Not long ago I joined a loved one at a recovery meeting at a local church. This individual faced a battle with drugs, and I came along to give support. During the class time, we were given a handout to write down a goal for the week, and I wrote down, “Conquer Emotional Eating.” I saw I turned to this because of some harsh circumstances in my life.
We were instructed to write smaller goals, which would help us reach this goal. One of the four of my smaller goals was, “Stop Negative Thinking,” which I realized was connected to overeating brought on by emotional turmoil.
As the week went on, I kept track of when negative thinking occurred, and the actions which followed that kind of thinking.
These four Cs comprised what I did when negative thoughts came to mind: Criticizing, Contending, Controlling, Complaining.
All four of these behaviors were carried out to try to change the situation which lay at the center of my negative thoughts.
Usually, it was a person my negative thoughts focused on. At times, the person was me.
One negative thought that came to mind was, “She is never going to stop this negative behavior.” First, I criticized the person about their behavior. I considered it constructive criticism and being helpful, but the person just got angry. Then I turned to contending—arguing about why it was necessary to change this behavior immediately. When the person argued back, I then moved into trying to control. One way I realized I did this was to tell the person what I would do if he/she didn’t change the behavior.
After criticizing, contending, and trying to control didn’t change anything, I then moved on to complaining to others about this person and their behaviors which were getting me down. The people I chose gave some negative remarks, which kept me in my negative thinking.
At the end of all of this, I felt discouraged, and the cure for this discouragement surely lay in eating comfort foods such as sweets.
Ever since I saw this pattern which led to me feeling depressed and then turning to food to self-medicate, I’ve been able to repeatedly stop these four actions which involve my mouth before the words came pouring out. Yes, I slip at times, but the good news is that I have accomplished my goal of conquering emotional eating.
Now I can first identify the negative thoughts I have, “this situation is hopeless,” “he’s never going to change,” or “I will never be able to stop doing this (some ungodly behavior).” Next, I can stay aware of what comes out of my mouth. If criticisms come, I can apologize and stop the flow and keep myself from moving on to contending, controlling, or complaining. I can also work on replacing the negative thoughts with positive/godly thoughts: “My hope is the Lord,” “Lord, change me and my attitude toward that other person’s behavior,” and “He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it” (Philippians 1:6).
If I identify the four Cs before I realize my thoughts have become negative again, I can go back and ask myself, “What negative thoughts are in my mind right now?” Sometimes, I’m not even aware that they have crept in again.
Another issue that comes up with the four Cs is that sometimes it’s another person laying them on me, which also brings on discouragement and depression in me. Not long ago someone called me and started complaining about another person. She then moved into criticizing me for how I related to this person. I disagreed, and she moved into contending. I confess I kept up the argument for a time. Then the person attempted to control me through telling me what I must do and how I must be.
The key when others try to lay the four Cs on me is to bring God into the conversation quickly, i.e., by saying, “Let’s pray about her.” I can mention a Bible verse that has been helping me with relationships. I can speak positive statements. At times, I’ve had to politely end the call or walk away from a negative conversation. The worst thing I can do is join the other person in negative thinking and speaking and hit back with my own criticism, complaining, contending, and controlling, since this brings us both down.
I feel grateful that the Lord wants to help me with everything in my life that holds me back from being all He wants me to be. As I present myself to Him as being willing to overcome behaviors that hurt me and others, I’m amazed how quickly He gives me insights to conquer those sins. The first step is to let go of denial. With the emotional eating, which is really turning to food instead of the Lord, I need to admit that I’m back to doing it instead of making excuses like, “I’m just enjoying more food than usual,” or “there’s just lots of food around, so I just eat it.”
As I stay connected to the Lord instead of forming unhealthy attachments to things in this world—like food—He will repeatedly show me where I need to change, so I can stop staying focused on changing others.
Today my prayer is, “Lord, show me other godly goals I need to make and meet with Your help. Thank You for all the ways You help me to conquer sinful habits in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
I praise God for setting me free again and again, so I can serve Him effectively, and for the promise that He will keep on doing it as long as I cooperate with the process.
That brings me back to thinking about the Bible verse, which is the theme of this Hearts Set Free blog: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32 NIV 1984).
God longs to set us all free.
“Control” by Tenth Avenue North