I stepped off the stage with a big smile, but inside I was wilting from insecurity.
Did I really just say that? Authenticity is my ministry call and mode of operation, but sometimes I worry that I am too honest—too vulnerable. My desire is to have modest honesty. Had I gone too far? Did I share too much?
My thoughts swirled in negativity as we finished our final time of worship. I slipped away to my book table, certain I would stand there alone until the cleanup crew asked me to leave the building. You’ve done it this time, Carey. You shared too much. So when a line of women formed, all waiting to talk to me, I stood amazed.
In my talk, I unpacked the story of being sexually abused at the age of four and how tangled in worthlessness and shame that experience left me. It’s a hard story to share. But because it’s the ground zero for insecurities that have knotted me up for so long, it’s a story God asks me to share. And as each woman in line hugged my neck, they whispered in my ear, “Thank you for sharing your story. It’s my story, too.”
Our testimony is powerful because it reminds others of God’s faithfulness. It offers hope to those who feel stuck. It brings a sense of community to those who feel all alone. And because of those things, the Enemy makes an act of vulnerability a battleground through our negative introspection.
That was exactly what I was doing the 20 minutes between the end of my talk and when the line of women began to form at my book table. I just knew sharing my abuse story was going to be the end of my speaking ministry.
You have no idea how many times these kinds of thoughts come to my mind. Whether I’ve just spoken at an event or had coffee with a friend… be it immediately or hours later… more times than not I replay my words through a negative filter. I decide what I shared was stupid or irrelevant, rude or hurtful, simple or prideful, ridiculous or reckless, and I get embarrassed.
I hate that feeling.
Introspection can be a dangerous tool of the Enemy. This self-analysis can turn into self-condemnation unless we learn to do it right. Because when we get inside our head and pick apart the things we said, too often it becomes a deadly battleground. And the victim is our self-worth.
Even if our motives were pure… our hearts tender… our words innocent… and our intent good… the tangles of insecurity get the best of us. As we obsess over our words, the Enemy of our soul harasses us and we decide we’ve messed up again.
Let’s just be honest. Sometimes we don’t think through our words before we speak them.
We react from wounded places and our words are harsh. We say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Our humanness can rise up in reckless and ugly ways. And while it’s healthy and wise to circle back to that statement or situation and reevaluate how we could have handled it better, self-condemnation serves no good purpose.
Here are three ways we can have healthy introspection:
1. Find the Right Time and Place
Immediate introspection can be full of emotions that are not full of truth. Rather than replay it right then and there, give yourself some space to regroup. Schedule time later when you can give it your full attention.
2. Ask Yourself the Right Questions
Avoid asking “why” questions because they can be condemning and trigger shame responses. Why can’t I say the right thing? Instead, ask “how” questions because they are more solution-oriented. How might I have handled that better? How could my words have made them feel? How do I fix this?
3. Ask God for His Thoughts
God uses messy moments to soften our rough edges. Ask for divine revelation so you can learn from the situation and know the best way to move forward for all involved. His heart for you is always good, and His plans are too.
If we are going to be leaders in our homes and communities, we need to stand in the confidence that we are who God says we are—even when we mess up. We need wisdom and grace so we can love others well. And we need the Holy Spirit to guide our words so they are laced with truth and love.
And just as important, let’s use introspection wisely so we can learn from our mistakes instead of beat ourselves up for making them.
Carey Scott is the author of Untangled, a book where she bravely shares her story of abuse, the insecurities birthed from it, and the freedom she now has through Jesus. She is also an international speaker who loves to have honest conversations about real life. She discusses the struggles women face the most, always reminding them of their immeasurable value. Carey lives in Northern Colorado with her family. Learn more by visiting CareyScottTalks. You can also connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.