You know how, in high school, if you liked a certain boy, you would change your habits just to try to get him to notice you?
Maybe it was just me. Maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with changing beliefs, but stick with me. It does.
My friends and I would take turns taking the long way to class and dragging one of ‘our girls’ along for feedback.
Did he notice me?
Is he interested?
If I thought some boy was ‘cute’, I would join groups that I might not otherwise have joined, socialize with people I wouldn’t normally hang out with, and adopt preferences that weren’t my own.
Anything to put myself in his way and get him to like me.
Here’s the thing: Changing where you go, what you do and who you do it with in the hopes of building a relationship with someone is a strategy that can’t end well.
It ends the way pretty much all of my relationships ended, from my first ‘real boyfriend’ (meaning my group of friends went to the movies with his group of friends when I was 13) to my marriage of eleven years. It’s a strategy that ends with me bending and changing to be what I thought someone else wanted, never feeling quite good enough to be loved.
A solid belief changing strategy
Here’s why trying to be what someone else is looking for in order to create a (hopefully) loving relationship doesn’t work.
Changing what we do, where we hang out, who we hang out with, and what we think are strategies for changing a belief in ourselves, not to elicit a behaviour from someone else. And, that’s what I was doing. I wasn’t building relationships, I was looking for someone else to behave as if they loved me.
I believed that I wasn’t loveable and was looking for someone who would behave as if I was, so I could swap out my belief for theirs.
Step One: Find someone who likes me.
Step Two: Do what they do. Go where they go. Like who they like. And, think what they think. Be who I think they want me to be.
Step Three: Bask in their approval/love in an effort to take on that belief for myself.
That is hard to admit, but it’s true. The problem was, it never worked.
None of the people I looked to for a belief that I was loveable were consistent enough to replace my ‘unloveable’ belief. They were always changing.
No one was consistently there for me, on my side, enamoured with me. (And, let’s be honest, the odd person was a pretty reliable reinforcement of my belief that I was unloveable.)
I couldn’t rely on anyone to send me a consistent ‘loveable’ message, just like you can’t rely on a bear not to eat you for lunch. It’s just not in their nature.
In fact, snacking on you is in their nature. Just like, sometimes, not loving people is in our nature. Our sin nature, that is.
Beliefs are Sticky Things
If you’re going to dislodge an old belief, you have to have a new one that is never going to waiver; unchangeable. It has to come from a source that is rock solid.
In truth, I had the right strategy. Do what they do, go where they go, like who they like, think what they think wasn’t wrong. I was just putting myself in the way of the wrong person.
I was putting my belief about myself in the hands of a fallible human when I should have been putting it in God’s hands.
3 things I learned about changing a belief
- I’ve learned that changing a belief does take a lot of repetition from someone who has the firm belief I want to adopt.
- I’ve learned to read my Bible because the truth about me is in there. And it never, never changes. God always thinks the same thing about me, and it’s all good.
- I’ve learned that going places that support the belief I want and hanging out with people who are experts at showing love is going to help it soak in for me. But, God’s word has to be the bottom line, because even experts have off days.
New beliefs have to soak in. Like any new idea, God’s truth had to grow on me.
I don’t mean that I didn’t believe the gospel pretty much as soon as I really heard it. I believed it with my head; I checked the facts, sized up the solid Christians I knew.
Getting the truth to settle in my heart and being able to live by it is what takes repetition.
I’m not saying that this four-step strategy is a predictable formula for believing everything the Bible says. But I do know that whichever beliefs you reinforce the most are the ones that are going to stick.
More like a catch-22
Actually, it’s kind of a catch-22.
If you work hard enough at getting yourself to believe what the Bible says about you, you’re eventually going to find out that you can’t change your own heart; that you have to ask God to do it for you.
But his love for you is unshakeable and he’s all powerful, so he’ll do it. And, when he does, you’ll have your answers.
Did he notice me? Is he interested?
You’d better believe it.
“God never overlooks a single sparrow. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head!”
~ Luke 12:6-7 MSG