Column: The dangerous stories you tell yourself


Have you ever noticed how a trusted friend or beloved family member can candidly call you out on something foolish you have done, and even if you don’t like it you can take it?  Now contrast that with how you feel when a co-worker you really don’t like does something as mild as roll their eyes at you or make an arrogant smirk in your direction.

It is interesting.

Why does something so mild from one person set you ablaze, while strong accountability from a trusted loved one doesn’t?

It’s in the story you believe is behind the action.

A boss at work can drop extra work on your table, and if you believe he only trusts you to do good work it’s a compliment.  If you believe it was malicious, it’s a huge insult.

In the book Crucial Conversations, the authors identify the primary story most people instantaneously tell themselves when something happens to them they don’t like from a person they don’t trust.

I am the victim and the other person is the villain.

This happens so fast in our minds we don’t rationally think it through.  Yes, the reason we default to the negative is because we don’t trust that person and the overall distrust may be justified, but not every response is.

What stories are you telling yourself that invoke deep emotional responses without really thinking through the situation?  You may even have the facts correct and not see it in a healthy way.  Like the caricature self-portrait hanging in my office, the basic ideas are true, (big nose, beard, glasses) but it isn’t really an accurate picture.  It’s greatly exaggerated.  After years of counseling I can most definitely say much fury is birthed from greatly exaggerated perspectives of actual facts. Most people respond to real or perceived threats in one of two ways – make the person suffer or run away. This attitude can be exemplified differently but could be as simple as talking bad about someone or refusing to participate in a relationship.  Fight or flight.  Jesus offers a better response.  The meta-theme in the book of 1 Peter depicts this well.  We are to be the witness of the Gospel in our situation. Jesus trusts us to exemplify his nature in our hard places.  Don’t play the victim, live out the ways and nature of Jesus.