The following interview appears in the Self Talk, Soul Talk book.
An Interview with Alicia Britt Chole
My friend Alicia Britt Chole, a former atheist, is a sharp and witty author and speaker who is always full of depth and insight. In a casual conversation about her book Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years…and Yours, I asked her if her self talk had changed as she transitioned from living as an atheist to a follower of Christ.
Alicia: Coming out of atheism, I lived in a daydream
world. All the time, everywhere I’d go,
there was this alternative reality going on in my brain - either about the
future or the past. Since I came to
faith, God has severely disciplined my thoughts. I don’t even have permission to daydream
because of what it develops inside me. I’m not talking about harmless hopes for a bright future…a lot of my
daydreams were inspired by fear. Fear had a tremendous hold on what happened in
my mind - especially as a pre-believer. And so I’ve developed this principle:
Meditation on untruth is unprofitable for the soul. So if it’s not true, or not true yet, I won’t
allow myself to go there.
Jennifer: What does it mean to be “not true yet”?
Alicia: Okay, here’s one of the things I struggled with as a newly married woman. I was constantly in this self-conversation about fear. I remember once when my husband, Barry, was supposed to be home at noon. When he wasn’t, I thought, ‘That’s interesting.’ At 12:05, I thought, ‘Hmmm.’ At 12:10, I was thinking, ‘I wonder if something happened.’ This was before cell phones. At 12:15: ‘What IF something happened’? At 12:20: ‘Something DID happen - and it was bad.'
By 12:25, I could see my husband crossing the road and getting hit by a bus. At 12:30, I could see him lying in a puddle of blood while the ambulance arrives. By 12:45, I pictured the policeman knocking at my door, announcing that Barry is dead. At 1:00, I am on the floor weeping, thinking about my husband’s funeral.
At 1:05, Barry comes walking through the door, and he’s greeted by me saying, “You’re alive! You’re alive!”
And you see, I just spent five years of emotional energy mourning the death of a man who was stuck in traffic. I was doing this all the time and finally began to hear Father God asking me, ‘Do you think this is beneficial? Is it true?’ I answered, Not yet. That’s when He started planting in my soul the principle that meditation on untruth is unprofitable for the soul. And that’s been the guiding force for my self talk.
Jennifer: So, your barometer is, if it’s not true - or not true yet - you won’t dwell on it?
Alicia: Yes, but here’s the rest of it: Even if it is true, will talking to myself about it change anything? And if thoughts don’t get past those two filters, I will not invest any emotional or mental energy in them. It’s not always easy, but it is always profitable.
Jennifer: True, but if it’s not easy, how do you make yourself do it?
Alicia: I’ve learned to train my brain. Simple, practical things. I begin praying for other people - this I do the most. I focus my mental and emotional energy on making a spiritual difference in someone else’s life. When possible, I open a Bible and start to read. It doesn’t matter if I’m reading about the cubits in the temple or 2 Corinthians, I start reading the Word of God.
Jennifer: It sounds like those things help you change your focus. Do they work quickly?
Alicia: Not always, but they do work. I may struggle with a negative or unprofitable thought 100 times today. My goal is 99 tomorrow and then 98 the next day.
Jennifer: Does it eventually whittle down to 1 or 0?
Alicia: Absolutely. I’ve seen that over the last 20-something years of walking with Jesus. There are things that were consuming in my self talk that now no longer knock on the door.