18 February, 2017
I used to be the kind of guy that wanted to punch you in the face if you shared a dumb cliche as a bit of a pick-me-up on a bad day.
“Just stay positive.”
“Think happy thoughts.”
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
And then there are the Christian cliches.
“I’ll pray for you.”
“Have you prayed about it?”
“God’s got you.”
“God has a wonderful plan for your life.”
People meant them with good intentions, but as I shared previously, I thought that these kinds of cliches were a dumb avoidance strategy from the harshness of the real world. The way I saw it, life was harsh, and optimism and positive thinking stood on the same level of practical usefulness as The Secret.
The reason I felt that way was due to a long battle with depression over half a decade. This, combined with low self-esteem and a lot of personal hurt, had made me quite bitter and resentful. I was not a violent or angry person, but to me, cliches were a bandaid on my hurt. That meant that they were worse than nails on chalkboards.
However, over the last year, there actually were a few dumb cliches that proved very helpful as I worked through my issues, and started to develop a healthier headspace. As I began to change my thinking and re-evaluate my beliefs about myself and the world, the way I lived also changed. Part of that change can actually be summarised in a few dumb cliches.
Here are a few:
1. “The only person’s behaviour you can control is your own.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this may be Dr Phil. Well, the man is on to something. While it might sound dumb and over-used, there is a lot of truth to this.
This cliche helped me a lot as I learned to respect my own responsibilities, and allowed other people to take responsibility for their own actions.
If someone has hurt you, or if someone you care about is living recklessly and irresponsibly, ultimately, they are the ones responsible for their own decisions. They will give an account for their lives to God, as I will too, and I won’t be responsible for anyone’s decisions but my own.
I will not be held responsible for the actions of others. I am only responsible for my own actions.
Understanding this has helped to significantly reduce my anxiety on a daily basis. It is incredibly liberating. Sleep well, with this in mind.
2. “Self-awareness/being self-aware/self-knowledge is important.”
You will hear something like this on every health and wellness blog and magazine on the planet. It is an over-used buzz word, but it actually is very important to good mental health, and probably physical health too.
Why do you live the way that you do? What motivates you to make decisions? How do you view yourself?
For a long time, I thought I was a pretty self-aware person, yet lived in denial. I ignored my needs, feelings, opinions and values when someone else’s were more important, yet was clueless to it and the havoc it wreaked in my life. I didn’t truly understand or respect myself enough to make better choices.
This is very important to depression and anxiety. If you struggle with these, think about what things trigger it; certain people, situations or thinking patterns, and then why this happens. Talk to someone about these things. Then, as you learn to understand yourself and your own thinking, you can begin to counter the negative thinking with more realistic thinking.
I know now what things make me depressed or anxious, and what things are good for my mental health. I know the false beliefs that used to dominate my thinking, and still pop up sometimes – low self-esteem, bitterness, resentment. I know how to counter them with the truth. I know what makes me feel great – walking, listening to podcasts, music or an audio book, or eating a really nice meal. So I do them on a regular, in fact daily, basis.
3. The twenty questions – “How is your sleep/diet/physical activity going?”
When I was first recognising my battle with Chronic Fatigue, this was all I ever got – “Are you eating enough iron? What about protein? How is your sleep? Enough green vegetables? Are you regularly physically active?” Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc.
I got “over it” pretty quickly. Not the CFS, but the unhelpful advice. Those people were very kind to share what they thought would help, but it was very easy to become a little jaded over time to it.
Yet despite the repetitiveness of the advice, I eventually listened when professionals were recommending the same thing.
I began to improve my diet, reduce stress, and be more physically active. My CFS didn’t go away, but the symptoms reduced, and my mental health improved.
These things aren’t the cure to every disease, but they are the pillars of good long-term health. They are both over-spoken and under-estimated at the same time.
In terms of actually “doing it” consistently, I’m starting to understand that it’s really about routines, and not the nitty gritty details. Do what is achievable on a regular basis, and can become a realistic routine. For me, it is 10-20 minutes of walking every day, eating at least 1-2 decent meals a day, and maintaining a sleep routine. This is a pretty low standard, which makes it easier to exceed it.
4. The word “grace”.
Christians love the word “grace.” God is gracious, we are saved through grace, that was very gracious of you, etc. etc.
It is so easy to say, but what does it even mean? Do we even know when we use it?
In a nutshell, grace is the idea of undeserved favour, or acceptance.
It means that, despite me, God accepts me. Despite my failures and sin, God chooses to always receive me, accept me, and love me, as I am.
God chose to take away my sin through sending Jesus to die for me, because he wanted to. He chose to accept me, even despite my inner ugliness.
If you really understand that and believe that, then insecurity is no longer an issue.
The people who really love you are those who you can drive crazy, but they still choose to stand by you. They don’t ever leave you.
That’s God’s love, and his grace, because of Jesus. And if that’s true, then what can anyone say to me?
That’s it for now. Have you heard any more helpful cliches?
Photo: I took this shot over the beautiful Sydney harbour a few weekends ago. It was stunning. God is truly an artist.
Grace For Failures is the blog of Carlin Doyle, to encourage and inspire people who have gotten life wrong for a long time, and want to try and do things a little differently. Click here for more info, and here for more posts.