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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Byers

The Trap of Second-Guessing


Sometimes we are preoccupied with re-thinking past decisions and old conversations, looking within ourselves for answers, imagining how it could have been different. In this introspective second-guessing, we engage in these internal conversations about the past or anxiously project an imagined future. Have you ever noticed yourself participating in this?

Some Christians think this kind of rumination is mature and helpful. But it’s a damaging habit that keeps us anxious and uncertain, constantly rehearsing, and cycling in relentless self-criticism. We are then bound in our thinking, unable to live freely and in the present. We get caught in a web of second-guessing.

We may rehearse how to live, but not go about the business of living. C. S. Lewis said: “I’ve learned that I’m here now and that is enough.” In this way he stayed in present reality rather than trying to avoid it. If we are to take our thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5) we must learn to focus away, outward to others and God, instead of within. We choose to focus on the present and God’s presence with us now.

The Quakers called this living moment-by-moment. And Jesus did this wonderfully. When he was on the way to minister to an ill 12 year-old girl, he stopped and ministered to someone else first without second guessing himself. When Lazarus died, he waited 3 days to go because he lived fully present to his Father. He was not anxious about the past or the future.

Sometimes we need to really make a decision that we’re going to come up out of something that we keep ruminating about. It may be an attachment to an old friend or love who caused us pain, money we lost and keep castigating ourselves about, an opportunity where we feel we failed, or a present circumstance we are trying to resolve. Pressing a reset button and really deciding we have brought it to the Lord and done what we can about it helps us move forward in peace.

When we’re stuck, we need the hope of forward movement, and it’s always possible. “Forgetting what lies behind” involves a decision to divest ourselves of the habit of introspection. Then we practice another habit, the spiritual discipline of abiding. It’s really a matter of where we set our mind, and what and who we choose to be occupied with. He is always worthy of that choice.

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