When I was growing up, a friend of my parents was driving her daughter to the mall one day. She and her daughter were enjoying time together, laughing and talking about the kind of prom dress the daughter was looking for, when suddenly, a bicyclist rode directly into her path and she hit him. He went flying over the car, and was killed from the impact.
It wasn’t her fault, but to say that she had guilt and remorse over his death is putting it mildly. She struggled, turned inward and stopped enjoying all that life had to offer. Her daughter had a difficult time too, but she wasn’t behind the wheel, and had all of life ahead of her, so she didn’t stay in a state of limbo.
The mom, on the other hand, well, as people say these days… the struggle was real. I mean, R.E.A.L. She was paralyzed over causing another human to lose a life. She felt horrible for his family, because she thought she caused the accident, even though the cyclist was at fault. The investigators told her over and over again that it wasn’t her fault. His family absolved her.
She just couldn’t forgive herself.
How do you change the way you feel or think about something?
This is a question I ask of myself a lot more the older I get and the more complicated life has become.
I’m often flummoxed (good word, by the way) by how my emotions can color my world. And so quickly too.
I’ve been going through a really rough patch – awful, really – for a year or so, and if I let it, the situation could keep me on the floor in a state of utter despair.
And I don’t use that word lightly. I quite agree with Marilla Cuthbert that “to despair means to turn your back on God.”
So, how do I not despair when so many of my waking moments are spent trying to contain or override negative thoughts? Like my parents’ friend, how do I move past it and let a good life overcome those thoughts?
For me, a lot of it comes down to reshaping the way I talk to myself. And I do talk to myself. Out loud and in my head. Mostly in my head thank goodness, but I definitely have been known to talk out loud like a crazy person. But… that’s neither here nor there…
If I’m being honest, when things overwhelm me, I don’t say nice things to myself or about myself. Even though my parents friend knew she wasn’t at fault in the accident, she kept telling herself that she was. I’m the same. There are some things I can take the blame for in my life – a LOT of things actually – but there are some things I blame myself for that I shouldn’t. Often without realizing it, I tell myself that I shoulda coulda handled a situation differently.
Like the time the realtor called to show our house with 1 hour’s notice, and I was in the middle of Christmas baking, and the floor was a virtual powdered sugar explosion, I taught my kids that when an unexpected situation arises, it’s okay to act like Genghis Khan, The Wicked Witch of the West, a tornado and some of the guests on Maury Povich all rolled into one. I was not a nice person, and definitely not a good role model.
The looker didn’t buy, and I realized there was no need for me to have reacted that way, especially, even if they had bought the house. So… I went into full-on “what a horrible mom I am for behaving that way” mode. Instead of accepting how I reacted and then choosing to move on, with hopefully a different reaction next time, I kept berating myself for all that I didn’t do and all that I did.
My reaction happened, and once it had, there was nothing I could do to change the past. I could only change how I would behave in the future. You know what? While I still tend to get tornadic when someone wants to see the house, I don’t go into witch mode anymore. It’s not worth it.
The reality is… my house may sell if it’s a little cleaner – or not – but my attitude toward cleaning will do nothing to change a buyer’s mind. I can’t keep blaming myself for something that’s out of my control. Instead, I need to shift my thoughts to what I can do. Or better yet, what God can do!
Similarly, the reality of the situation I’ve been going through over the past year is that I need to talk about what I can do, which is mostly just let God change the circumstances – or not. And ask God to give me the faith, assurance, hope and strength to get through whatever happens.
The book of Romans has so many great nuggets of wisdom in it for keeping me rooted in this truth.
When I want to keep beating myself up about something?
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
In other words, Jesus doesn’t condemn me, because I’m in Him, and He is blameless!
HOW do I stop thinking about the things that sometimes overwhelm my negative thoughts?
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5
Simply ask God to direct thoughts away from the bad toward Him, who is always good, and always loving, forgiving, merciful, and ever present.
I don’t have it all figured out, except that I do. God has it all in His hands. I just need to give it all to Him.