"You've got to accentuate the positive…
Eliminate the negative…
And latch on to the affirmative…
Don't mess with Mister In‐Between!" ~ Johnny Mercer
Why Am I Writing About Balls?
I was attending a Men’s Retreat a while back and participated in an interesting exercise that changed my views on self-talk, the internal dialogue we all have with ourselves. I’ll describe it for you below. First, I want to tell you where I was at the time. Let me give you the punch line right up front: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
These are the words written by Solomon in Proverbs Chapter 23, Verse 7. They became real for me last summer as I began to fully understand that my world was a product of what I was saying about myself. Let me be blunter. I was very dissatisfied with my life.
I wasn’t being productive. I wasn’t fruitful. I wasn’t experiencing joy, expansion or any elements of what one would consider an abundant life. I was a Believer and Jesus said He had come so that men might have an abundant life. My life – whatever it was – wasn’t abundant and I knew it.
I also knew that I was responsible. There was no room in my mind for "shaking the fist at God" exasperation that we so often see in the movies or on television. The only person at whom I could shake my fist was Mark. I was mad at myself. I was disappointed. I was frustrated. I had let myself down. My own internal dialogue had betrayed me. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Apparently, I had not been thinking much of myself – and it showed!
Now – back to the Men’s’ Retreat…
Let me paint this picture for you this way…
The speaker stood in front of the room and picked up a Styrofoam ball. You know? The kind that Nerf makes. He began to describe that ball as the embodiment of every negative opinion the enemy, Satan, the Accuser of the Brothers, would say about us. He told us the ball represented the worst in us. Envision, if you will, a little Nerf ball as the literal physical manifestation of all of these negative character traits and more, and imagine the enemy or, (worse) yourself, saying these things to yourself:
• You are a liar and you lack integrity.
• You are an alcoholic and if you give it up, you’ll just become addicted to something else.
• You are addicted to pornography and you can’t stop.
• You are a horrible dad and your children will never recover from your mistakes.
• You are a bad husband. You don’t even deserve a good wife.
Do any of these sound familiar to you? Perhaps you’ve said one or more of these to yourself over the years…over the last few months. Maybe you said one of these to yourself just this morning? If not these, I understand spiritual warfare enough to know, there is something the enemy has convinced you to say to yourself that is counter to the word of God, and destructive to you living out your purpose and calling. I know it as sure as I’m sitting here because I’m not ignorant of the devil’s tactics.
(Back to the retreat so I can show you one way to fight back!)
The speaker takes this ball that represents many of the lies the devil wants us to believe about ourselves, walks down into the crowd and he tosses it to someone – some guy innocently sitting a few feet from him. The guy, being cooperative or simply stunned by having an object hurled at him, catches it.
Point made. We just didn’t realize it yet.
The point was this: so often we take the devil’s accusations and lies and we make them our own by receiving them without question. We don’t even challenge the validity or usefulness! An enemy tosses us a lie and we catch it! Damage done.
He explained this to us to our amazement and embarrassment. We were ashamed at how easily we could all be duped into accepting the worse opinions of ourselves. It was funny. Almost.
What happened truly made the point hit home for me. He takes this ball. He describes more of the lies it represents.
• You aren’t very smart. It’s only a matter of time before people figure it out.
• You don’t belong here and you’ll never fit in.
• People don’t respect you – and there’s no reason for them to respect you anyway.
• People don’t love you – and there’s no reason for them to love you anyway.
• You aren’t talented. God forgot to give you any gifts.
There’s a small twist to follow, however. He’s aware that we won’t be fooled into casually catching something so vile and destructive this time around. Instead he pleads with us. "Hey, please, I’m going to toss this ball and I need someone to catch it. Please? Just help me make my point."
Then he tosses the ball. Some dude catches it.
"Why did you catch it?" he rebukes him.
"I was just trying to be cooperative" was the response.
Point made powerfully. Sometimes we accept negative words about ourselves just because we don’t want to seem argumentative, difficult or hard to get along with. We’re just getting along to go along…or going along to get along… however I’m supposed to say that. Either way, we figure it’s easier to just allow our wife to say that we aren’t much of a man, or to call ourselves "stupid" under our voice than it is to fight back.
I can promise you this. No one of us men caught any more Styrofoam balls that day! I’m not sure I’ve caught any since then!
Eliminate the Negative
I thought about this experience for a couple of days. I couldn’t get away from it. It lived in my mind moment by moment and I felt like there was a powerful key I could take to another level in there somewhere. Here’s what I did.
I went down to the local toy store and bought a Nerf ball and a Sharpie. I couldn’t wait to get home so I sat there in the parking lot after leaving the store, unwrapped everything like a kid on Christmas and began to write all over my new Styrofoam basketball about the size of a grapefruit.
I wrote down all the evil, poisonous and limiting words that I had so often said to myself about myself. I’ll confess to some of the words that I wrote on my ball – you can call these the lies:
• I’m cursed.
• I’ll never get it together.
• I’m lazy.
• I’m poor.
• I’m not a good man.
• I’m a bad dad.
• And much, much more. I probably needed a bigger ball I had so much crap in my head!
I wrote these words out and looked at them there in front of my eyes. I stared at them and came to the revelation that I AM NOT THOSE THINGS. THOSE THINGS LIVE OUTSIDE OF ME. I DON’T HAVE TO CATCH THEM, RECEIVE THEM OR OTHERWISE OWN THEM! THEY ARE NOT ME!!! THEY ARE NOT ME!!!
It was so freeing that I’ll never forget it. Not ever. There’s another step the Lord gave me, however, because the job wasn’t done.
Accentuate the Positive and Latch on to the Affirmative
Freedom is freedom and it’s great, valid and valuable. Freedom isn’t empowerment necessarily and I still needed power.
Keep in mind; I don’t think I’ve gone home yet. I think I’m still sitting in the parking lot at Wal-Mart at this point. I started thinking about power and progress and how could I begin to move my life forward. Halting the destruction is great. I still needed to begin to build. Remember, I had done a lot of damage in my own life by way of the dialogue I had allowed between my ears. There was much work to do.
Since I’m calling this blog "Get some balls!" you can guess what happened next. I went back into the store and bought another Nerf basketball and went back to my permanent marker. I decided that changing my confessions by getting rid of the bad was a good start. I had one more thing to do. I had to find GOOD confessions as a replacement. Here are some of things I wrote on the second ball:
• I am blessed.
• I am intelligent and wise.
• I am a great dad.
• I am hard-working.
• I am filled with purpose.
• And more! I needed a lot of help. We’ve already talked about that!
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
Now I’ve got two balls and they’re both covered with words and phrases. Some positive and affirming. Some negative and damning. Both balls are too small. I shake my head. Here’s what I came up with as my next step towards healing and progress. You’ll like this.
I created a new habit for the next 30 days. I didn’t want my new approach to be short-lived. I was literally praying and asking God to rewire my brain by this time. My new discipline follows:
Every morning before I left the house, I picked up the ball with all the damning words on it and declared out loud: "I leave these qualities behind! They are not me! Even if they ever were me, they are in my past. I don’t own them. I don’t owe anyone to take them on. I’m moving forward in God by the power of Christ!"
Then I would take that ball and place it on the counter or on the floor – or anywhere really – and remind myself that I have left those things behind. They don’t have the right to ride around with me that day. I don’t need them. They stay behind.
Next I picked up the other ball and began a new set of confessions: "I am happy and healthy! I am disciplined. I am diligent, creative and responsive. I am gifted! God is blessing me and my life is turning around! I am a fruitful and productive man! I am blessed of God!"
This ball didn’t get placed on the counter. Nope! This one came with me. I carried it out the door with the reminder that I am walking with these attributes. They are a part of me. I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me and I take the Spirit of God with me everywhere I go. Bless God!
Be Careful Watch You Catch
I performed these rituals for a while. I’ll admit that they helped me up out of a dark place. So often we take life’s beatings and internalize them. It’s a trick of your enemy to immobilize you forever. Some have even taken their own lives because they continued believing only the worst about themselves, to the point of thinking their friends, families and even the world would be better off if they weren’t in it.
Don’t let the worst parts of my experience be your testimony. If you need tangible help changing your confession, maybe you should get some balls?
Mark Anthony McCray is the Founder of "Live Big, Die Empty" a movement designed to help people live life more abundantly and walk in the purposes for which they were created. Write or call 832-566-2001 for more information and follow Mark on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MARKMCCRAY and http://www.twitter.com/LiveBigDieEmpty