Tag Archives: 2 Corinthians 10:5

The Negative Assumption Trap

I confess: I have spent way too much energy over the years wondering what other people were thinking. And then making (what I deemed to be) the most likely assumptions of what they were thinking when I couldn’t, in fact, know what they were thinking. Usually to my own detriment.

Is this just me, people? For goodness’ sake, if it’s just me then please get me some help.

But I suspect I’m not alone here.

Someone responds to your innocent question with a “tone,” and three miles down your trail of thought later you conclude they must not like you and probably never have.

You walk into a group where everyone greets you except one person – the same person you accidentally cut off in the parking lot. Even though you gave them an apologetic wave at the time, they must be mad at you. Maybe not even speaking to you.

You’re at a party involved in (listening, mostly) a boisterous conversation and everyone’s laughing. You begin to speak when someone interrupts to tell (another) story, louder and more animated than you. Everyone’s attention turns to them. You must not be worthy of sharing your stories – why would anyone want to hear what you had to say after all? You’re not that funny.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Oh my word, it’s exhausting in my brain!

Over the years I’ve gotten a much better handle on this defeating sort of self-talk (most of the time), but in high school it could be almost paralyzing.

I may have never raised my hand a single time in high school. Speak in public? Probably get laughed at for getting something wrong. Ask a question? Probably get laughed at because I should already know the answer.

And if a cute guy seemed flirty? Forget about it. I would convince myself in a nanosecond that his friends put him up to it as a joke at my expense.

Call it paranoia if you want (could’ve been). Maybe social anxiety (I’m pretty sure this is our winner). Whatever it was, it was a problem.

It wasn’t until after college that I truly began to understand how often I was basically inventing backstories and lies regarding what other people were thinking about me. And not just “oh that’s not quite true,” but more along the lines of “wow, that wasn’t even close to the truth.”

I assure you it wasn’t on purpose, it just sort of happened.

Since then I’ve learned to distinguish between reality and false assumptions much more easily. (Well, most of time.) I can generally recognize the negative assumptions before my thoughts spiral downward, and am able get my mind back on the truth track before I actually start believing the falsehoods that pop into my mind.

In an effort to help prevent you from riding the negative assumption train like I did for too long, here are a few reminders to get our minds back on track when we start making negative assumptions about what other people think:

  1. Most people are generally good. It’s only right to give them the benefit of the doubt; it’s insulting to them to assume the worst.
  2. Most people are too busy thinking of themselves to be thinking that hard about me or what I said/didn’t say. This is freeing to me! Also, assuming they’re thinking that hard about me is pretty egocentric.
  3. Whose opinion am I after – theirs or God’s? Hands down, God’s. If I follow his lead and stay on his path, it doesn’t matter a bit if other people like/don’t like it. That’s up to God to work out.

Our thought-life is like a muscle. The part we exercise gets stronger. If we think negative things regularly, it becomes easier and easier to think negatively.

BUT. On the flip side, we can actually train our brains to think more positively. We just have to be extremely proactive about taking each negative thought captive and replacing it with truth. Soon it will come more naturally and we won’t have to try quite so hard.

As 2 Corinthians 10:5 implores us:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Let’s choose to believe the best about other peoples’ intentions (until proven otherwise, at least). Let’s take every thought captive this week and speak truth into our minds. Why would anyone think poorly of us anyway? We rock!

Is this something you’ve struggled with? Leave me a comment to share your story!

My So-Called Power

SO many apple blossoms

We have a large apple tree in our back yard. A few weeks ago it was chock full of baby apples. I’m talking, thousands. Today, if I walk up to examine it, I immediately notice a change. Between the ground level (where the old, heavy branches hang, touching the grass) and about five feet up, all around the tree, there are no apples. Above that level, there are still hundreds, if not thousands.

Most evenings, lately, you would find me on our screened-in back porch. Reading, writing, just sitting. And most evenings (and many mornings), lately, I’ve observed a deer making herself at home as she takes her supper from our apple tree. It’s a beautiful, peaceful sight and I don’t mind sharing, since we have plenty. It’s just been making me think…

Will it thrive or even survive?

Sometimes, especially with this writing business I’ve been attempting this year, I feel like a baby apple, hanging around the five foot mark, not sure if I’m going to survive and thrive, or if I’m going to be knocked down and eaten for breakfast. There are so many unknowns. So many things I don’t even know I don’t know.

But there’s something about the anticipation of the unknown. The excitement you feel knowing, once you proceed with whatever lies in front of you, things will either go well…or not so well.

Maybe it’s the nerves you feel before an interview. “What if this turns out to be my dream job? What if they never call me back?”

Maybe you’re sending your child off to school for the first time. “What if they don’t make friends? What if they make amazing friends?”

Or in my case, I’m finishing up my first book proposal. (If this is a foreign concept to you like it was to me only a few months ago, let me tell you this. Writing a book proposal is more intimidating than writing the book itself. It’s intense, people.)

When I complete the proposal I’ll be sending it off to a publisher who’s expressed interest in reviewing it. At this point, my mind is saying, “This is great, I’ve put a lot of love and hard work into this! Hopefully they’ll love it!”

But I know as soon as I press send to email it to the publisher, my mind will switch to, “Oh no, what if they hate it? What if it’s terrible and no one wants it?”

Why the big difference?

Right now, before I hit send, I’m the one in control. As soon as I press send I’m relinquishing all my so-called power.

It’s the same concept as when we offer our love to another person, knowing they now have the power to hurt us. Or even just going to work every day, knowing that you have a boss who ultimately has the power over your future.

We quickly go from the excitement of unknown possibilities to the other side, where worry, fear, and distrust make their home in our minds.

Beauty in the unknown. Will it become a juicy, delicious apple? Or deer supper?

But what if it doesn’t have to be this way? What if we could hold on to the same optimism and hope we had from the start? “That’s impossible,” you might say. “Don’t you know the world is a harsh place and you always have to be on your guard?”

Well, yes. It is wise to be on our guard to some degree, knowing that the world is a messy place and we don’t want to be taken advantage of.

BUT.

We don’t want to hold so tightly to our guard that our hands are too full to embrace the good plans God has for our lives. Wouldn’t that be a shame?

What if we tried making the choice (yes, choice) to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and replace the negative thoughts with the truths God wants us to remember about his good plans for us?

Truths like Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

You see, if we did more than simply read this verse and tried actually believing it and letting it absorb into our hearts and minds, I have a feeling we might find a little less anxiety and worry on the other side of whatever intimidating situation lies in front of us today.

Now I’m going to go (hopefully) finish up my proposal. And then I’m going to hit send. And then I’m probably going to have some (okay, lots of) coffee and chocolate while I let the butterflies settle.

And then I’m going to do my best to give my control to God instead of being fearful that I gave it away to someone else. Because honestly, if I ever truly believed I held the power in my own hands, I would have some serious soul-searching to do. It’s freeing to know that God has the power here. Thank goodness I’m not the one calling the shots.

(Addendum, 5 days later. The publisher is interested in my manuscript! Now the journey continues as I search for an agent. Yes, this process is a little backward, but this seems to be the path God is laying before me, so I’ll keep walking it unless I’m otherwise redirected. Now I just hold on tight and see what happens!) 

What are you holding your breath about in your life right now as you wait to see which way something goes? Are you keeping yourself from hope in fear of being disappointed? Are you embracing the possibilities?

Leave me a comment to let me know what’s going on with you. I’d love to lift you up in prayer on your journey. And while you’re at it, zip over to the subscribe button (on the side of your computer or the bottom of your phone) —I’d love to be able to send you future posts directly to your inbox! (No, spam, promise.)