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Chapter 2

The Change

It’s not about sin, it’s about grace.

I am worthless. God can’t love me because I’m not good enough. I should be a better Christian. I am so broken that if I don’t get better, I’m going to lose my husband. He will want to leave me for someone who isn’t so messed up. Maybe he is already looking. Don’t make a mistake or show anyone that you are as pathetic as you are. I need to be a better person. I wish I could be normal. I don’t care if I live or not. How can anyone love me?

Such was the nagging, miserable pattern of my constant negative self-talk. These days it is much better. Here is me now:

My hair! It looks terrible. This shirt makes me look fat, well…that’s because I am fat. I should lose weight. Or buy bigger shirts. That lady was so rude to me. She doesn’t like me for some reason. What did I say? Did I do something that made her not like me? I hope our new neighbors don’t decide I’m too weird. Well, you are weird, Laurel. They will see it. But will that make them run? They probably will, but I hope not.

My negative self-talk remains, but it is no longer so disparaging, depressing, and debilitating. And my thoughts are getting less and less negative as the years go on. I might be on the verge of buying bigger shirts.

How about you? What are you saying to yourself?

It is bad enough people say mean things to others, but we are often our own worst critic! Why do we judge ourselves so harshly? Why don’t we accept ourselves? Why can’t we like ourselves, let alone love ourselves?


Sadly, negative self-talk plagues everyone to some degree. A National Science Foundation study found that the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, of which a staggering 80% are negative!” [1]


Why do we beat ourselves up so severely? I believe it is because we are not confident in our value and standing with God. It’s bad enough we are pressured by society to be beautiful, fit, rich, smart, and have a great sense of humor. All of these can lead to negative thoughts about ourselves as we don’t measure up. However, we are also pressured within the Christian body to perform well, obey God, and stop sinning so much or so often. The outside pressure exacerbates our own inward feelings of failure and self-doubt. Many of us feel like we can never be good enough.

I would say stay off Instagram and go hide in a cave in the middle of a jungle somewhere, but even then, we would beat ourselves up because we weren’t doing enough for God, and we’d etch our failures into the cave walls so we could “reflect” on them later. Then we would spend our days staring at those walls feeling defeated, dismal, and depressed. So, how do we stop that destructive voice?




There is an answer. It is the “who-to” I referred to previously. I’ll explain.

I would guess that negative self-talk isn’t an invention of modern times. Think about Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, and the Samaritan woman at the well. I can only imagine that all three of them were also plagued by self-criticism. After all, they were the sinners of their time and society made sure they knew it. They most likely felt guilty, dirty, and unlovable.

As you recall, Zacchaeus was a short tax collector who climbed a tree so he could see Jesus walking down the street. Tax collectors were viewed as despicable sinners, and because of that, I would guess that the words “you are an awful sinner,” bounced around in his head quite a bit.

Jesus invited Himself to have dinner at Zacchaeus’ house. While others called Zacchaeus a sinner, Jesus called him a son of Abraham. Zacchaeus was saved that day and forever changed because of his faith. Jesus is the great transformer.

It wasn’t about Zacchaeus’ sin; it was about Jesus loving him. It was about grace.

Another example: Jesus was teaching in the temple when some religious leaders brought to Him a woman who had been caught in adultery. Those men dragged her before the Lord to be stoned as the law required. They were testing Him, while judging and condemning her. I can only imagine the negative self-talk she lived with every day of her life. But did Jesus condemn her? No, and after He wrote something in the dirt that must have convinced her accusers that they weren’t qualified to pick up a stone and judge her, she watched as they all walked away. Instead of condemning the woman, Jesus showed her His love for her, and she learned about grace that day.

It wasn’t about her sin; it was about Jesus loving her. It was about grace.

Finally, we learn that the Samaritan woman at the well had been the wife of several husbands. The Jewish people were raised not to interact with or even speak to the people of Samaria, who were regarded as inferior. Her negative self-talk was probably a daily grind. But she was curious about this Jewish man at the well who ignored the social mores and spoke to her kindly. She ended up receiving Jesus as her Savior. This woman was forever changed by her encounter with Jesus.

It wasn’t about her sin; it was about Jesus loving her. It was about grace.

All three of these people were called sinners, judged by those around them, and I’m sure felt unworthy of Jesus’ love and forgiveness because they knew they were not perfect. But Jesus didn’t come to condemn them because they were imperfect sinners, He came to save them because they were valuable to Him. He changed their lives and their eternal destination. He came to offer His love and radical grace.




For me to become nicer to myself, I had to take the long way around, through a poor imitation of grace first, before I became more forgiving and loving of myself.

Because of the childhood sexual abuse I endured, I felt guilty, dirty, and unworthy of love. When I started going to church, I went looking for freedom and something new, but sadly, I left feeling like I hadn’t done enough, I sin too much, and I need to be more holy. The gospel I had heard was one that condemned me instead of freeing me. It constantly reminded me that because of my sin, I was guilty, dirty, and God was going to be disappointed in me unless I cleaned myself up. And that message amplified my feeling that I was unlovable because it made my sin the focus. This message fueled my negative thoughts rather than healed them. The gospel I kept hearing failed to transform me like I had expected it to.

Why didn’t that false gospel have the power to change me? Because the emphasis was always my sin rather than God’s grace. The true and complete gospel is all about grace and freedom in Christ. I had to learn about His grace to be transformed and released from the bondage of such negative thoughts, self-condemnation, and shame. See, the gospel is frequently muddled up with useless rules, misinformation, and confusion about our spiritual state in Jesus. God’s grace is often overshadowed by the preoccupation of obedience and the work of trying to sin less as you do more. That lack of grace is what produces guilt, shame, and negative self-talk in our minds. It had that effect on me until I refused to let it anymore.

After years of trying to curb my anger, judgement, and shame about my past and how that was affecting my marriage, I realized that living well and healing my scars wasn’t a matter of me fixing my sin by my own efforts, it was about Jesus and what He has already done for me.

See, I am Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, and the woman at the well. Have I committed their specific sins? Maybe, maybe not. That doesn’t matter anyway. Like them, it was my shame that was standing between me and Jesus. But with each of us, He cuts right through that wall of shame with His grace and gives us a new identity. That was what transformed our Biblical friends, and that’s what transformed me.

Grace is what allows forgiveness and heals deep wounds. It isn’t about trying to become righteous and quell shame through certain acts and behaviors; it is about His righteousness that He has graciously bestowed upon me. It isn’t about me at all; it is about Jesus.

Before I came to understand radical grace, I lived through many struggles and much suffering. Sometimes I felt like I was dead, like there was no life in me, no inspiration or hope. Thoughts of suicide entered my mind. I understand and now live in the grace God offers. I found His boundless freedom within that grace that has broken the chains not only of my sin but also the chains my offenders had put me in. I am free! The answer is Jesus and His radical grace! He changes us.

Figuring this all out was a journey that took several years. Through prayer, correct teaching, digging into the Word for myself, and getting to know the “who-to,” Jesus, and His radical grace, I went from a fearful, guilty wreck to a faithful and freed child of God. I was transformed.

My friend, I want that same freedom for you! I want you to know God loves you and will never leave you. I want you to live in the peace and joy that freedom through His grace gives you. I want you to stop telling yourself what a failure you are. I want you to quit making sin and the effort to avoid it your focus in life. I want you to stop writing your failures on your cave walls. I want you to live free, enjoy life, and love much. I want you to truly understand and grab hold of God’s grace and never let go. You should feel alive! Let Jesus’ radical grace break your chains and be the change you need.

[1] Simone, F. (2017). Negative Self-Talk: Don’t Let It Overwhelm You. Psychology Today.

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