Quieting The Voice

Inner Critic… the truth will make you free. – John 8:32

We all hear it. The voice that seems to come out of nowhere. The voice that judges you, accuses you, berates you, diminishes you. The voice that says you can’t, that you’re not enough, that you’ll fail, that no one loves you.

Someone looks at you with a frown and the voice says, “She hates you”.

You’re invited to try something new and the voice says, “You can’t. You’ll just fail”.

You think about calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while and the voice says, “They don’t want to hear from you. They’ll reject you.”

We all hear this voice. Every one of us.

Psychologists call this voice “the Inner Critic.” Some suggest that it’s the internalization of the negativity of early authority figures. Others suggest that the voice is a psychological survival strategy from long ago, seeking to protect us from risky and even dangerous behavior.

The Judeo- Christian tradition calls this voice “Satan” which means “accuser”. It’s the voice that keeps us paralyzed in doubt and fear, wallowing in guilt and shame. It’s a voice that seems to rise straight from the pit of hell.

Which gives new meaning to the phrase “shut the hell up”. How do we learn to silence this voice, or at least to quiet it so that we no longer live in reaction to it? In the last few years I’ve been learning to quiet the voice. Let me share a few things that have helped.

Recognize it. Recognizing when the voice is speaking is the first step to quieting it. You can’t deal with the voice if you don’t know when it’s speaking.

Give it a name.  Seriously. I sometimes even invite people to draw their voice. By naming and even picturing the voice we separate ourselves from it. That voice isn’t your voice. I named the voice “Radio Doom” because it never tells me good news!

Laugh at it. For reasons I don’t fully understand laughing at the voice diminishes its power. Martin Luther knew this strategy. He once wrote, “But I resist the devil, and often it is with a fart that I chase him away.” When the voice starts getting loud and I recognize it I sometimes say to myself, “Ha! Radio Doom is playing again. I’ve heard this all before and I’m not listening again. I’m changing the channel!”

Tell it the truth. It helps not only to laugh at the voice but to talk back. And when I talk back to the voice I tell it the truth that I know from scripture. I am loved. I am worthy. I am forgiven. I am enough. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Jesus, of course, had it right all along – the truth really does set us free!

Want to learn more? Check out this helpful animation. Click here.

When do you most often hear the voice? What’s helped you to quiet the voice?

Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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