Renewing Your Mind: Overcoming Toxic Thinking

Renewing Your Mind: Overcoming Toxic Thinking

We're talking about renewing our minds and overcoming toxic thinking today. Whether we realize it or not, we’ve all been guilty of living by false beliefs. Our experiences, circumstances, personalities, and other factors influence the way we think.

We like to think we're fully in control of what we think and believe, but we're not. The Bible tells us that we’re to renew our minds from these false beliefs. But how do we do that?

What does it mean to renew your mind?

The word renew means revive, so that means whatever you’re renewing was new at one point. Renewing your mind means you’re trying to get your mind where your mind was new again. It’s returning your mind back to the way God created it to be before you had the difficult things in the world that you face. If you were already in a pure state at one point, then renewing can give you hope that you can return.

How do you renew your mind?

Renewing your mind is about perspective. You had a perspective before you had to learn ways to cope with the hard things in life. Slowly as you go through life, you develop false beliefs or toxic.

The way you look at things will determine what you experience in life. you choose different lenses to look at things. Renewing your mind is really challenging. What are the perspectives that have shaped the lenses through which you see everything? It could be that you’re always the victim or you’re entitled to something, or people don’t respect you. Instead of these distorted lenses put on a lens of expectancy that God is working on your behalf.

You can also put on the lens of gratitude. In renewing your mind, there is a choice. There’s a discipline of going back to the original intent, back to the way you were created, renewing and returning. You can also be deliberate about using a healthy lens like expectancy or gratitude.

If you let yourself be controlled by a negative thought after divorce, you’ll begin to behave that way and be stuck. It can become a downward spiral.  Be deliberate and intentional and ask God to begin to replace your toxic thoughts with the truth.

How do we create false lenses that lead to false beliefs?  

Your life experiences shape the way you think. Whether it’s little “t” trauma or big “T” trauma
those are the key times when thoughts and beliefs get implanted in your mind and you carry that forward. One incident may become a pattern that you start to live from, especially if it's repeated. Your trauma becomes the lens and everything else piles onto it.

It's so easy to make assumptions based on your trauma and your wounds. It’s the stories you tell yourself. The meaning you make from something is based on your lens. Your toxic thinking and thought patterns that shape your beliefs are powerful. Again, you have to be intentional and deliberate to notice the way you think and begin to change it.  

One of the most common unhealthy thought patterns is called splitting or black-and-white thinking, which is easy to fall into. Black-and-white thinking is limiting.  

Black-and-white thinking is prominent in our society. It's a reaction to a lack of trust when people have been wounded in some way. It’s easy to jump into your mind, experience, or reaction. Black-and-white thinking means you have to jump very quickly to decide if you can trust someone or not, if someone is safe or not. It’s putting people into the category of good or bad. The person is either safe or not safe. We do this in all kinds of ways. It's self-protective, but it doesn't allow for healthy connections. Sometimes making a quick decision about someone is necessary, but it can become a toxic way of thinking if you do it too often without being intentional or deliberate about it.

If you can remove yourself from the situation, see it for what it is and you don't have any emotional attachment to either side, then you can step back and see both points of view. The tricky part is when you are emotionally attached to the issue, topic or person. When you’re emotionally invested, it’s hard not to jump to conclusions.

Is there an element of internal and external when it comes to renewing your mind?

Renewing your mind is both internal and external. If you’re not actively renewing your mind, you can be cut off from intimacy with God. If you don't allow yourself to express your true inner lament, curiosity, questioning and doubts. It’s all about renewing your mind internally. It’s not just external people changing your mind about the way you see things. There's a spiritual aspect to not excluding certain parts of how you think or feel in your relationship and connection with God, but actually allowing room for Him to know you completely, which gets really messy.  

It feels like it’d be nice if you could separate the ugly parts of yourself and not have to bring those to God. Or only bring Him your full confidence in His word and truth. Instead of bringing all of what's actually true, which is, “Lord, I believe You, help my unbelief.” But when you can accept and embrace that you have a good and bad side, light and dark and present both sides to God and to yourself, you will have more empathy for others to be okay. For example, politics. You will be able to look at both sides, Republican and Democrat, and see the good that they're trying to do on both sides and seeing the ways that they fail on both sides and the way they're hurting. You’ll be able to extend empathy—these are people. These are human beings. Jesus died for all of them too.

They are stepping up and doing something you may be unwilling to do. They're wrestling and being burdened with decisions and things that affect so many people. If this isn’t a job you’re willing to take you can ask yourself helpful questions instead of criticizing. How can you be supportive? How can you be thoughtful? How can you be understanding and empathetic to the struggles they're dealing with? There is evil in this world but in general, most people want what's good and we're all trying to arrive at the same place. People are taking different routes and it may not be what you think is the best route.

What are some common false beliefs that you had about yourself?

One area is false beliefs around body image. The lie is that your worth and value are tied to the size of your body and what size of clothing you wear, whether you’re a man or a woman. It is permeated throughout our culture. There are some nuanced changes that are happening, like the acceptance and promotion of different body types and sizes, and that’s great but the message of the world is that there is an ideal. This is especially true with social media. It creates an established belief. This can lead to disordered eating and excessive exercise. The truth is you’re loved, you’re accepted, and you’re chosen. Your worth and your value aren't related to your body size.

If you experienced abuse you may tell yourself that you are too far gone, too damaged. Trauma distorts beliefs. Trauma makes you think you don't deserve anything because you’re unlovable or unworthy. If you believe these false beliefs, you may settle for less than because you believe that's all you deserve.

Another false belief you may have is that you don't have anything to offer. You may suffer from imposter syndrome.

How do you identify that they're false beliefs?
To identify a false belief you need to hear the truth. Listen for God’s voice to tell you the truth. He can God shift your perception and remind you He created you with a purpose. You also need people who can reflect the truth, which is God’s voice, to help you identify false beliefs.

Part of renewing our minds and changing toxic thinking is being a voice of truth to one another. Where we call that out and help our friends know what's true and replace those beliefs and speak words of life and truth and health into them. We desperately need it because there are all those other messages.

Solo Parent groups are a great way to do this in community with other single parents that are walking with you, and you can find a group every single day of the week.

How can you change or get rid of false beliefs?
It’s a process of recovery. Start with naming it and sharing it with God. And then challenge the belief.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “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.” You really have to take your thoughts captive and replace any lies with the truth. When you identify the lie, replace it with the truth, and then you begin to act from the place of truth. This is difficult but important. And as mentioned before, you need other people to help you with this process.

Finding the root of the lie once you’ve named it will also bring healing. You may have to do this with a counselor.

If you want to renew your mind and overcome toxic thinking, it requires being courageous and vulnerable and sharing with other people.

Renewing your mind is returning to a state that God intended for you. It's not a new invention, it's returning and it's a process.

Recognize trauma distorts your way of thinking and creates lies.

You need to be able to identify the lies that are fueling the false beliefs because you can't confront them unless you can name them.

Once you have identified the lie behind your false belief, “tennis match” it. When you think of the lie respond to it with truth, back and forth like a tennis match.


Is anyone else triggered by the anniversary of the divorce or death? What do you experience? Do others notice or call you on it?

Yes, it’s normal to be triggered by anniversaries, holidays, and other significant dates. Places and smells can also trigger grief around loss. As the book title about trauma indicates, The Body Keeps the Score. It’s normal to be triggered even after more than 10 years. It doesn’t mean you’re stuck. The painful realization is that this is part of everyone’s journey—not just single parents—because it's part of the human condition.  This is true for everyone, not just single parents.

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