What Dr. Luke has to say about the Impact of Our Thinking on Our Self Esteem and Health - Part I


Today Dr. Luke will talk about the impact of our thinking on our self-esteem. This is an important aspect of our lives. For how we think affects how we think about ourselves and as a result our health. Let’s start by telling a story of a person with this type of problem.

Ma Ming Jia was a 31-year-old mother who married five years ago.  She was able to have a child quickly and now her child was three years old.  Ma Ming Jia’s had always been a fairly happy person though she had one trait, which bothered her more than she thought it should. She had constant thoughts, which were negative. Not only did she think them but she also said them. She did not think they were right and she was concerned about them. For example Ma Ming Jia would often tell her daughter that she was stupid for doing certain things like spilling milk or not picking up things.

What really got Ma Ming Jing’s attention was when one day she saw her daughter playing with her dolls and she noticed that her daughter put a cup in the doll’s hand.  The cup fell out of the doll’s hand and the Ma Ming Jing’s daughter said to her doll, ‘why did you drop that cup, you are so stupid.’ This startled Ma Ming Jing and she knew that her daughter was saying this because of her saying this to her.

Ma Ming Jing knew that she needed to change but how could she do this?  She seemed totally powerless to change her thoughts and her words. Plus if her daughter was saying these things at this age how could she change them? What could she do?

One day Ma Ming Jing was talking with a friend about what her daughter had said to her doll. Ma Ming Jing then said she thought her daughter was doing this because of her words. Ma Ming Jing’s friend asked her if she would go see a doctor who was a specialist in this area. Though Ma Ming Jing was not particularly interested in this she also was concerned about her daughter and why she was acting the way she was so she went with her friend.

The doctor listened to Ma Ming Jing’s story and then he said that recent research has demonstrated quite clearly that a person's thinking patterns have a significant influence upon their psychological well-being.  Research has also shown that it is possible to modify one's thinking patterns in such a way as to improve moods, social relationships and behaviors. It was good news to Ma Ming Jing to know that her thinking could be modified, but how she asked the doctor.

The doctor went on to say to Ma Ming Jing that we think to ourselves in words and sentences all of our waking hours. From the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep we engage in a running commentary to ourselves in our minds.  Psychologists call this self-talk.  Sometimes the thoughts are neutral, such as "I need to pick up some bread on the way home".  Sometimes the thoughts are positive, such as "I can't wait until the concert Saturday night".  And sometimes the thoughts are negative, such as "I can't believe that would say something so stupid".  Most of the time, we don't think about our thoughts or consider the impact that they have on our perceptions and our moods.  We also don't tend to question the accuracy of our thoughts.  When we say something to ourselves in our thoughts, we just accept the statement as fact.  However, we now know that many of our thoughts are based more on our beliefs and prior learning than they are based on reality.  This was all very interesting to Ma Ming Jing and her friend.

The doctor then asked them to look at an example.  Imagine a family of a husband, a wife and a little girl.  The husband's name is Lin, the wife's name is Mei Mei and the little girl's name is Mei Li.  Now, Mei Li is a perfectly fine little girl.  She is intelligent, kind and cute.   The only real problem is that Lin has a strong tendency to be critical.  In particular, he uses the word stupid in his critical comments.  So, when Mei Li spills the milk at the table, Lin may say something like "How could you be so stupid, honey.  Get the towel and get it up".  She may accidentally tie her shoes into a knot.  Lin would say something like "How could anyone be so stupid as to tie a knot this tight".

The doctor continued the story, so, one day Dad is gone to work and mom is inside the house.  Mei Li is playing outside with a doll.  She accidentally drops her doll and it breaks on the sidewalk.  When she sees that her doll is broken, what thought do you think pops into her head?  That's right, "How could I be so stupid".  You see, since Mei Li has repeatedly heard her father call her stupid, she now has the internal belief that she is stupid.  Her thoughts to herself have been influenced by her father's behavior.  If another little girl whose father had not called her stupid, dropped her doll, she would have probably have had a different thought.  She may have thought something like "Oh no, my doll is broken.  I hope that mommy can fix it."  Mei Li believes that she is stupid because her father called her stupid.  She now has a tendency to have negative and critical thoughts about her intelligence because of her experience with her father.

Now, let's imagine that Mei Li goes to school.  She gets back a test paper and she has made a failing grade.  What thought do you think might go through her mind?  That's right, she would probably think something like "I failed because I'm stupid".  Now, let's imagine that she gets back another test paper where she makes a perfect score.  What thought do you think may pop into her mind now?  She would probably think something like "I must have gotten lucky".  or "It must have been an easy test".

Once a person has an established belief, they have a tendency to pay attention only to events that agree with that belief.  This is called selective perception.  Another example of selective perception occurs when a woman who does not believe that she is attractive is given a complement on her appearance.  The thought that immediately pops into her mind is "That are just being nice".  Because of selective perception, we all have a tendency to maintain the beliefs about ourselves and other people that we learned during childhood.  We can change our childhood beliefs, but it tends to be quite difficult to do so. All of this fascinated Ma Ming Jing and her friend. Ma Ming Jing thought that this doctor must be inside her mind to be able to so clearly understand what was happening in her thinking.

The doctor continued to say, that the example, which they had just considered, illustrates the impact of negative thinking on self-esteem.  Unfortunately, many, many people have very low self-esteem because they experienced criticism or even verbal abuse during their childhood.  This low self-esteem causes people to have difficulties in their careers and in their personal relationships.  It prevents many people from reaching their true potential.  They choose not to take risks or to take steps to reach their goals because they anticipate failure.  This was what happened with Ma Ming Jing. Her father had often been critical of her and as a result she often did not want to do things for fear of failure. How would she be able to move forward she asked the doctor?

The doctor told Ma Ming Jing that self-esteem difficulties could focus on the person's belief that they are not competent to succeed in tasks.  They may believe that they are not intelligent or that they do not have the abilities that other people have.  However, self-esteem difficulties can also focus in the area of personal relationships.  Because the person experienced rejection or distance from others when they were a child, they may tend to anticipate rejection in their adult lives.  This anticipation can cause them to be anxious when around others or it may cause them to avoid interactions with others altogether. Ma Ming Jing thought she was friendly enough but she also realized that she often did have some trouble with interpersonal relations. Was this part of the reason why she wondered out loud to the doctor and her friend?

Ma Ming Jing, the doctor and her friend continued for a short amount of time to discuss these things but they needed to leave. They decided that they would meet later to discuss these things in more depth. Certainly if Ma Ming Jing was not interested she was now. She thought there was hope for getting better and helping herself and her family, especially her daughter.

As Ma Ming Jing and her friend left the hospital her friend asked her if she had ever heard of Jesus Christ?  Ma Ming Jing asked her why and what did that have to do with her thinking problems?  Her friend replied, everything.  How could that be Ma Ming Jing asked her friend?

Ma Ming Jing’s friend turned to a place in the Bible, which said, ‘we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (II Corinthians 10.5).’ Further she showed her another place in the Bible which said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.  The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song (Psalms 28.6, 7).’  This shows that when our thoughts become obedient to God through his Son Jesus Christ, God makes our heart leap for joy and we will give thanks.  Ma Ming Jing certainly wanted to have her heart leap for joy, as her heart had been heavy with this issue of how she thought and communicated with her daughter.

Ma Ming Jing asked her friend how she could come to know this person Jesus Christ. Her friend told her that it was only through knowing Jesus as your savior and personally inviting him into your life could you know his saving power in your life. How can you know this saving power Ma Ming Jing’s friend asked her? The Bible tells us how to do this.  First the Bible tells how far away we are from God because of our sin. Ma Ming Jing’s friend showed her a place in the Bible which said, ‘the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1.18-20).’ What does this mean her friend asked her?  Men and women have all rejected God and are without excuse because of this.  This rejection though had its consequences.

The consequence of this sin or wrongdoing before God is separation now and eternally from God. Another place in the Bible said it like this, ‘for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23).’  Our sin causes us to fall short of God’s glory and thus we have separation. Later the Bible says that ‘you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient...but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been save (Ephesians 2.1,2,4,5).’ She went onto read in the Bible, ‘for it is grace you have been saved through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2.8,9).’

What does all of this mean Ma Ming Jing’s friend asked her? We can only come to God through believing in what Jesus Christ did for us. There is no work, philosophy or other religions we can do or believe in to get this salvation, only by faith in Jesus Christ.

Ma Ming Jing asked her friend exactly what it was she should believe?  Her friend pointed to another passage in the Bible which said, ‘his purpose was to created in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility (Ephesians 2.15,16).’ It was by Jesus Christ dying on the cross that we have forgiveness of our sins and that his rising from dead that we know Jesus Christ has power over the death caused by sin.

Ma Ming Jing’s friend told her that she could receive Jesus Christ by saying the following prayer after her and truly mean and believe this prayer.  Her friend prayed this prayer, ‘Dear Lord Jesus Christ, I know that I am a sinful person and have sinned against you. I know that this sin has separated me from you. I also know that you died on the cross to save me from my sin. I know that after you died you were buried and rose from the dead to give me victory over sin. I ask that you forgive me of my sins and give me life now and eternally. Amen.’

Ma Ming Jing immediately had a newfound peace and purpose in her life as a result of her relationship with Jesus Christ.  Also as her thoughts became more obedient to Jesus Christ through the knowledge of his word her thoughts became better and more wholesome.

You too can have the same transformed life and purpose as Ma Ming Jing did if you will just ask him into your life today.