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Letting Go of “Always” and “Never” Thinking

One of Collide’s core values is to recognize brokenness so it can be made whole. We have a growing community of women walking toward healing, as well as a community of counselors who are partnering with us to this end. We hope you not only enjoy hearing a counselor’s voice here, but that you open yourself up to the transformational work God is calling you into so that you can see His healing as a reality in your life.

The faith-filled life of the Christian cannot be lived without taking risk. The Old and New Testaments are full of stories in which God asks people to do things that require stepping outside their comfort zones. Whether He’s asking someone to literally leave with the shirt on their back and haul off to the desert towards a land they did not know or whether He’s commanding us to not be conformed to the pattern of this world, God repeatedly invites His beloved into a life of abundance that is only possible if we are willing to risk for it.

So often, our “always” and “never” way of thinking keeps us from taking risks. The words “always” and “never” are two words that are unbudging, unyielding – they don’t give way. They restrict. They are so permanent.  And if you are talking about the character of God… always and never are rightly applied! He will never leave you. He has always been and will always be. Nothing can separate you from His love!

But when we are talking about our problems, our dilemmas, and our struggles, a limiting view is not helpful. A mindset of “always” and “never” short-cuts our thinking in ways that leave us shackled to the very things we are desperate to be free from. Rather than having our minds open and receptive to new information, looking at possibility, and using our sanctified imaginations…we stick with what we know.

For example, we might tell ourselves:

I’ll never be able to express my emotions.

I’ll never make friends.

People are never safe.

I’ll always be in physical pain.

I’ll grieve for the rest of my life.

I’ll never hear God’s voice.

I’ll always be damaged goods.

I’ll never succeed.

The trouble with sticking with what we know is that we close our eyes to very important details about life and our scripts for living fail to update. We fail to see what Narrative Therapist’s call unique outcomes – these are moments that defy the rule. They are outlier moments. They are unique not because they truly are unique, but because we ordinarily fail to acknowledge them because they fall outside what we expect. These are the moments when someone proved safe and trustworthy, moments when you had a bit of success, had a moment of friendship or were able to notice something besides the emptiness that a loss has left you with… These unique outcomes… outcomes that defy the always/never rule require noticing.  And noticing unique outcomes might require more practice than you think.

Our core beliefs about ourselves, about the world, and about what God is like operate at a subconscious level. Our vulnerability to this flaw of filtering the facts of our lives in ways that support our subconscious core beliefs is called “confirmation bias”.  Confirmation bias is the tendency to only pay attention to information that confirms what we already think, believe or expect.

Are you willing to look at the evidence that turns “always” and “never” into “sometimes” and “on occasion”?  And if you discover evidence that contradicts your limiting beliefs about yourself, God or the world, are you willing to face what has become comfortable about your problem-saturated story and risk walking away from it into the life Jesus is calling you into? What would be the first step of courage that you would need to take?

I challenge you to start paying attention to the tiny evidences that disprove faulty notions about yourself, God or the world.  If your problem is that people are unsafe I want you to start noticing every safe interaction you have with a human and think about what you might have to face if only some people are unsafe.

We know that our early understandings of ourselves, others and God stick with us long after we originally develop them – and we know it takes a lot of evidence to bring what we know in our hearts in congruence with what we know in our heads. So why not get going, start amassing the evidence.

It’s risky business updating those core beliefs, otherwise we’d do it more readily.  Somehow, those core beliefs however limiting they are, are protecting us from something. It’s your job to figure out what that something is, and to seriously consider if you are willing to face what your always/never thinking is protecting you from. It might be just this place where God is calling you into the abundant life He has for you.

This post was written by a counselor or therapist for informational use only and is not intended to replace advice from a professional who is working directly with you as a patient [or client].

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