Last weekend I had a really fascinating conversation with two of the guys in our Square 2 community about that inner voice we all have that often tries to tear us down or sabotage us. In my experience, that voice is typically the overly critical parent or the worm theology pastor who can’t stop making you feel like a loser or reminding you of what a failure you are.
I’ve often said that, for many people, deconstructing our theology and our doctrines is much easier than re-recording those negative tapes of fear and shame that play in our heads long after we’ve abandoned the toxic theology.
One of the guys in the group, Doug, is a therapist and he suggested something I had never heard before. He said, “That inner voice we all have isn’t something we need to silence. What we need to learn to do is to make friends with it and recognize that it’s only trying to protect us from getting hurt again.”
That really blew my mind. He went on to talk about how our inner voice of criticism is often merely a defense mechanism designed to keep us from those places of failure and pain we’ve encountered in our past experiences. What Doug said was, “We have to speak to our inner voice and thank it for working so hard to keep us from pain and misery. Then we have to let that inner voice know that we’re going to be okay and we can take it from here.”
Later, he posted something in our private Facebook group from Richard Swartz that goes a bitter deeper into this idea of making peace with our inner voice:
“Is there just one “you”? We’ve been taught to believe we have a single identity, and to feel fear or shame when we can’t control the inner voices that don’t match the ideal of who we think we should be. Yet Dr. Richard Schwartz’s research now challenges this “mono-mind” theory. “All of us are born with many sub-minds—or parts,” says Dr. Schwartz. “These parts are not imaginary or symbolic. They are individuals who exist as an internal family within us—and the key to health and happiness is to honor, understand, and love every part.”
So, maybe the reason we can’t silence that inner critic is because that voice still feels afraid of getting hurt again. Maybe we need to befriend that inner voice once we’ve fully deconstructed our toxic religious indoctrination and make sure that voice knows we’re going to be okay now.
Dr. Schwartz developed something called the IFS or Internal Family System model which has been transformative in the realm of psychology for many, especially when it comes to trauma recovery, depression and addiction therapy.
Deconstruction is trauma and reconstruction is recovery, so I think an exploration of the IFS might help some of us to find our way through the muck and out of the darkness and into the light.
One thing that I think weaponizes this inner voice for Evangelical Christians is when they begin to mistake that inner critical voice for the voice of God. I’ve seen it happen way too many times. People hear that voice that says, “You’re a loser, you failed again, you’ll never make it, you’ll never be good enough, etc.” and they attribute that voice to God or the Holy Spirit.
I’ll never forget when a friend of mine told me that he heard God’s voice while driving in his car one day and God told him he would only give him one more chance and then if he screwed up again that was the end of God’s mercy, forgiveness and love.
I did my best to assure him that this voice was NOT the voice of the God whose mercy endures forever and not the voice of the God that Jesus modelled for us. I told him that inner voice was either his parents talking, or his own inner critic, but whatever it was, it was not the voice of the God who is love.
So, I think this is partly why it’s so hard for Evangelical Christians to escape that inner critic; because they associate that voice with the voice of God. They may have changed their theology about Eternal Conscious Torment, or the Infallibility of Scripture, or Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory, but they can’t silence that voice that keeps telling them how disappointing they are to God.
Re-thinking our theology is the easy part. Making peace with the inner voices of criticism is the hard part.
My hope is that we can all learn to deprogram those loops in our head that keep us in fear, shame and guilt. I especially hope we can recognize that this inner critic isn’t God’s voice.
And if we can accept that this voice is actually a part of ourselves that simply wants to keep us from any future pain, maybe we can find a way to really make peace with that part of ourselves and find our way out of the dark and into the light of freedom where love really is the only law.
My son, David Giles, just published his very first novel – THERE ONCE WERE ORANGE GROVES – and it’s available right now on Amazon.
There Once Were Orange Groves is an autofiction meta-novel about two siblings, Audrey and Jacob, who are both grieving the sudden passing of their father. It’s all about stories, finding beauty in the little things, and the places those moments inhabit.
In addition to winning the William Shanebeck Award for Excellence in Creative Writing , David Giles lives in Portland, Oregon and creates original music in his spare time.
His new novel has been praised by authors and readers alike.
Check it out:
Keith Giles is the best-selling author of the Jesus Un series. He has appeared on CNN, USA Today, BuzzFeed, and John Fugelsang’s “Tell Me Everything.” He hosts the Second Cup with Keith podcast, and co-hosts the Apostates Anonymous podcast, and the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast.
His latest book, SOLA DEUS: What If God Is All Of Us? is available now on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle HERE>
Find out more about online courses HERE>