Language influences behavior and self-perception. Your perspective, and how you choose to respond, and how you talk and think, shape your life. Proverbs 4:23 affirms, “Above all else, guard your heart with all diligence, for from it spring the issues of life.” With life’s ordeals, we can feel burdened by what is taking place all around us in our homes and our society, being rigidly influenced by it. Proverbs 18:21 expresses, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” How you talk influences your life and the lives of those around you. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, the concept of self-as-context refers to one’s perspective of the ever-changing content of one’s life (one’s thoughts, emotions, memories, life experiences, labels, occupations, evaluations, beliefs, habits, social roles, behaviors etc.).
You are the context of your life, and how you respond to those things influences how they affect you. In lieu of being rigidly influenced by them, by changing your perspective, or the context, you can change how an experience affects you, enabling you to avoid rigid thinking, behavior, and self-perception and enabling you to approach life with flexibility— consider what Paul conveyed, “…I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
As the devil fills your mind with doubt and anxiety, you can either be overcome by worry, or you can turn to God who gives us this assurance, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), changing your perspective of the situation and helping you to respond to it differently. Proverbs 15:1 reads, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” How we talk about ourselves, and others, will either draw us together or divide us. As people talk about themselves using “I am” or “I am… because” statements, they create a verbal story or description, a concept, of how they see themselves—this is known as the conceptualized self or self-as-content; it is rigid attachment to the story you tell yourself, for instance, saying, “I’m depressed because I’m not doing well as a Christian,” or “I’m too nervous to share the Gospel with others because I don’t want to expose myself to ridicule.” Because of these verbal conceptualizations, they influence how you see yourself and exacerbate avoidance behavior. Self-as-context seeks to loosen attachment to the conceptualized self—to the concept you have of yourself, so you can respond to life with flexibility.
By changing your perspective, you can say Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” With this new flexible mindset, we can share Jesus Christ with others boldly and avoid rigid, self-defeating behavior as to why we are too timid to proclaim our faith. To the Christian who says, “I’m growing weary in this spiritual race,” reframing your situation to something such as Philippians 1:6, “He who started a good work in you will finish it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ,” reminds us that God will finish what he started and gives us hope to persevere. When kids at school tease you for being a Christian, or when people ostracize you at work for the same reason, changing how you view what they say influences how their labels and comments affect you, so you can avoid identifying with them, for instance, expressing, “Their harsh words do not define me. What God says of me is the only thing that matters.” If you find yourself sharing your faith with an unbeliever who defensively says, “I’m an atheist. I do not
believe in God. I don’t care what you have to say,” consider, gently, helping them see a flexible perspective if you have an opportunity, then by reframing how you present your belief, it will change how they receive the information. For example, consider responding with, “Your views as an atheist are important to you, and I respect what you believe. When you share your views with others, it is something you care about. I’m not criticizing you or coercing you; I’m sharing something I care about just like you would,” establishing common ground and highlighting the values that are important to the other person.
Heaven far outweighs the trials of life as we are encouraged to “set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth” (Colossians 3:2), and its beauty transcends anything we can grasp, “However as it is written: No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor conceived in the heart of man—the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1Corinthians 2:9).
Are you caught up in the trials and content of life, or are you looking to heaven? Your perspective makes all the difference. <Miles Crume>