Beth M. Broom, LPC-S. CCTP-II
We are all meaning-makers. When suffering happens, our minds naturally seek to create order from the chaos. Sometimes the order we create includes developing beliefs that are false and contrary to the gospel. When false beliefs get rooted in our hearts, we begin to think, feel, and behave according to those beliefs. This can lead to unwise and even destructive ways of living.
Here’s an example: Shawn grew up in the home of an alcoholic father. When his father wasn’t drinking, they had a lot of fun together. Shawn desperately wanted a deep and meaningful relationship with his father. But when he drank, Shawn’s father said and did awful things to him. As he wrestled with the reasons his father harmed him, Shawn could only conclude that he must have deserved this treatment because of his bad behavior. Any other answer would leave him questioning his father’s character. Shawn’s belief that he was a failure carried into his adulthood, and it affected his confidence at work and his relationship with his wife. He grew defensive and avoidant of conflict, and he found himself exploding in anger over seemingly small annoyances.
Beliefs are rooted in our hearts for many reasons, but suffering can definitely be a crucible in which beliefs are deeply formed. In order to uproot beliefs that are false, we must first be able to identify them and see them as false. This is easier said than done, especially when a belief is formed in the wake of an abusive situation or relationship. False beliefs are very convincing, and they masquerade as truth. When Shawn first encountered the possibility that he might not be a total failure, he refused to accept it. His belief was wrapped in a sort of hypervigilance – he knew that if he ‘let up’ on himself he would only prove what a failure he was. So it took a lot of work just to consider the truth that he was fearfully and wonderfully made and that God delighted in him.
Once Shawn identified the false belief that he was a failure, he needed to do some healing work with the Lord and with his counselor. He traced that belief back through his life and lamented some painful experiences that reinforced this belief. While lamenting, Shawn was growing to see the truth about what happened to him. This work required not only lamenting his pain but also intentional work in paying attention to the ways his false belief was influencing him. He worked to receive grace for the things he couldn’t control, and he started to let himself be human. When he would formerly expect himself to be perfect and never need anything from anyone, he would now be able to let himself make mistakes and ask for help when he needed it.
As the false belief became less and less powerful, Shawn could more clearly see the truth. He could tell himself that God doesn’t expect him to be perfect. He could begin to believe that mistakes don’t necessarily mean failure. He could learn to take himself a little less seriously. All this work was fueled by meditation on Scripture and intentional prayer. Specifically, Shawn chose passages of Scripture that included metaphors about God’s character and about his identity in Christ.
Shawn’s counselor helped him by encouraging him along the way. This process of uprooting false beliefs and planting the truth in his soul was not quick or easy. It was a spiritual, mental, and emotional workout. But Shawn grew stronger and stronger, and his counselor was able to point out his gains and victories to help him stay the course. Shawn was learning a valuable lesson that he would be able to use many times throughout his life as he uncovered other beliefs that were false. The work of uprooting what is false and planting what is true became a part of his lifelong sanctification.
We have created two resources that may help you as you care for those who need to do the work of uprooting false beliefs. First, you can attend our webinar, “Uprooting Fase Beliefs.” This webinar will unpack specific and practical ways in which you can help trauma survivors do this work. We have also created a written resource called “Planting New Beliefs.” This resource includes Scripture passages for meditation and questions for reflection, and it is available to CTHN Members. In addition, everyone who attends the “Uprooting False Beliefs” webinar will receive a copy of the “Planting New Beliefs” resource.