We often use words carelessly, or out of habit, without thinking about what we’re really saying. Over time, the words become burdens we carry as we either try to live up to them or give in to their lies. In this second part of a 2-part blog (read part 1), I’ll share two phrases that keep us trapped in a victim mindset.
We often say this when we are facing something that looks impossible or difficult. Or it can be something we just don’t want to do.
Instead, what we are really saying is “I won’t”.
“I can’t”, when used instead of “I won’t” is a strength-stealing phrase that immediately turns us into victims. We place the choice outside our control so we don’t have to be responsible. It's a wrong mindset about ourselves or our circumstances.
- “I can’t do this anymore.” (aka, I have no energy so I won’t keep going)
- “I can’t handle this.” (aka, this is difficult and beyond me so I won’t keep trying)
- “I can’t understand why this happened.” (aka, I don’t like what happened so I won’t try to understand)
Even “I can’t go out tonight because I have other plans” is “I won’t go out tonight because I’m choosing to honor my previous plans.”
Now, in some cases, “I can’t” is totally true, and is an honest recognition of our capabilities.
- “I can’t play the piano like Beethoven.”
- “I can’t bench press 300#.”
- “I can’t cook like Emeril.”
But that's not what we're talking about here. We're speaking of the misuse of "I can't" that robs us of knowing what could have happened if we would have said "I will".
And most of us know when we’re using the wrong words: there is whine with our cheese.
I have to
These words deceive us into thinking we don’t have a choice about what we do, making us victims of our circumstances.
- “I have to go to work”
- “I have to do the dishes”
- “I have to do the laundry”
- “I have to mow the grass”
I remember taking a class one time where the teacher tried to get us to understand that everything we do, we do by choice. One man kept saying, “I have to go to work, because if I don’t work my family won’t eat.”
“No, you’re choosing to go to work and feed your kids. Yes, it’s an obvious and right choice to most people, but it’s still your choice.”
I don’t have to mow the grass, I can choose to let it grow and become weedy…and then I can choose to listen to or ignore the neighbor’s complaints about my yard.
Again, it’s a mindset. God gave us free will to choose; with that comes taking responsibility for our choices. God wants us to be joyful in all we do, and live life to the full. When we carry around a list of “I have to’s” and view them as a prison sentence, we are weighed down by a trapped feeling that extinguishes our hope and steals our joy.
Our words change as Jesus changes us
The words we choose to magnify in our minds and speak out of our mouths have power to bless (bring freedom and healing) or curse (trap in bondage). It’s our choice what to speak or think.
What we believe is what we’ll speak – out of the heart the mouth speaks. If we believe we’re nothing or we’re victims, we’ll choose limiting and condemning words about ourselves. It’s our choice what to believe.
Our beliefs change over time as we allow Jesus to change our hearts, and our words reflect the changes He is making. It’s a process. He transforms us as we slowly – sometimes ever so slowly – make our way from lies to truth…from condemnation to affirmation…from limitations to empowerment…from bondage to freedom.
Jesus’ part is to change our hearts; our part is to be intentional with the words we choose to think and speak along the way.
It’s our choice, we are not victims.
What will you choose today?
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. (Proverbs 18:21 MSG)