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How do I overcome destructive thoughts?

Since I became a Christian over twenty years ago, I have struggled with angry thoughts and cursing in my mind. These thoughts seem to rule my heart and mind. Do you have any advice on how to overcome my destructive thoughts?

Robin's Response

Thank you so much for your vulnerability and openness. By talking about your struggle openly, you've made the first step towards overcoming.

I know it can be very difficult to let others into our lives and see the truth of our battles. But, you are certainly not alone in your struggles. I had a very bad spell a couple of years ago with self-condemning thoughts. I would literally say, “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” to myself when I was frustrated by my behavior or afraid of people thinking I was less than perfect.

In a sense, I think cursing is the same kind of thing. Although on the surface we curse others and even situations we don't like, there is a deeper pain lying underneath--the pain of thinking that our circumstances or personal flaws show us for who we fear we really are--someone who doesn't deserve good from God.

Over time, I realized that I was just repeating back the same accusations that Satan throws at me. Satan wants me to think I have no worth. But if I remember who God says I am, I can more easily resist Satan’s threats and avoid self-blame.

For instance, I often remind myself that I am God's precious daughter that he delights in and sings over--even in my flaws and weaknesses. In fact, He longs to spend time with me. He is the only one who can quiet my anxious heart (Zephaniah 3:17).

You also might try digging deeper to see where your anger comes from. From my experience, anger is sometimes a symptom that alerts us to unresolved emotions--unresolved mourning over losses, unresolved hurts, or even fears that deep inside we're ashamed of.

Here's something that has worked for me. Whenever you feel anger welling up inside, think of a word that helps you catch yourself before your anger spirals out of control. For instance, say “Whoa,” in your mind. (Or even, whoa, whoa, whoa!) It’s your alert to stop and reflect on what you’re feeling and why.

Then take a few minutes to ask yourself some questions and write out your answers:

1. Is there something I’m afraid of right now?
2. Why am I afraid? Is there a hurt or fear from the past that this situation taps into?
3. What will happen if the situation doesn’t work out the way I would like?
4. What am I afraid this situation says to others about me?
5. How can I surrender this situation or fear over to God?
Then, thank God for being your rock, your anchor, your guide, your wisdom, your hope, your strength, etc--whatever attribute you find comforting. Ask Him to remove your anger and give you peace and calm. There are many Scriptures that talk about throwing off the bad, but I think we also must be persistent in filling our lives with the good (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22, 2 Peter 1:5-8).

Ask God to fill you with the fruits of the Spirit--you might even want to commit to studying them one at a time. This process will help you train and transform your mind. Will all of your anger disappear? Probably not all at once. But I believe God will continually renew your mind as you strive to put aside fear and anger (Romans 12:2).

Ultimately, if you can see the root of your anger clearly and address that, you will begin to avoid the shaming thoughts that lead to cursing. With time and prayer, God will help you disarm the power of your anger. As you root yourself in His mercy, God will give you confidence that He will bring good of our every situation in your life. 

Most of all, rest assured that God wants you to turn to Him (and others) during these times of need. And he promises to be waiting with mercy not accusation (Hebrews 4:16).

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