WHO ARE YOU LISTENING TO? Three tips to Silencing Our Inner Critic
It is heartbreaking when students say something like the comments listed below.
· “I’m not good at this.”
· “I’m so stupid.”
· “It’s all my fault.”
· “I shouldn’t have even tried.”
Even more disheartening are those kids who don’t say anything aloud but refrain from doing certain activities because they’ve already convinced themselves that they’re not good enough. As educators, we are the first to encourage these students, attempting to nullify the untruths spoken by their inner critics. Nevertheless, if you have had much experience with this, you know silencing the inner critic is an uphill battle.
It may be hard for some of us to admit, but I would contend we all possess a “critical inner voice.” We experience this voice as a negative internal commentary on who we are and how we behave. Rather than reflect our true reality, this voice often spews irrational judgments that invade our thinking. If you hear a voice saying things you would never say to another person, it is probably your inner critic. As with students, we know a highly active inner critic can take a toll on our emotional and spiritual well-being.
As I look around our world today, I see so much negativity, unhealthy competition, complacency, and flat-out disobedience to the Word of God. I fear too many of us are listening to our inner critic. Critiques regarding our professional lives, family roles, personal appearance, dreams, and spiritual walk have become a part of our culture and may unknowingly sneak into our thought life. See if any of these sound familiar.
· Professional: Devalued
No one values you or your opinion. It’s best to just shut your door and do the work.
· Family Role: Inadequate
You don’t spend enough time with your children. Aren’t they as important as work?
· Personal Appearance: Careless
You are constantly struggling with your weight. Don’t you care about your health?
· Dreams: Incapable
It’s okay to dream, but you have too far to go and not enough time to make it happen.
· Spiritual Walk: Hypocrite
Some days you don’t even pray. Do you really trust God?
These may sound a bit harsh, and maybe your inner critic is kinder than most. I certainly hope so! Regardless, we can’t let our inner critic permeate our thought life. Allowing this to happen will rob us of God’s grace and the new life He promised those who believe (2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Is it possible to silence our inner critic? It depends on how hard we want to work. I fear our inner critic will never totally be extinguished, but with purposeful and consistent effort, our critical inner voice can become a tool we use to draw closer to Christ as He molds us into His image.
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8
Three Tips to Silencing Our Inner Critic
1. Acknowledge the source.
Always remember who the real enemy is. Satan is the father of lies. Your inner critic does not come from God. God convicts when we sin, but the critical inner voice to which I am referring is different. This voice is not rational. It doesn’t acknowledge your growth, and it isn’t solution driven. This voice uses the culture (e.g., social media, television, news) to emphasize your shortcomings. This voice is not loving. This voice does not extend grace. As long as we are trying to live obedient lives honoring God, Satan will not leave us alone. We have to be able to distinguish Satan’s voice from God’s voice.
The next time we’re tempted to speak hurtful words to ourselves, let’s stop and ask ourselves, “Who am I listening to? Is this what God would say to me?” Acknowledging the source of our inner critic is the first step to silencing it!
2. Replace untruth with truth.
Satan is tricky. He often tweaks the truth just enough to make it sound believable. There is only one source of truth and that is the Word of God. We must actively replace what the enemy is saying about us with what God says about us. Years ago discovering God’s truth in His Word would have taken hours of searching through our Bibles, but today it is easy!
Google is always an option, but two resources I have found particularly helpful are www.OpenBible.info and www.gotquestions.org. Websites like these help us dispel untruths by revealing God’s Word to us. For example, if your critical voice is saying that you are not valued as an educator, through a little research you can read about your value from the Book of Genesis where we are described as being created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). You can be reminded of how you are fearfully and wonderfully made in Psalms 139:13-16. Most importantly—and we can never forget this undeniable truth—you can be prompted to remember that Jesus gave His life for you (John 3:16-17) because of your value.
The truth is there are many voices today influencing our inner critic (e.g., social media, television, friends, family). Who are you listening to? While any of these could be a good influence on us, our initial response should be to replace untruth with God’s truth. When I am struggling, I will often write down Scripture on an index card or put Bible verses in the notes on my phone so I can regularly refer to them. We must be purposeful and consistent because the enemy of our souls is relentless! Knowing God’s truth will set us free from bondage to the inner critic (John 8:31-32).
3. Obey the Truth.
God’s Word is transforming (2 Corinthians 3:18) which means we can control and potentially silence our inner critic for good! There is so much I could say here, but these verses say it far better than I can. Please don’t skim over them.
Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” Luke 11:28
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3
I have often heard the Bible referred to as God’s love story to us. I personally love this description. God’s Word isn’t meant to be burdensome. His Word sustains us, guides us, propels us, and empowers us to silence the inner critic! That only happens, however, when we read it, listen to it, meditate on it, and respond to it as the Holy Spirit leads. The Bible isn’t just a book to be enjoyed. It is God’s very words that will change our hearts when we act on the truth through obedience (John 15:1-10).
Be careful who you listen to! When the inner critic starts to speak—and it will—acknowledge the source, replace untruth with truth, and obey the truth. Silence the inner critic for good!