You may not realise how much of your life is controlled by stories in your head. These can be stories you have told yourself or stories others have sown into your thinking.
Part of the way that seems right to us is the interpretation of reality as we see it. The ‘way’ includes not only our actions, but our thoughts and values, including the stories we tell ourselves.
It seems we love stories, and we love to tell stories to ourselves to excuse and justify how we live. Thus we reinforce our own deceptions and go the way that seems right to us, which is the way of death.
“There is a way that seems right to a man but the ends thereof are the ways of death”, Proverbs 14:12, and 16:25.
Other people use stories to control us as well. They tell us what they want us to believe and we often accept their version of the facts and come under the power of their story.
In marketing terms that’s referred to as ‘spin’. People put a spin on things, to colour the story the way they want us to see it. If we buy the story, the ‘spin’, then we come under their power of storytelling.
So the stories in our head are really quite significant, while we may be completely unaware of their power and their deadly impact (“the ways of death”). So it’s not only important to become aware of the stories, but to have some process to deal with them.
Let’s look at some examples. A child is upset because they went to their parent and the parent was distracted and in a bad mood and shunned the child. The child then goes to the other parent, crying. That parent excuses the other parent’s behaviour by telling a story to the child. “Don’t be upset. Your Daddy / Mummy is not feeling well, so that’s why they were annoyed.” The story gives the child a frame of reference to process their reaction to their parent. That’s the story told to the child, but there may be much more to the situation than that.
Yesterday I spoke with a father whose marriage broke up and whose daughter became suicidal, convinced she was the cause of the break-up, when it had nothing to do with her. The daughter came up with her own story, probably based on pre-existing feelings about herself, then directed her story as accusation of herself when the marriage failed.
That daughter’s story is not based on truth, but it is the story she believed and it controlled her life.
As another example, a person who has an affair can justify their actions by blaming the spouse who was cold toward them.
An alcoholic can use any excuse to go for a drink, blaming someone for upsetting them.
A person who is difficult to live with can ignore their own faults, demanding that their family forgive and honour them regardless, then putting the blame on the others if they still find it hard to live with the difficult person.
It may be true that for every thing you routinely do you have a ‘story’ that makes it ‘right’. It may thus be that you need to question the story behind your habitual behaviours and put away the excuses you use to keep you doing the same, fruitless things.
Why do you keep doing the same things that upset others?
Why are you still going to church in a place that doesn’t help you spiritually?
Why are you still being annoyed with your spouse, instead of letting God work you through the challenge?
Why are you still impatient, or proud, or cold toward others, or intent on seeking your own happiness, or putting up with impositions you have long resented, or so forgetful about your responsibilities, or so stingy toward your family, or so keen to impress people?
There are a myriad things you do each week that reflect the ‘way’ you have chosen to live. And behind those ways are stories you tell yourself in your head. And in those stories is self-deception, or, in the words of Paul, “hidden things of dishonesty”.
“We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty” 2Corinthians 4:2
Other translations say, “shameful cover-ups”, “things hidden because of shame”, “secret and shameful ways” and “shameful things that must be kept secret”.
Paul is likely referring to a wider range of things than I am addressing here, but the link seems obvious to me, that we have things hidden in our heart and mind, that are shameful because they excuse us doing things that keep us on the way to death.
Paul and his associates dealt with those things. That means they must have let God challenge them at a deep level about motives, values, attitudes, excuses, unresolved issues of the heart, etc.
I suggest you begin an open conversation with God about what might be hidden in your heart, such as stories you tell yourself to justify your unworthy actions and attitudes.
Don’t just go excusing yourself, but seek to be free, by God’s Truth shining the light inside you. And be ready to put off those things that are unworthy of our Lord, but which might be part of your daily thinking.
God bless you as you do.