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The 3 Voices You Need to Evict From Your Life

Feb 24, 2015

I love Netflix.

I know many of us end up on Netflix each week, spending hours binge-watching our favorite shows or discovering films we saw years ago and then forgot about entirely.

Recently, when I was home trying to get through a bout of strep throat followed by pneumonia, I developed a new Netflix obsession. After flying through all seven seasons of The West Wing when our twins were first born, I needed a new show.

I discovered ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series. According to ESPN.com, “the idea behind 30 for 30 was to commemorate ESPN’s 30th anniversary by producing 30 films from some of today’s finest directors. Each filmmaker brought their passion and personal point of view to each film, detailing the issues, trends, athletes, teams, rivalries, games and events that transformed the sports landscape from 1979 to 2009.”

The first 30 films were highly decorated. A second volume of 30, along with a “shorts” brand, has emerged beyond the the original slate of films.

Recently, I watched 30 for 30: Youngstown Boys. This film focuses on Ohio State University’s football team during the era of coach Jim Tressel and running back Maurice Clarett. Tressel’s first major coaching job was at Youngstown State in Youngstown, Ohio, where Clarett grew up.

Clarrett’s story is part victory, part tragedy. Near the end of the film, in a scene close to the present day, Maurice Clarett is shown speaking to a group of inmates at a prison. In telling the story of his downfall and seeking to challenge and inspire his audience, Clarrett said, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

By the end of the film, I was admittedly paying half attention to my TV, while doing something on my phone. Nevertheless, this quote grabbed my attention. “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

Clarett is correct. The voices we listen to shape our future. They impact who we’ll become and where we’ll go.

 

I experienced this reality profoundly myself during my battle with cynicism. My transition from cynicism to hope is a testimony to the voices I valued and empowered. During my battle with cynicism, I voraciously read voices that critiqued the modern church. My experience in a local church was not unique and others had similar experiences in their local churches.

As I struggled to process the pain I experienced there myself, my reading only served to exacerbate the pain. Many of the authors I read spent more time talking about what was broken than how it could be healed. They spent more time deconstructing what had been and not nearly enough time building what could or should be in the future.

As I battled cynicism, I did not want to ignore the brokenness experienced by myself and others. But I needed to renegotiate my relationship to these voices if I was going to rediscover a healthy existence myself. Too many of us are frivolous when it comes to the kinds of voices we empower. We’re passive when it comes to the voices – we let any voice in that we encounter. We act powerless when we have the power to filter and tune out the destructive ones. We process the bad voices alone and we don’t get help to unseat those in power in our heads.

Too many of us are frivolous when it comes to the kinds of voices we empower.

 

If every voice in our life influences our future (and not all of those voices are healthy), then who should be kicked out of your head? Who should we get the megaphone? (I will tackle the answer to the first question in this post you are currently reading and the answer to the second question in my next post, which should go live on Tuesday morning, March 3.) Today, I am suggesting we need to kick 3 voices out of our lives. More specifically, we need to evict them from our minds.

 

1. Kick out voices who lack wisdom but overflow with arrogance.

In the Bible, 1 Kings 12 records the demise of King Rehoboam. In a moment of opportunity, Rehoboam chooses the wisdom of his young, inexperienced peers and spurns the wisdom of his late father Solomon’s advisors.

The result? The united kingdom of 12 tribes that his father presided over as the wisest, wealthiest and most powerful king of his day was torn in two. 10 tribes succeeded to the north and became the nation of Israel, while Rehoboam remained in the south with two tribes and became the nation of Judah.

Like Rehoboam’s buddies, we all begin our work without experience. Lack of experience is not a problem. It was not even the primary cause of the downfall of the advisors from whom Rehoboam took his cues. Inexperience laced with arrogance – that’s a problem.

I once heard author and leadership expert John Maxwell announce that we are the sum of the five people with whom we spend the most time. If those 5 people are ___________, it is likely we will eventually too. They might be arrogant, bitter, imaginative, cynical, forgiving, sarcastic, loving, reckless, focused, angry or foodies. By spending much of our time with them, we become like them.

If we have influential voices in our lives that lack experience but abound with arrogance, we can expect our future to include disappointment.

 

2. Kick out fear-driven voices.

In the Bible, the events recorded Numbers 13 show how fear powerfully shapes our decisions.

12 men were spent to spy out the land of Canaan. All 12 saw the same thing; 10 responded with fear, 2 responded with hope. 10 spies saw all of the obstacles, 2 spies saw all of the victories God would provide.

Fear focuses you on the negative and the “what if?” When you hear someone who is always finding what’s wrong with something and playing out worst-case scenarios, you may be dealing with someone who lives by fear.

During my commute last month, I heard ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd make a comment about fear. He shared about a recent conversation with his wife. He was broadcasting from Arizona the week before the 49th Biggest NFL Game, while she bracing for the Juno storm. His wife was becoming paranoid and fearful about the impending storm. In telling his wife to stop watching CNN and the Weather channel, he said, “You are what you consume.”

When you regularly consume fear-driven news, you’ll be driven by fear yourself.

How much cable news do you watch? How many hours of talk radio do you listen to? What political sites do you visit multiple times a day?

If you dial into fear-driven voices constantly, you will struggle to live with hope and courage.

 

3. Kick out the voices that only tear down and never build up.

I love the Biblical story of Nehemiah. Nehemiah had been serving the king of Persia when he received news of how despondent the Jews in Jerusalem without a wall to protect their city. As cupbearer (fancy title for “one who tests the king’s wine and food to make sure they are poison-free,”) Nehemiah had access to the king and God used this access to open the door of Jerusalem’s walls to be rebuilt. Nehemiah oversaw the construction project.

The project becomes vehemently opposed by a group led by two men, Sanballat and Tobiah. They did all they could to depress, intimidate and deter the people from working on the wall.

We need to be careful when we’re around those who continually tear other people down. Sadly, it is likely that you’re the subject of conversation for these folks when you’re not around. Eventually, those voices will turn on you and you may join everyone else as the butt of the most recent joke.

The last thing any of us need are sycophants who brown nose and tell us only what we want to hear. But constant critics are just as unhelpful.

There’s one person in my life who I eventually stopped communicating with because he always seemed the bearer of bad news about me. Nothing I did was good enough for him.

I’ve blocked people on Facebook because I’m tired of their constant “Chicken Little” type posts. They never bring good news or hopeful perspectives. It’s always a funeral and never a party with them.

As you begin to realize how much power you have, I hope you realize the power and agency you have to own the flow of voices into your thoughts and mind. While we often need help dealing with abusive voices, voices who demean and destroy us, we can ask for help and take steps that begin to remove the power those voices have in deciding our future.

I’ve also written about the 3 voices that need a megaphone in your life. It’s a very different list than the 3 above and you can read that article here

 

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