Most people assume they have clear thinking. They believe their thoughts are logical. Therefore, when people disagree with them, they think it is everyone else who is wrong. But can we, ourselves, really be the source of authority for everything? Of course not. We all have thinking errors that are destructive to our life and relationships.
Common Thinking Errors
- Denial/Lying: Not admitting something that is true. There are 3 ways to lie: commission (saying something that is not true), omission (leaving out important information that we don’t want others to know about), and assent (pretending to agree or approve of others’ ideas and actions when we really don’t). We must speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and, of course, speak the truth in love.
- Excuse Making/Blaming: Finding a reason to justify behavior, to not be responsible or to diminish responsibility.
- Rationalizing/Justifying: Coming up with reasons to give ourselves permission to behave in a certain way. We rationalize our bad behaviors.
- “I’m Unique”: The belief that “my situation is different” allows us to believe that we are so unique and special that what applies to others doesn’t apply to us. This thinking error allows us to shut others out of our lives, believing that we don’t need help and that no one can understand us or our situation.
- Redefining/Vagueness: Shifting the focus off an issue we want to avoid or being purposefully vague. Sometimes this is subtle, sometimes obvious, always avoiding the real question.
- Black & White Thinking: This is seeing everything in a clear “black and white” perspective. Life is so complex that it produces a myriad of shades of gray in almost everything. Using black and white thinking allows us to rely on overly simplistic answers to try to answer complex questions. It reduces the complexity in many situations into something manageable but is still irrational and/or distorted. We use this to make things easier for us and to rationalize our choices. Some people say things like, “The Bible says…” but the Bible is also not always black and white, and it deals with us as the very complex people we are.
- Minimizing: Reducing the size, importance, or reality of something we’ve done.
- Grandiosity: This distorted thinking changes a situation into something so big or overwhelming that it allows us to avoid responsibility in some way or allows or fosters unhealthy behavior. Example: “I’m so good that even if I get caught, I can always talk my way out of it!”
- Crisis: When we’re always in crisis, the crisis distorts responsibility, so it gives us permission to act in a distorted way.
- Magical Thinking: Using thinking that has no basis in reality as an explanation for something. Often this thinking allows us to believe things we want that are not probable. “Everything will always be fine, no matter what.”
- Assuming: Assuming is the opposite of understanding. When we assume, we presume to know what others think or feel without real awareness of the facts. Assuming to know another person’s motives is often used as an excuse for our bad behaviors.
- Anger/Power-Playing: Anger is a normal emotion. However, this thinking/behavior is employed as a way to have control and/or manipulate others. It also allows us to avoid really facing an issue by using anger to deflect. Power-playing can either be aggressive or passive-aggressive. The intent is always to get our own way.
- Closing:This is thinking/behavior that is secretive or closed. It is used to distort reality by not facing it. It is also not being open to feedback from others. Using this thinking error at times allows us to feel a distorted power by concealing the truth. “I simply won’t talk about it.”
- Entitlement/Ownership:This thinking allows us to feel entitled to privileges based on our own distorted thinking. Such thinking causes us to, at times, feel ownership over people, things, or situations. It allows us to treat others like objects and justifies inappropriate and hurtful behavior.
All of these thinking errors are destructive, and God loves us too much to allow us to continue down a destructive path. God desires transformation for all of us.
The Bible is full of transformational language. Scripture tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are created in God’s image, but we have fallen into disrepair and are overcome by our thinking errors. Thankfully, God is in the business of renovating our thinking.
Six Elements of Renewing Our Thinking
- Learning the truth: Transformation requires learning the truth. John 14:6, Ephesians 4:14-15, and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 talk about what truth is and how we can be transformed by knowing it.
- Cleaning house: We must get rid of all of the thoughts and thinking errors that hinder us and do not serve us. Transformation requires cleaning house.
- New thinking: We must be a people with a passion to be transformed by God. God does not force change upon us. We must choose to put on the new way of thinking and to put away the former way of life. We don’t just get rid of bad thinking habits; we replace bad habits with good ones.
- Coaching: Transformation requires coaching. Professional athletes and those at the top of their game have coaches. A coach is concerned not only with your individual ability, but also how it benefits the team. We are not just individuals; we belong and live in community with others.
- Honest community: Change requires living as part of an honest community. We need a safe place to be, where others will speak the truth in love. We need trusted Christian friends who can confront our thinking errors.
- Faith: “Now, glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us, is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” (Ephesians 3:20, The Living Bible). Transformation requires faith in God. How can you build your faith so that you can reap the promises in Ephesians 3:20?
If you struggle with any of the thinking errors listed above, we at the Marriage Recovery Center can help! We would be happy to help you cultivate new, healthy thoughts that lead to changed behaviors and improved relationships. Please give our office a call at (206) 219-0145 for more information or contact our Client Care Team.