It can be so easy to forget the powerhouse that sits above our neck encased in our skull can grow and change throughout our lifetimes. This powerhouse is often a field of battle between negative and positive thoughts that are often whispering quietly without our notice or at other times loudly screaming at us. Those thoughts have created a mindset that began developing from our earliest years of life. Unfortunately, not everything that goes into the brew is truth, but we didn’t realize it and took some of those lies as facts. Their impact can affect us for years to come.
Perhaps that is why so many books have been written about how to improve or change the habits of our minds, to spiritually war against the enemy’s taunts that he plays out there. Psychology also seeks to help us with cognitive-behavioral techniques that help us identify negative self-defeating thoughts and tools to help us replace them with truth. No quick fix appears to be listed in any of the resources available.
One of the challenges for us is that our mindset ultimately gravitates into one of two types. These affect how we view every mistake, disappointment, setback, and failure and either move us forward toward hope or cause us to halt forward movement and give up.
Angela Duckworth in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, identifies these two mindsets as a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.
If we have a growth mindset, we believe we can do better, that it’s possible if we work harder, get additional support, and receive encouragement that we can get smarter and do better. And guess what? We get up and try again! Research shows that if you have a growth mindset, you’ll be more likely to do better in school, enjoy better emotional and physical health, and have stronger, more positive social relationships with other people. It doesn’t mean we don’t fail or face challenges. What matters is our response to those defeats.
If we have a fixed mindset, we believe that those failures, setbacks, disappointments, and mistakes mean we don’t have the “right stuff”, aren’t good enough. And guess what? We give up. That belief can be so strong that we don’t ask for support, we don’t risk trying, we become resolved to a sense of our inadequate performances. We decide we don’t have what it takes!
One of the keys to determining which mindset we develop is how those around us respond when we slip up and make mistakes. The more powerful the position of authority the person has in our lives, the greater the impact not just of what they say or don’t say but also by the facial expressions they exhibit.
If we struggle with a fixed mindset about our spiritual lives, the enemy is gleeful because he knows that he can defeat our hope over and over again as soon as we get up from praying or reading in the Bible. Too often our spiritual lives also get stalled because of how our brothers and sisters around us respond to our struggle. Instead of real encouragement, we might experience quite the opposite for any number of reasons. Sometimes the person isn’t really accurately listening to us to hear the nature of the struggle. Sometimes the person doesn’t know enough of our story to understand why we were defeated….again!!
All of this reminds me of what I love about Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Cor. 10:5 ESV
What we don’t always recognize is that eliminating negative patterns of thinking will not automatically bring about positive, “can do” patterns of thinking. We need to deliberately replace them with positive truth that we affirm to ourselves.
Archilbald Hart has written seven paraphrases of such truth based on scripture that gives a picture of what I mean so let me share them with you:
- “God loves me more than I can ever imagine, and I can never travel beyond the reach of this great love.” (Rom. 8:39)
- “No matter what my sin, God forgives me if I repent, confess, and return to Him.” (1 John 1:9)
- “There is nothing I can do that will cause God to turn away from me.” (Heb. 13:5)
- “Whatever I attempt to do, if it is God’s will for me He will give me the strength and wisdom I need to accomplish the task.” (Phil. 4:13)
- “If I seem to fail because circumstances are against me. God will always give me another opportunity if I return to the starting point.” ((Psa. 37:24)
- “God never wants me to give up. Never, never, never, never.” (Josh. 1:5,7,9)
- “Hating myself doesn’t make God love me more; it just makes it harder for me to see his love.” (Psa. 103:10-12)
God has created our powerhouse brains to be resilient and adaptable. If we have had a fixed mindset, replacing lies and negativity with truth from God’s Word can change it. We also can choose to spend time with those who encourage us and believe in us even when we don’t believe in ourselves and remember that it is those very struggles that God can and does use to produce more endurance and resilience in us.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Rom. 5:1-5 ESV