Summary: Part 1 of series Every Thought Captive. This message looks at our human tendency to lie to ourselves, explores the consequences, and challenges people to come clean.
Every Thought Captive, part 1
Wildwind Community Church
What do the following people have in common?
1. A woman who goes to counseling for 26 weeks in a row but never takes any action to actually fix her problem.
2. A man whose wife keeps saying over and over that the marriage is in trouble, but he won’t go with her to counseling.
3. A teenage girl who stays in a relationship with a guy who continually treats her like garbage.
4. A teenage boy who, under the influence of his friends, decides to try methamphetamine.
5. A family that enjoys the good life on credit year after year after year.
What do these things have in common? The answer my friends is that they all involve people who are listening to lies, believing them, and then acting on them. The woman in counseling believes talking about it will make it better. The man who won’t seek marriage counseling believes if he just ignores the problem it will go away. The teenage girl believes her abusive boyfriend will change. The teenage boy believes he can’t find better friends. The family believes they can stay afloat on credit indefinitely.
Lies are a powerful thing. Did you know a type of psychotherapy sprung up in the 60’s that is based on the idea that the #1 cause of dysfunction in human life is the lies we believe? It’s called Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy – REBT – pioneered by Albert Ellis. If you were to see Albert Ellis for counseling (that is, if you could stand it – he’s an extremely vulgar man), Ellis would begin asking you questions and seek to find out where you are believing lies – or where your beliefs are irrational. He would then confront those irrational beliefs and give you exercises to do during the week that would show you how irrational your beliefs actually are.
For example, a woman says, “I have to keep the house clean.” Ellis would say, “What do you mean “have to.” She would say, “If the house isn’t clean my husband gets angry and I can’t stand that.” Ellis would say, “What do you mean you can’t stand it?” In each of those sentences this woman has said something untrue – repeated a lie she learned somewhere and has come to believe. She HAS TO keep the house clean (she has no choice). And she CAN’T STAND when her husband gets angry (she’s too fragile and weak to deal with it). Ellis confronts, challenges, and works with these lies, these false statements that reflect irrational beliefs that lie underneath. That, in a nutshell, is Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy. REBT is my favorite approach to counseling – know why? Because even though it was pioneered by Albert Ellis, a vulgar man and a die-hard atheist, REBT I believe is closer than many systems of psychotherapy to spiritual realties we read about in the Bible and that Jesus talked about.
REBT deals with lies, with half-truths, with false statements we accept that affect our feelings and influence our behaviors. It’s almost Biblical. I mean, listen to this:
Jeremiah 17:9 (GW)
9 “The human mind is the most deceitful of all things. It is incurable. No one can understand how deceitful it is.
Yikes – now check this out…
Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)
12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Listen to those two passages together again.
These two scriptures, written at different times by different authors, paint a picture for us, don’t they? They show us that 1) the human mind/heart is sick (incurably so), 2) that no one can comprehend how sick it is, and 3) that this sickness affects our perceptions at such a deep level that things that will actually lead to spiritual death can seem perfectly fine, perfectly harmless, to us.
The human mind is sick. So sick no one can comprehend it. So sick that it often cannot even tell the difference between what is in its own best interests and what is killing it.
There are lies we believe that are killing us. Some are killing some of us physically. Some are killing some of us spiritually. Some are sinking some of us financially. Some are choking the life out of our marriages. Lies. Lies kill. Lies keep us from seeing the truth about ourselves and about others. Lies keep us from hearing God’s voice when it whispers inside of us.
Lies originate in our minds. Ellis’s therapy isn’t named REBT on accident. The name Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy is meant to indicate that our problems begin in our minds, with our rational processes. Our thoughts affect how we feel about ourselves or the circumstances we are in. And our feelings are directly linked to how we behave. Did you know that? It is your feelings, more than your thoughts, that determine your behaviors. But your thoughts determine your feelings!