Most of our emotional struggles, relationship difficulties and spiritual setbacks are caused by the lies we believe. We’ve believed these lies for so long that they appear to be true. This class is aimed at challenging your thinking. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
What do you really believe and why? Recognize that we all have assumptions that play in our minds. Are your assumptions based on truth, God’s truth, or do you believe them simply because you learned them throughout your life or because other people believe them? I’m sure you’ve heard or read the following many times:
Grab for the gusto
Look out for number one
Do your own thing
If it feels good, do it
Follow your feelings
You deserve to be happy
Are these worldly concepts true? Are they realistic and practical for every day living? No, they’re not, but it can be hard to let go of these concepts. I much rather do whatever I want to do and whatever makes me happy than to exercise self-control and be concerned with how I impact others. But as good as it seems in the short-term, in the long run, these lies are much more than harmless – they are dangerous and can destroy our lives. Think about what would happen if you did whatever you wanted to do whenever you wanted to do it. What would your relationships look like? How about your job – would your boss understand your desire to do your own thing?
It can be hard and painful to look at ourselves and what we believe, but it is worth it. To live emotionally and spiritually healthy lives, our thinking needs to be as truthful as possible. Let’s look at six more worldly lies.
You can have it all
This lie tells us we can have all the fullness of everything in life – all at once, too. A woman can have a high-powered job, a fantastic marriage, wonderful children, organize the neighborhood barbeque and help in church on the weekends, all the while staying in shape, eating right and having just the right clothes and make-up. It sounds absorb on paper, but most of us live as if this were achievable. We get upset if we have to choose between the promotion at work and spending more time at home or between that chocolate cake and those few extra pounds we’d like to lose. Speaking of diets – there is a multi-million dollar industry that proclaims dieting to be easy. Eat all you want and then take a few pills at night and watch the pounds melt away. If you’ve tried that, you know it doesn’t work. Let’s look at why.
Life is all about choices. For every ‘yes’ there is a corresponding ‘no.’ If you say yes to that chocolate cake, you are saying no to losing a pound this week. If you say yes to volunteering this Saturday, you are saying no to some other activity. We cannot be in two places at the same time, so we have to choose.
The reality is that we cannot have it all, but if we still believe we can, we will become resentful at the choices we have to make. Instead of accepting the choice, we will emotionally and mentally fight it and become angry at the person we believe is forcing us to choose. Or we will become angry at ourselves, thinking if we had more energy or will power, we could do it all. Whether we internalize or externalize our frustration, the end result is a bitter, unhappy person who is never satisfied with what they have and do. King Solomon was a man who had as much as it is possible for any human to have: kingship, hundred of wives and concubines, wealth beyond measure, fame and popularity, wisdom and ability. Yet in the end he found it wanting. In Ecclesiastes 1:14, King Solomon says, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.”
The destructive result of this lie is ungratefulness and dissatisfaction. It cheapens life, making us anxiously live for the future rather than appreciating and enjoying the present. A man named Isaac Bickerstaffe said, ‘If I am content with little, enough is as good as a feast.’ 1 Timothy 6:6-8 says, ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.’
You shouldn’t have to wait for what you want
Closely related to the ‘you can have it all’ lie is the belief that we should not have to wait for what we want. We want instant gratification and our western society provides us with fuel for that fire. We have fast food restaurants. But that isn’t enough, we don’t want to spend the time getting out of our cars and entering the restaurant, so we have drive-throughs. I have heard many people, including Christians, say they do not need to wait for marriage to have sex…as long as they care about the person, it is OK, they claim. People go on liquid diets to quickly lose the extra weight. We hate waiting in line – anywhere! People bail out on their relationships without giving them an adequate chance because they believe they have a right to be happy and in a fairy tale relationship right now. How many of us have gotten into serious debt because we made purchases on credit rather than waiting until we earned the money? And here’s a final one that might hit close to home: how often do you start speaking before waiting for the other person to finish speaking? We want to express our thoughts and opinions now rather than listen to another’s thoughts.
This lie contributes to the dissatisfaction of the ‘we can have it all’ lie. It also has destructive consequences such as the burden of debt or unplanned pregnancies or strained relationships. Patience and delayed gratification appears to be a lost art in our society. But Galations 6:7-8 says, ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful natured, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.’
My worth is determined by my performance
Our culture is obsessed with performance. We want to know how much money people make, how many ‘A’s a student receives, how many home runs a ball player makes and on and on. We often measure performance by the outward outcome. For example, a person who has a fancy car or a big house is often thought to have a better job than a person in a smaller house – and sometimes it’s assumed they have a better life! So many people are driven to achieve ‘success’ in business, which means a higher paying or more prestigious job.
We often believe that accumulation of material goods and achievement are an outward sign to the world that we are successful. And that success translates into worthwhile lives. We all struggle with this lie that our performance determines our worth. If we are performing well, we feel good about ourselves, but if we fail or don’t live up to our expectations, we belittle ourselves. But God says we are worthwhile regardless of what we do. We have permanent worth in God because he made us and designed us to be like him. Psalm 139:13-14 says, ‘For you created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.’
Life should be easy
We have so many conveniences for every day living – dishwashers, microwave ovens, garage door openers, automatic can openers. Washers and dryers are so commonplace that we consider them, along with most of the other conveniences we enjoy, to be necessities. We can’t recall a time when they were not available and so they have risen to ‘must have’ status. We feel we are owed these modern machines. The danger in this lie is that it easily slips into a demand that life become easier and easier. And so we become frustrated and angry if our refrigerator breaks down or if we have to work on the weekend.
This irritation points to our natural tendency to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. And that leads us to run from problems that need to be faced, and so they fester and become toxic, impacting our lives and relationships. It is hard to face the truth that life is difficult. Who doesn’t want an easy, carefree existence? But reality dictates that is an unrealistic goal. In John 16:33, Jesus said, ‘I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
When we try to mold life into our ideal, we simply frustrate ourselves, often becoming resentful and bitter and depressed. Willingness to refute this lie with the truth will lead to freedom from those toxic emotions. If you find yourself struggling with bitterness and/or depression, this lie might be one you are still hanging onto.
Life should be fair
How often have you heard those words: It’s not fair! How often have you said them, bitterly resenting the fact that you ‘lost out’ in some way? Although intellectually we know that life is not fair – and our parents most likely told us so many times – we still walk out our daily lives with the underlying assumption that life really should be fair. So rather than accepting it and moving on, we often emotionally fight against the unfairness. It could be at work when someone less deserving receives a promotion and we become angry. Or our brother received more of our parents’ time and attention and we so still don’t get talk to him. Or the table next to you at one of your favorite restaurants received their food first even though they ordered after you!
You can free yourself from this sometimes imperceptible lie:
· acknowledge that life is not fair
· allow yourself to feel hurt and angry
· decide whether to takes steps to correct the unfairness or whether to forgive and let it go
Emotions are good and they allow us to express the truth. The truth is that we will sometimes be hurt by the unfairness of life and we will feel that pain. That’s OK – it’s good to feel the pain of unfairness rather than to hold onto resentment and revenge. And after we have worked through some of the pain, we can make a rational decision as to whether this particular unfairness can be corrected. If it can, we should take action to do so. But if it is not feasible, it is time to let it go and forgive whoever treated you unfairly.
We have a choice. We can remain the victim of unfairness, stuck in a cycle of defeat. Or we can return evil for evil – perhaps holding onto resentment for decades in an attempt to punish the person who treated us unfairly. Or we can make the only choice that leads to true freedom: to forgive and move on.
People are basically good
This is a popular lie, so prevalent in today’s culture that we often feel like an unkind person if we oppose it. But the fact is that people are basically selfish, self-centered, dishonest and deceitful. As it states in Jeremiah 17:9, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ And in Matthew 15:19, ‘For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony and slander.’
We see it played out everyday – from ruthless dictators to the person who pushes past you to get the better place in line. That is not pleasant news to swallow – because that means that we, in addition to our fellow man, are basically looking out for number one. But it is a realistic, healthy view of mankind. It doesn’t mean that we distrust everyone we meet. It simply means that we balance our assumption of goodness with a healthy does of skepticism. Practically, this means allowing the goodness or self-centeredness to become apparent in a person. Don’t blindly assume someone has your best interests at heart. You may find yourself used or terribly disappointed. Instead, allow them the opportunity to show you with their actions that they have your best interests in mind. Give them room to display their goodness, but don’t turn a blind eye to their actions. This will help build healthy relationships based on truth and freedom.
1. Share an incident from this week using the growth work exercise:
a. State the event
b. Assign a value ($1 - $500)
c. Whose fault – yours or theirs
d. Self talk
e. Response – physical & emotional
f. New self-talk
g. Change in response
2. Which lie do you struggle with the most?
a. You can have it all
b. You shouldn’t have to wait for what you want
c. My worth is determined by my performance
d. Life should be easy
e. Life should be fair
f. People are basically good
3. Lies: You can have it all and you shouldn’t have to wait for what you want. Have you ever tried to have it all in some area of your life? Explain.
4. Lie: My worth is determined by my performance. In what areas of your life do you confuse worth with performance?
5. Lie: Live should be easy. In what ways do you minimize pain and maximize pleasure in your life?
6. Lie: Live should be fair. Have you been holding unto resentment toward someone for their unfair treatment? Are you ready to forgive and let it go?
7. Lie: People are basically good. Is this a lie you have believed? Is there a particular person in your life that proved this to be false?