Interview with Lisa Whelchel
Actress and Author of “Creative Correction,” “Taking Care of the
“Me” in Mommy” and “The Busy Mom’s Guide to Prayer and Bible Study”
I got so much out of my conversation with my friend Lisa, and I know you will too. Just grab a cup of coffee and plan to read this more than once…it’s rich with insight and God will really use her words in your life as He did in mine.
Jennifer: I remember several months ago we had a conversation and you were talking about how you were going through a transition in your life. You found yourself on the airplane, telling yourself something, and I believe, if I remember correctly, you were telling yourself, “I’m so needy. I’m so needy.” Do you remember that?
Lisa: (giggles) Yes, now that you mention it. I’d forgotten about it, but yes.
Jennifer: Ok, so tell me - Is that typical of the way that you talk to yourself? Do you talk to yourself more during certain seasons, like this one, when you feel a little more emotionally sensitive? Tell me about that.
Lisa: Well, I think that I have conversations in my head that are rarely just between me and me. They’re oftentimes between other people and myself. Because I want their approval or I appreciate their point of view, I’ll often rehearse or review conversations with them.
Now, I think the LORD is showing me something. I’m becoming aware of and realizing that I shouldn’t be thinking through or rehearsing in my head what I am going to say. I do it because I don’t want to sound like a fool when I say something out loud. Or I rehearse and talk it out in my head because I fear that I can’t just spontaneously be who I am, - that I need to control what I say ahead of time. Therefore, I have these conversations in my head before I actually have them out loud. So when I do have them, they sound spontaneous, but really, I’ve thought them through so I sound and look good. My hopeful result is that I come out looking the way I want to look, rather than the way I might otherwise look just naturally.
Jennifer: Now, that’s interesting to me. So what you’re saying, if I understand you correctly, is that you use your self talk sometimes as role-playing so that you can rehearse what shows up on the outside.
Lisa: Exactly. In that situation you mentioned where I told myself, “I’m so needy,” I was reacting to the perception that I felt a friend (whose approval I wanted) thought I was too heavy. The message I was getting was that I was needy. So I was listening to them in my head and having that conversation, and then internalizing it and owning it.
Jennifer: And so you’re saying that you are capable, and probably all of us are capable of hearing not only our words in our own head, but also someone else’s that we’ve invited in.
Lisa: Yes, exactly. I think the most common way that we do that is probably hearing our mother’s voice in our head.
Jennifer: Hmmm, tell me about that. What do you mean?
Lisa: As we grow up, I think that, especially for me, I’ve always wanted to please my mom, and I’ve taken what she had to say with great value. So even though I have grown up, as I am thinking something through or considering something, I will hear her voice as well, and take that information into consideration, along with all the other voices - like mine, and hopefully, God’s - before I make a decision.
I definitely do hear my own voice, and hopefully, God’s voice, but I also hear the voices of other people who I respect either from as far back as my childhood to someone who is fresh in my life.
Jennifer: So, that being the case, let’s say that someone’s mother didn’t always give them truthful messages. How do you hear God’s voice louder in your head than any other highly influential voice - like a mother’s or a husband’s that may have spoken untruth to you?
Lisa: I think, first, it is the grace of God that makes you aware that it’s your mother’s voice, and not your own, not His, or not truth. And I think that if someone is reading this interview, and they resonate with what we’re talking about, they can take that as God’s grace, saying that “This is something I want to shed some light on.” And once you’re aware of it, then you’re intentionally aware of it, - intentional about what you’re hearing in your head.
And for me, uh, it’s funny that you would call me and have this conversation because the LORD has already, in the last few months, been talking to me about this. When I have these dialogues in my head, between myself or my mother or other people whose approval I seek, the LORD has really asked me to stop having those conversations, - to let them go. If I want to talk about them, He asks me to turn them into prayer, a conversation with Him alone and express what it is without filtering to Him.
You know, I feel like I can do that with Him. I feel like I can rest in the safety of how He feels about me enough to be vulnerable, enough to not be perfect. I think He’s probably the only voice that makes me feel that way. I think that with my mom and with other people and with myself, I want to be perfect, and I will make sure that I have rehearsed or thought it through so that I can give that appearance of having things under control. But with the LORD, I don’t feel that need. I feel like I can just be immature, and don’t have to have it all together, and if they’re simple inclinations or thoughts, I’m not afraid to come to Him with those.
It really has been awareness of those inner-conversations that has gotten me where I can bring it from the invisible to the visible. It’s helped me take my thoughts to the Lord as prayers, and sometimes, I’m not even using words. Sometimes, I can’t really form words because I’m so inclined to try to make the words sound right, that all I can do is give God not even audible groans. I take all these emotions and all these feelings and lay them before Him, so that He can interpret them.
Jennifer: I love that, Lisa, because that’s a more authentic way to live, because you’re not always rehearsing. What it does is draw you to authenticity on the inside and authenticity on the outside. And it’s beautiful because what I hear you saying is that you’re taking those thoughts and you really are holding them captive. You’re doing something with them that redeems them, - you’re giving them to God, because He’s the only one Who can take those things and make sense of them. When you do that, what you’re saying to God is: “Your voice is the most important. So I’m going to hush these other thoughts. I’m going to direct them in prayer to You.” And then God’s voice does become louder.
Lisa: Yes,…and that includes whatever is before the thought…
Jennifer: Um, tell me what that means.
Lisa: My thoughts are so affected by my own coping mechanisms, by my own habits and my own ways of thinking things that aren’t always the truth, - my own background and history, my own feeling about circumstances and people around me. By the time they get to be thoughts, there is a lot of pollution in them. And so even before it gets to that point, I try to capture what it is that can’t be expressed into words - the desire or motivation that leads to the thought. Those desires and motivations are more purely me. So that’s what I want to offer to the LORD. That’s the conversation I want to have with the LORD.
Jennifer: I think that’s a huge point, and I think that
is helpful because what you’re saying is that you don’t just assume that a
thought is a thought. You dissect it and
you drill down and check out the layers, and find out what the motivation is,
because that is purely you. You
recognize that you are (and we are) able to even manipulate your thoughts.
Lisa: I live in my head so much that I’m quite adept at manipulating my thoughts! I’m more immature at understanding and labeling my emotions. I think I feel safe enough with the LORD to be able to start doing that with Him in this season of my life.
Jennifer: That’s awesome - that’s a great takeaway. That’s the one place we can truly trust - we are safe with Father God. Not with our own thoughts, not with our own motivations, not with the other voices in our heads, but with the voice of Jesus and the intimacy we can have with Him. I love that, Lisa. That’s huge and helpful. I really appreciate you, I really appreciate your honesty, and I am so glad you didn’t rehearse this conversation in your head…it was great!