, the girl occupying the seat next to me every day in art class. Her and two twin boys taunted me endlessly. It cemented immense internal shame and certainty that I was the ugliest, least talented, most ignorant person ever born. And, it always involved how poor I was, which dictated much of my later behavior. A misfit is what I told myself. By ninth grade I locked arms with another girl and planned my suicide. It was treacherous. The depths of unnecessary sorrow forged by floating words of which we have no means of defense at such a young age. It’s unfortunate. Obviously, the consideration for suicide was abandoned.
It took me a long time to understand that I could control the intake of garbage, and the effect of that garbage on my brain, and thus my soul. In fact, I am in my mid-40’s just first realizing how literal the bible is when it states that death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits, Proverbs 18:21. Now a parent of teen boys, I wonder why we are not teaching this truth more explicitly. If the outcome of our life can be determined by our words and thoughts, unquestionably, then why do we spend so little time teaching our children to mind their words and thoughts? There is plenty of science to back this up and likely many books documenting this truth, such as Switch on your Brain, by Dr. Caroline Leaf. It’s one of my favorites since she bounces between scripture and science to show the overlay of information. Scripture and science parallel each other in their conclusions of how our brains work. The fact is, what we expose our brains to manifests in our life. Allow yourself to listen to someone defining you as a stupid person results in you thinking you are a stupid person and either making stupid decisions or no decision at all out of fear that it will be evidence of this truth. How you talk to yourself and the words you speak are no different.
Think about the power behind this reality. It’s insane really. We focus so much of our time on doing, but the reality is our life is manifested in our thinking and speaking. Take a moment to consider the words, and even images that conjure up words, poured into our minds daily from TV, radio, videos, gaming systems, advertising, conversations filled with gossip or shame, and reading material. Everything feeds your brain which manifests into life. Now think about what we allow our children’s brains to be exposed to daily. Their brains are in an infancy state, even more fragile. Yet, as a whole, we pay little attention to the power we are giving these avenues of connection for ourselves and our kids. In fact, many are now in the habit of using these connections as a tool for keeping our children occupied.
I am no different. Most of my life I allowed every word to seep into my mind like a serpent wrapping itself around my heart, sucking it dry of all hope and happiness. Did you ever notice how much easier it is to hear the bad over the good too? Well, keep in mind, as toddlers, we hear the word “no” an average of 400 times a day. We learn what to do and not to do through negative language, teaching our brain synapse to respond far quicker to negative talk.
Today, I am an enormous advocate for undoing the damage. I teach my children this truth about words on a daily basis through a leadership course, biblical knowledge and constant reminders if I catch them breathing death instead of life. Why learn a trade or get a college degree if the foundation of who you believe you are is wrapped up in negative thought? I have taught them techniques to train their brain.
- Speak or process negative thoughts and catch yourself doing it? Stop! Repeat delete, delete, delete and now tell yourself the opposite. I am so stupid becomes, delete, delete, delete, I am super smart and can do all things through God who strengthens me. Boom! It’s amazing the difference.
- Start each day in a state of gratefulness for three minutes followed by prayer. Meditate with your hand over your heart while visualizing something that brings joy to your life. Now transfer that feeling to a current situation that you wish to find joy or abundance and stay focused on this for a few minutes each day.
- Breathe in for five seconds and then release for five seconds, while imagining that you are exhaling negative and stressful thoughts.
These are all techniques I teach my children to provide them with a line of defense to the all too easy path of negative thinking and the negative world around us.
I desire a life made easy for my kids. Who doesn’t? But, I have come to realize that starts with the power of their tongue, their thoughts and to whom and what they expose their brains. If only I had understood this when I was sitting in a cesspool of negativity. Delete would have been my mantra, and I would have empowered myself to rise above, eliminating years of pain.
Such a simple tool, perhaps it’s why so few make it a priority. Life is hard. Talking to myself can truly bring about all my dreams? Is that really possible? Try it. More importantly, let your kids give it a shot, and watch the amazing transformation that occurs!