Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When the Honeycomb Words Won't Stick

Last week a reader asked, "What do you do when you hear those [encouraging] words – but they go right through you as if they were never said – that would be my question – when you can't hear the positive what do you do?"

When a girl grows up with schoolmates calling her, "Dog," by which they mean ugly; "Bugs," as in the cartoon character, because of her severe overbite; "Brain," which in the strange world of elementary school is an insult, especially when targeted at a female...

When respected ballet teachers tell her she's not thin enough, straight enough, limber enough,...

When illness thins her hair, rounds her face, changes her husband's career path, keeps her from serving and loving her family in the way she's been accustomed...

Lies start digging trenches in her mind,*

Ruts so deep even kind words fall in.

The hairdresser calls her beautiful, and she thinks, "She's just saying that so she'll get a better tip."

Her husband tells her she looks pretty, and she thinks, "He knows how much time I spent on my makeup and hair and that I changed clothes six or seven times. He's afraid I'll be in a bad mood for our date."

Deep inside, those lies keep digging:

"Your appearance determines your worth."

"If you let them into your thoughts, they won't like you."

"You're not good enough."

"You don't measure up."

And do you know what? Those last two are true, but they are only part of the truth. The Bible says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, HCSB). The very next sentence continues, "They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).




The sins and shortcomings that the father of lies says disqualify her actually are actually the prerequisites for God's grace (see Romans 5:6-8).

Every time the girl chooses to believe the truth instead of the lie, another shovelful of dirt is scooped out of a new rut and the old one fills in just a little bit more.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). One.

"You are loved with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3). Two.

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well" (Psalm 139:14). Three.

One shovelful at a time, minds are transformed and renewed through Word and Spirit. 

*The rut image comes from Holley Gerth.

If the sweet, honeycomb words go right through us with no apparent effect, that could indicate we are believing lies that have become so ingrained in our thinking that they taint even true, kind, and beautiful words. From one struggler to another, here are some principles I am finding helpful:
  • Recognize the lies I'm believing. Vague feelings of accusation, rejection, and worthlessness are never from God. They are contrary to His character as revealed in Scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ.

    The Holy Spirit does convict His people of sin, but He rebukes specifically, with a view to correction, repentance, and growth in Christlikeness. Angry, blanket condemnation of who we are is the devil's strategy. Other Christians, like the mentor who first told me this, can be of great help in this process
  • Reject those thoughts as the lies they are.
  • Replace them with God's truth and ruminate on it. Some Bibles have a topical index that can help in finding applicable verses for particular needs. Sites like have key word search options. Asking an older Christian is also a tremendous resource to help locate the truth opposite to the lies.

    This is one more benefit to practicing Scripture memory; every repetition of truth digs the new mental rut a little deeper and fills in the old one just a little more.

    It's also the reason I firmly believe that sticky notes and index cards are (can be) a means of grace: truth on the cabinet, truth on the mirror, truth in the handbag, truth on the fridge,... Shhh! Don't tell the decorating police! (That reminds me of another whopper, that I am a failure as a housewife because my space doesn't look like the magazine, the neighbors', the relative's, the television show, etc.)
  • Rely on the truth. At some point, when I have recognized the lies and located the opposite truths, I must choose which to believe and which to act upon.

    If I have been withdrawing from Christian community because of lies I have believed, I need to repent of that behavior as well as the false belief that prompted it.  The same goes for making faces and sarcastic quips to deflect compliments, but maybe I'm the only one here who does that.

    Again, Christian family and/or friends can support us in this process. When Allen catches me shrugging off his kind words, he sometimes calls me on it, gently but firmly: "I said, 'You look pretty.' Are you calling me a liar?" Without that kind of accountability, lasting change is even more difficult.
[There is a level of wounding and depression so deep that even the first step of recognition is impossible without help. If that describes you, I'm so very sorry and pray that the Lord who loves you would bring to you or lead you to the person best fitted to begin restoration in your life. Seeking help is not a sign of further weakness or failure.]
    Other helpful resources I'm aware of include the following:
    Happy digging, Crumbles!

    Post script: Some commenters have contributed additional insights and helpful resources. If it has not been your habit to follow the comments, I encourage you to take a moment longer to do so today.

    Considering how to walk in Christ who is Truth and whose Word is truth...


    1. Full of truth. I'll be rereading this because it's so full of good. Those damaging ruts are powerful, but not as powerful as the Truth of God. btw, you are beautiful!

    2. Trying to ruminate on God’s truths today. Thanks for such an insightful post. When my husband tells me I’m beautiful, I often think, “He can’t really mean that! I have a mirror. I see what I look like.” So when God tells me he loves me, am I responding the same to him too?

      You mentioned two of my favorite resources: Search for Significance and Lies Women Believe. I’ll need to look into the others now…. Thank you!

    3. this post is so visibly the result of the thinking and praying you said you in your earlier post you were going to do before answering your reader's question...

      first, it was brave and kind to talk about your own experiences, rather than keeping the discussion on a general level. brave, for obvious reasons; kind, because it shows solidarity with readers who have at one time or another struggled to not lose sight of the truth, and fall for the lies (which is to say, just about all of us).

      i'm really sorry about some of the things that happened to you (especially as a child), and thankful that you are nevertheless as you are! in particular,i'm thankful that, in spite of your avowed tendency to "deflect compliments" (and no, you're not the only one who does that) when your doctor complemented you on all your efforts, you "basked" in that complement in a very healthy way. (oddly enough, this struck me as very healthy when i read your first post: i remember thinking then that in similar circumstances, i might well have (in thought, if not out loud) deflected the kind words.)

      your advice to fellow strugglers is deeply helpful. the only thing i'd add is that i think some bits of it can only be put in practice by someone who is already partly free of the lies you describe. i think that someone in the grip of self-hatred may find themselves unable to, as you put it, "reject the thoughts as the lies they are", and *choose* to believe and act on the truth rather the lies (even when they read the truth in Scripture, and know at an intellectual level that it is the truth). someone in the grip of self-hatred may see that they shouldn't withdraw from Christian community (this may be just one more thing they are beating themselves up about), and yet be unable to be a genuinely engaged member of that community. when we find ourselves in this plight, i guess, all we can do is cry out to God: i'm broken; even if i acknowledge the truth intellectually, i can't see it "with the eyes of my heart", and act on it. please fix me!

      thanks so much again for the post...



    4. and who was that reader who asked the question? (raises hand)

      This was 3748 shades of brilliant! Some of it I'm going to steal – as I continue to write on my blog about love declaring war against the negative voices. If only I knew someone's name – I could give them proper credit when I steal from them :-) I read this all, I read it slowly, I took some notes, and I think it's really nice that you took the time to answer just a casual question with such a thoughtful post. Thank you. And God bless you.

    5. I had those same things said about me growing up. It is hard to believe you are beautiful either inside or out when you hear those opposite words. 3 things changed my perspective about myself: Psalm 139, Don and Katie Fortune's book, "Discover your Spiritual Gifts" (where I started to understand my giftings weren't handicaps), and to see myself how God sees me. I always had a difficult time accepting kind words - when my spiritual parents at church said, "(Husband's name), have you told your wife how lovely she looks today. Maryleigh, you look lovely today." I'd never had father-words like that in my life - but God had been planting seeds, teaching me to see myself as He sees me, and I had a choice. I smile, and just beamed, "Thank you, Everett" (He was a retired minister who had taken us under their wing). I caught those Father-Words and held them close. Your post echoed the struggles of my heart! It is such a blessing post of hope and faith! Thank you:)

    6. @Lisa notes... You're welcome! June Hunt is a biblical counselor and radio host who works in Dallas, so she may be better known here. Beth Moore most likely needs no introduction; I found this new book very helpful last summer. My local library offered that one.

      Let me know what you think!

    7. @chris Thank you for making that connection. Yes, it was. There seemed to be a lot of pain behind the question, and it felt important to take that seriously.

      Thank you also for your thoughtful, insightful comment...just so many lovely bits...thank you.

      Your analysis of the feelings of "someone in the grip of self-hatred" and the solution thereto is particularly helpful. I considered addressing that at least to say I am not qualified to address it. Your paragraph is so well-done, however, perhaps I will add a post script encouraging future readers please to read the comments.

      If that has been your experience in the recent past, I'm very sorry but give thanks you have received enough healing to express truth as you do here.

      You're very welcome. Grace and deep peace to you in Christ Jesus!

    8. @Craig Thank the Lord that this gave you some help and encouragement. I hope you read the comment preceding yours; there were some additional thoughts you may find helpful.

      The question felt more serious to me than perhaps it was meant, and that is such a common struggle. Thank you for prodding me to consider it more deeply.

    9. @bluecottonmemory I'm so sorry you had those same things said about you and grew up without those father-words. Truly I am. My parents loved me and spoke words of blessing to me (and fixed my teeth), so I can't even imagine how much harder it would be without that.

      God's grace is amazing and so personal. Praise to Him for bringing you and your husband mentors to heal those wounds.

      Thank you for your honest comment and sharing additional resources where you have found help.

      May your heavenly Father continue to pour His balm and comfort into your heart.

    10. What a raw post! You brought tears to my eyes, as I experienced some of the taunts you mentioned. Thank you for opening up your heart! God is not the father of those lies. The enemy, or the devil, is the author.
      Thank you also for your visit earlier to my blog. May God go before your day!
      Only because of Him,

    11. @ruthkaup Thank you, Ruth, for reading and for your empathy and encouragement.

      I'm sorry you experienced some of the same taunts, but thank God for pouring His light and truth into your life, as well.

      (Really, I fully realize that I got off quite lightly compared to the real abuse suffered by so many. That humbles and gives one pause.)

      May God go before your day, as well!

    12. I remember in 1st grade (back in the mid-70s) being taught about "warm fuzzies" and "cold pricklies". We had a little chant to say in front of the mirror each morning: "Today I'm okay and so are they, today I'm a prinz and so are they. Today I will give 10 warm fuzzies away. Today is now. Today I'm okay."

      A prinz was probably a play on "prince" that indicated we were all people of value. And a warm fuzzy was any kind of compliment or helpfulness or kindness we could show someone else.

      What a gift it was to teach children in such a simple and memorable way a basic understanding of the Golden Rule and to encourage its practice. Thanks for such and encouraging post!

    13. @withgraceandgratitude While I don't remember being given a chant to say, my elementary teachers also talked about warm fuzzies and cold pricklies. :) Thank you for reading and taking time to share your thoughts. Grace and peace to you in Jesus!

    14. Hi Tinuviel.

      This was a timely read for me. Thank you.

      May I email you about something pertaining to this subject? My email is

    15. @L.A. Krueger You're welcome, Laure. Of course you may write to me. My e-mail address is on the contact page for anyone who wishes to use it.

    16. What a treasure your post is! Referred to you via Ann Voskamp. I'm on the same journey..getting out of old hurtful and dysfunctional ruts...or as the brain scientists say...creating NEW neural pathways to replace the old lies. I'll share a couple of resources which have been heart and life changing for me and my Bible study group of Oatmeal Girls (we share breakfast as we study!). First is all the works/books/teachings of Dr. David Eckman at Second is a 22 week deep discipleship process which grew out of Eckman's work called
      May you all be blessed today by A greater awareness of your heavenly Father's deep love and utter delight in Y-O-U!

    17. @Andrea Thank you for following Ann's link and for your generous comments! You are spot on about the neural pathways. That's exactly the science I tried to capture in the trench image.

      I'm glad you have a Bible study group where you can grow and be transformed in community. The materials you mention are new to me, but I appreciate the links.

      Grace and peace to you in Christ!


    Thank you for sharing your day with me! Your presence here is a gift. *You* are a gift. Right now I am unable to reply to every comment, but please know I read and pray for each and every commenter. Grace and peace to you in Christ.