In order to know if we have false beliefs, we need to figure out what our beliefs are. I invite you now to begin the process of discovering what you really believe. Not just what you know, but what you believe. One way you can do this is to find a time and place you can be by yourself without distraction. Take three pieces of paper. Or you can take one piece of paper and do three columns. Whatever works for you. On the top of the first sheet write something like this: “What do I believe about God?” “How do I see Him?” and “What do I expect from Him?” On the second paper, possibly ask questions like these: “What do I believe about myself?” “How do I see myself?” And “What do I expect from myself?” And on top of the third paper: “What do I believe about others? What do I expect from the people in my life? How do I see the world and others around me?” Now go back to the first paper. Begin thinking about what you really believe about God. Not necessarily what you are supposed to believe about God, but what you really believe about Him. What kind of a God is He to you? What, in your mind, are His characteristics and attributes? How does He bless or reward His children? What are His expectations of you? And how do you feel about those expectations? What are your expectations of Him? I suggest you start with your beliefs and expectations and perceptions of God for a reason. The Prophet Joseph taught that it is only when we begin to comprehend God that we can comprehend ourselves. What we think about God is really at the foundation of what we think about everything else, whether we are aware of it or not and whether we even believe in a god or not. Yes, our ultimate goal in this book is to help prepare you for relationships, but your beliefs about God are also at the core of your relationships. In order to “clean” your lives up and empower you with healthy thinking and behavior in the most important experiences in life, we have to clean up and fix our beliefs about Him. In the process of thinking about these things, be as honest and open as you can. As I was working on figuring out some of my beliefs one time, I started writing some things that I really didn’t want to write. I stopped myself for a minute and thought, “I really don’t want to write this.” It was hard to actually put it down on paper. But I have found we need to write it anyway. Even if your mind tells you, “I really shouldn’t believe that,” write it anyway. No one else really has to see this list unless you feel like sharing it with someone who can be trusted with it. The important thing is that you’ve got to know what is in there in order to work through it. Once you begin working on your beliefs about God, shift for a minute and focus on the beliefs you have about yourself. How do you really see yourself? What do you expect of yourself? How do you define your worth? This list could also include beliefs you have about your strengths and weaknesses, your potential, and your purpose and contribution in life. Lastly, think about your beliefs about others and the world around you. How do you think life works? Where is happiness or peace found? How important is honesty? How important is money? What do you expect of others? Of the world? This list might include beliefs you have about the opposite gender, family, relationships, marriage, and intimacy. It could also include beliefs about same-gender attraction, women’s rights, abortion and other issues. As you begin this process, it may be hard at first. Or a few ideas may come, and then nothing. Or you may jump from one paper to the next. There’s no right way to do it really. Just keep working at it. These are things you may have never really thought about before. Take some time to ponder, and even offer a prayer, asking the Lord to help you see “things as they really” (Jacob 4:2. And don’t edit anything. Just write. Here’s what a few students shared from this process:
“Almost all of my beliefs about God were somewhat true but my beliefs about myself were almost completely negative and wrong.”
“I discovered I have a terribly negative view of the world, believing all sorts of things about others that make me angry and frustrated with life.”
“I actually prayed, ‘What false beliefs do I have about Thee?’ Within a short time this thought came to my mind: sometimes I don’t want to pray to Him because I feel like He’s upset with me. I realized it was a pattern. And I also realized that had to be the Spirit that told me that. I wouldn’t have realized it on my own.”
For some, I know that this process took them several weeks or even several months, because some beliefs reveal themselves over time, or they show up through our experiences. I am still identifying beliefs I didn’t know I had and I’ve been teaching this concept for years. When you think you’ve made a good start, take a moment to just look at what is there. What is there? I would assume some ideas that seem true, some ideas that seem really false, and some ideas you aren’t sure about. I know some actually go through their lists and make some kind of mark to the side of each thing they have written – to give some kind of category to each one. Some use "T's," "F's," and "?'s." I did checks, X’s and question marks. You don’t have to do anything, but it is good to just get an idea of what is really there. Once you’ve done some categorizing, this is where you need to do some harvesting. Because once we know what our beliefs really are, we need to know if they are really true. And if they aren’t true, we need to get rid of them. Why? Because even the seemingly harmless things we believe that aren’t completely true can cause us unnecessary grief and discouragement and waste our time and energy. When my wife began working through her beliefs, she discovered that she had a belief that all of her children needed to learn to play the piano in order for her to truly be doing her part to build up the kingdom of God. That may seem kind of silly. But it was something she believed in enough it caused her significant stress and guilt because she wasn’t doing a very good job of fulfilling that “requirement.” Every idea in our minds that is false in even some trivial way can cause havoc in our lives, especially if we have had it for a long time. Do you remember what determines whether an idea becomes a belief? It is something that we have accepted as truth. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. It is just an idea that for some reason seemed true at some point and we started believing it. We allowed it to be planted and it’s true to us. And it’s become our reality. We now just have to figure out if it is really reality.