by Joanie Butman
Choosing joy is easy while celebrating - like during my trip to Texas I discussed last week. However, choosing joy has to be more deliberate when life, and people, seem intent on stealing it. There’s nothing more destructive to joyful living than being surrounded by toxic people. You know the type – those who find fault with everyone and everything. It’s no wonder the Bible warns us to be discerning in regard to the company we keep. You become like those you associate with is a well-known truth.
“Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." 1 Corinthians 15:33
"He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20
That being said, we don’t always have the luxury of choosing the company we keep. We may work in a toxic environment or even worse – live in one. Whether in a family, office or church, negative people are like a malignant cancer contaminating those around them, drawing them into their own misery. While joy can be contagious, toxicity spreads even faster.
In my ongoing effort to control my tongue this week, I came face to face with one of those people – ME! Not so much in the way I treat others though there is certainly room for improvement. It’s the manner in which I speak to myself that’s my biggest issue. Regulating how I communicate with others is difficult enough. Changing my self-talk took this spiritual discipline assignment to a whole new level.
I began with this question, “How often do I encourage or congratulate myself?” Sadly, the answer was rarely, if ever. I would never dream of treating anyone – even my enemies – with the constant barrage of negativity that I force-feed myself daily. For reasons I can’t explain, the message I’ve agreed with most of my life is, “You’re not good enough – not smart enough, thin enough, funny enough, caring enough, spiritual enough, yada, yada, yada.” Intellectually, I know there is no condemnation in Christ, so what is the source of the disparaging voice resonating in my head? Use your imagination, but it certainly isn’t divinely inspired.
For spiritual training in my chosen discipline, I decided to replace the negative loop in my head with Christ’s voice. Years ago, a therapist made a suggestion I’d long since forgotten until this exercise. She asked me to visualize Jesus sitting across from me and tell her what He was saying. It was harder than you think to express words of affirmation to yourself, especially in front of another. Awkwardly, I stumbled through grateful when the session ended.
This week I didn’t find it any easier until I dug out the Father’s Love Letter printout I received years ago at Bible study. Each morning I replaced my critiquing with His, taking just one verse to repeat and meditate on throughout the day. Choosing whom you’re listening to is just as important as the company you keep. Is the voice life giving or noxious? Sadly, I can’t shake the toxic person I’m trying to avoid because every time I look in the mirror, she’s staring back at me. However, I can choose to nurture her with God’s affirmations. When rooted in His love, it’s difficult not to begin each day with joy and celebration regardless of my perceived failures, faults, flaws or circumstances. The best part is the kinder I speak to myself, the easier it is to control my tongue with others.
I still need to be doing ongoing moral inventory to ensure my actions and beliefs align but gently, with Christ-like love, forgiveness and acceptance. More importantly, I need to choose to remind myself daily that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am good enough simply because I am His child.
*Father’s Love Letter is a compilation of paraphrased Bible verses presented in the form of a love letter from God to you. ©1999 Father Heart Communications – FathersLoveLetter.com