Sunday, December 6, 2015

"It's Only Jesus"

Only Jesus is good. If there's anything good you ever do, it's only Jesus. Don't accept when people praise you, say "It's only Jesus. Thank Jesus."

That sounds innocent enough.

But let's think.

You're a child born into the cult where you may even have been lucky enough to have heard praise for your accomplishments, but you were taught to dismiss those words and instead "give all the credit to Jesus." Nothing you can do is good enough, because only Jesus is good. We are "altogether born in sins" (John 9:34). Any encouraging words wash right off because you know in your heart that you are bad and unworthy.

All your life you are taught that you are bad, a sinner. Replay that thought over and over and the loop becomes a habit, and the habit becomes a snowball growing in strength and intensity into full-blown self-loathing.

Now, coat this with a smile. "Jesus chose me." "We are the happiest people on earth."

A bandaid over the psychological damage.

Our brains already have a negativity bias. This has evolutionary roots. If our ancestors had a happy experience, it did not have much effect upon their survival. Daily threats of predators were what they needed to attend to, remember, and learn from.

But the "use it or lose it" quality of brain cells can come to the rescue. As we all know, our brains are plastic, and according to Dr. Norman Doidge, they are competitively plastic. "There is an endless war of nerves going on inside each of our brains. If we stop exercising our mental skills, we do not just forget them: the brain map space for those skills is turned over to the skills we practice instead." (The Brain that Changes Itself)

Albeit "unlearning" is more challenging than learning. The analogy of brain pathways provides an easy picture. We have been walking down the self-hate pathway for years. We've nearly paved it, we've worn it so smooth from daily passage. Now we want to make a new path. We beat our way through the forest the first time. Then as we repeat that thought, fashioning a new pathway - a new habit - day by day, the old pathway gradually gets grown over and fades.

It's not easy, but knowing that it is possible is already the first step down that more healthy path.

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