Riley and I were on a girls’ trip, walking down a street in San Francisco, when she started to tell a story. She was providing the context when she said, “Who was I talking to? I can’t remember.” She thought for a minute, mulling over the circumstances of the previous conversation. Then, she said, “Oh yeah, I was talking to myself.” We both laughed pretty hard. She proceeded to tell me about a discussion she’d had with herself about where she might live when she got older.
I, too, talk to myself – a lot. Sometimes out loud, most of the time, inside my own head. Constantly. I narrate what’s happening. I analyze. I debate. I talk to myself about things I’ve done or said in the past and engage in imaginary conversations with others. I dwell on the logistics of the day ahead and the length of my to-do lists. I figure out how to navigate future events, both those I excitedly anticipate and those I dread.
Honestly, I get tired of hearing my own internal voice. Mostly because I’m not always nice to myself. In fact, I can be downright mean. I make a mistake, I call myself “stupid.” I’m not getting much done, I’m “lazy.” I may be a loser, failure, or bad mother, before noon on any given day. I’ve read articles that ask if I would talk to a friend like I talk to myself. Of course not! I try not to be so nasty to anyone else. Part of the problem is that I believe the things I tell myself and any failures provide evidence to confirm my diagnosis. The other part is that I’m in the habit of berating myself. The negative refrain has become automatic. Talking down to myself is a hard habit to break.
I frequently conduct internal conversations with God as well. My stream of consciousness includes a lot of pleas: “help me,” “be with me,” and “give me strength.” I pray about my anxieties and express my fears. I don’t clasp my hands or fall to my knees, but this is my version of the Biblical suggestion that we “pray without ceasing.” While I may not pray every moment of the day, my running discourse with God never truly reaches an end point.
I admit that I felt good about my non-stop prayer until I looked up exactly what the applicable verse said. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Thess. 5:16-18 (NRSV). My self-congratulatory attitude on the “without ceasing” part faded as I realized that most of my prayers involve requests and complaints, and some begging and whining. I may have the talking part down, but I’m not as good at rejoicing and thanking God.
And then I realized that talking to myself in such mean ways is the opposite of rejoicing and thanking God. Instead of expressing gratitude for my abilities, talents, health, and blessings, I spend my time tearing myself down and complaining to God about my shortcomings and failures.
I don’t think God minds hearing my constant ramblings (at least I hope not), but I suspect he might prefer a little appreciation thrown into the mix. And I believe it hurts his heart when we treat ourselves horribly. Running ourselves down is not what God wants for any of us. My internal dialogue with myself will never be perfect, but when I place it in the context of my greater, ongoing conversation with God, I want to try to be better. Not only to myself, but even more importantly to God.