March 30, 2011

'PERFECT'...

I’m a great fan of Pink’s music, an unabashed confession that may come as a surprise to many because her lyrics, apart from the occasional spattering of profanity, can also be quite raw and confronting. Whether it’s her straight talking commentary on political ideology in Dear Mr President’, or her painful, and often self-revealing reflections on societal dysfunction, relational discord or marital breakdown in songs like Stupid Girls’,Family Portrait, and I Don’t Believe You’.

Apart from great rock music, that’s exactly what I like about her. She doesn’t avoid the ‘uncomfortable’. Her music doesn’t lean towards an insipid romanticism or an anaesthetised placating of the sensibilities, but speaks honestly, bluntly, and often insightfully about the struggle of living as imperfect people in a far from perfect world.

In her words…

“My favorite books, art pieces, films, and music, always have something jarring about them. I want art to make me think.

In order to do that, it may p**s me off, or make me uncomfortable.
That promotes awareness and change, or at least some discussion. 

That’s my intention. 

You can't move mountains by whispering at them”.

And I think it’s Pink’s audacious attempt to ‘move mountains’ through music that accounts for her extraordinary popular appeal today. Her latest song - ‘F**Kin Perfectis certainly no exception to this hard-hitting rock mantra. Confronting to say the least, ‘Perfect’ canvasses the ugly reality of bullying, alienation, self-loathing, self-harm, and suicide that appear all too common in the lives of young women today.

I must say I found the song, and particularly the corresponding video profoundly unsettling, not just because of its deeply disturbing content matter, but also the sadness it evoked in recalling the countless faces of young women I’d pastored who struggled with everything from low self-perception, gnawing self-doubt, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and persistent and deep seated feelings of self-hatred.

Listen for a moment to the lyrics (or for those brave among you, the enclosed censored version of her video).



“Made a wrong turn, once or twice
Dug my way out, blood and fire
Bad decisions, that's alright
Welcome to my- silly life

Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood
Miss -'No way, it's all good',
 it didn't slow me down
Mistaken, always second guessing, underestimated
Look, I'm still around

Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever ever feel
Like you're less than f*n' perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever ever feel like you're nothing
You're f*n' perfect to me!

You're so mean, when you talk about yourself, you were wrong
Change the voices in your head, - make them like you instead
So complicated, look happy, you'll make it!
Filled with so much hatred...such a tired game
It's enough! I've done all I can think of
Chased down all my demons,
I've seen you do the same

…Done looking for the critics, cause they're everywhere
They don’t like my jeans, they don't get my hair
Exchange ourselves, and we do it all the time
Why do we do that?

Why do I do that?...

Some might right-off ‘Prefect’s’ life narrative as yet another gratuitously sensationalist rock vid, aimed to shock and self promote. But the truth of the song to life as I’ve found it for many young girls (and not a few older women) who carry the scars of emotional and psychological distress depicted here, resonates. To quote one young listenerIts sad. Cause this is basically my life, made into a music video”.

And if statistics, or the plethora of ‘confessional’ internet forums are an indication, it seems that many would agree with me.

We know from the Australian Government’s Response Ability’ website that…

“The prevalence of self-harming behaviours has increased. In 2005-06, there were 7,299 hospitalisations of young people due to intentional self-harm - a rate of 197 per 100,000. The increase was greater among females (51% compared with 27%) with the female rate consistently twice as high as for males.
In the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, 1.8% of males and 2.7% of females reported having experienced thoughts of suicide in the previous 12 months. 
Extrapolating to the whole population, that’s an estimated 146,000 men and 222,000 women.
And, if those sobering statistics aren’t enough to rattle the senses, read these chilling self- revelations from the - I Battle Self-Hatred’ website…

Every day I look at myself and feel sick…I've self harmed in many ways…I hate the way I look. I hate my stomach…I hate my stupid head problems…I hate the way I never seem to be able to say the right thing…I hate the way I never seem to be able to keep friends or get along with people.”  - Popkins

Or
“People are weird with me.  I get a lot of attention and told I ‘m pretty, but lots of people don't seem to like me.  I feel like I don't really connect with others… I always feel like people don't want to include me in their conversations.
Instead of thinking it's their problem, I internalize it to think - there must be something wrong with me.  I start thinking of myself as a worthless loser with no friends.  In turn, I try so hard to please everyone but they end up using me and disrespecting me more because I have no back bone”.  –’ Patchworkofmistakes ’-.
'Perfect’ starkly echoes the sentiments spoken of here, those moments feeling “mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood” that threaten to undo us. And the futile pretence of adopting a “Miss – ‘no way, it’s all good” attitude that cripples all genuine honesty, and ultimately leaves us void of any meaningful resolution to our growing sense of failure or alienation.
The song not only portrays our struggle to surmount these mistakes and challenges in life, those wrong turns” and bad decisions”, but more importantly, it profoundly captures our seeming incapacity to conquer the destructive drives and negative self-talk that flow from them. The always second guessing…feeling like you’re nothing thinking that paralyses the mind and debilitates the human spirit.
PASSIVE THOUGHT BINGING:
We see here that the mind is a very powerful thing isn’t it? Our thoughts often drive our feelings. They shape our attitudes, our beliefs and ultimately, our behaviours (sometimes destructive ones!).
Ralph Waldo Emerson once described the potential influence of thoughts to shape our lives this way…
”To sow a thought is to reap an action; to sow an action is to reap a habit;
sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny”.
Both Emerson and Pink draw attention to a layer of talk that’s potentially deadly and dangerous if left unchecked. And that’s the talk that goes on in our heads. Our ‘self- talk’, our ‘inner dialogue’ if you like. Those ‘internal conversations’ we have with ourselves. The mental ‘words of life’ and ‘words of death.’
Mental words of death like…

“I ‘m ugly”
“I ‘m useless”
“I can’t do that”
“No one likes me”
“I ‘m no good at anything”
“I ‘m a hopeless mother”
 ….“I’m nothing”

Or maybe it’s those ‘doubting words of death’ about our heavenly father…thoughts like…

“Why did you make me this way…why didn’t you make me more like her?...”
“God you don’t really care what’s happening to me…”
“I just don’t think I can trust him any more…”


Have you ever had thoughts like that?

We call these thoughts ‘words of death’ because they’re destructive, debilitating, de-motivating, toxic and deadly to our souls. Like cancer, these negative thoughts feed on our minds, and spread throughout our wills, and emotions.

If we allow ourselves to ‘passively binge’ on these kinds of thoughts long enough we begin to believe them. The mental words of death and doubt gradually and insidiously start to displace the ‘healthy truth’ God feeds us in his Word and through his Spirit. Eating away at our trust in him. Slowly but surely, we can begin to move away from God…and from others as well.

I wonder what your ‘self-talk’ looks like?
What your ‘words of life or death’ might be?

Well, how can we begin to hear more of ‘God’s talk’ in our heads and less of our own?

Can I suggest 4 ways we might do that.


SAGE SELF-TALKING:
1. Reining in our thoughts:

We can begin by making mental choices NOT to be a ‘passive thought binger’. Literally just consuming every thought that passes through our heads without check, restraint or question.

We’re soberly reminded in Rom 7:23 and Is: 55:8 that our minds, our thoughts, do not always speak truth into our heads about God, about the world or about ourselves. In fact sometimes they speak lies!

My little mental world of reality is not always reality as God sees it. Therefore I must ACTIVELY decide to “submit myself (my thoughts) to God, resist Satan’s inroads, and draw near to him”. God promises that when I do, the destructive undermining work of the ‘father of lies’ at work in my mind will begin to “flee from me” (Jas 4:7-8, 1 Pet 1:13).

2. Replacing in our thoughts:

Pink’s solution to the lies we speak to ourselves is to replace those negative thoughts with positive ones, to- change the voices in your head, make them like you instead”. Interestingly, theologian Martyn Lloyd-Jones proposed a similar strategy stating: “Most of our unhappiness in life is due to the fact that we’re listening to ourselves rather than talking rightly to ourselves”.

For Christians this will mean, that when I’m tempted to entertain negative self-talk, I’m to eject the false tapes set on ‘continuous play’ in my head, and replace them with tracks of God-talk. I’m to install, then hit ‘re-play’ with God’s truth about me. Or, drawing upon Pink’s sentiments - “change the voices in your head, make them - like God’s instead”.

In this way, let’s not allow ourselves to mentally “conform to the pattern of this world, BUT be transformed BY the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12:2).

3. Feeding our thoughts:

In Phillippians the Apostle Paul invites Christians to engage in a spiritual mind binge! 
He urges them to actively apply their minds to these thoughts…

”…whatever is true, what ever is noble,
whatever is right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy…
                                          think (or feed) on these things” (4:8)

Is Paul’s encouragement to ponder such attributes just a psycho-spiritual exercise for the mind? The Scriptures say NO! For when we adopt, feed and meditate on these qualities, these truths - God’s truths, we begin to both incorporate them into our actions, and slowly but surely change and displace old, fleshly and destructive patterns of thinking (Rom 8:5). 

4. Rest our thoughts:

Lastly, the beautiful words of Lamentations 3:21-21 have this to say…

“I call this to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love,
We are not consumed (even by our own thoughts)
For his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion’;
therefore -I will wait for him”.


We’re reminded that even though disappointment, chaos and self-doubt may still linger uneasily around us at times, with God’s help it IS possible to ‘still our anxious thoughts’, to find ‘settledness of mind’, because we ultimately trust in his love, his compassion, his faithfulness towards us.

We can know peace of mind because we put our trust, not in self-belief, not in the fickle critique of others, not even in the feint hope that someday someone might possibly say - “you’re perfect to me”.

Rather, we entrust ourselves, our lives, our bodies, our minds, over to the only one who was made perfectfor me, gave his life ‘for me, and places his transforming Spirit ‘within me.

To the only one who can, and has, declared…

“Pretty, pretty please, if you ever- ever feel like you're nothing

You ARE perfect - IN me!”

Let’s call this to mindand set our “hope” on HIM!


* Copyright: Please do not use or reproduce without permission:


Note:
I want to say in passing that for some there may be additional medical, emotional or psychological factors that can significantly impact a persons functioning, & can drown out their capacity to hear and know God’s truths spoken of here.

If that is the case for you, or for someone you know or love, know that you are not alone and that help is available that can make a difference. Can I recommend these helpful contact organizations, or feel free to contact me directly by posting a message with this blog.

14 comments:

Verina said...

Once again Sarie you have dug into the depths of peoples hearts and souls. The words were difficult to hear because many of them were and are mine. Despite all I know of Gods love for me and the few faithful and caring friends I have, it cannot undo all that I was told about myself as a teenager. To struggle though day after day trying desperately hard to feel acceptable, to feel likeable, to feel worthwhile. Even now that I have clawed my to a level of acceptance of the unique person that God has made me, events this year that we have talked about still cause those wounds inflicted so long ago to hurt all over again. It causes that little voice that says "maybe they were right after all" to raise it's false and ugly head yet again.
I am not a great fan of Pink but like you I think she get the pain and trauma of not being perfect by this world's standard. Yet this worlds standard is so flawed because it is grounded in sin.
This world continues to scream "you are not good enough" and through it's noise I have to strain to listen to the voice of my God that tells me I was worth dying for. And to hear that voice every day is now what I live for.
Thank you for helping me to hear it more loudly

Rach: said...

Fantastic post. I cried when I first heard that song by Pink, for the issues you outlined

Sarie King said...

Thank you for your comment, but most of all for your honesty Verina!
Your struggle is the struggle of us all as we learn , with God's help & by his grace, to replace the world's voices in our head with that of our loving heavenly Father's words. So thankful that I know God's love, am indwelled by his Spirit & can overcome with his help. And with the loving help of friend! Much love to you V! Sar

Steph Wailes said...

Sar, I praise God for the unique ministry He had established through you. What a gift you have as you engage with culture as it critiques itself, but then speak the Word of Life into it's weakened bones with such honesty, "rawness", truth, & wisdom.
Thank you for your labour... it is certainly not in vain! xox

Jo P. said...

Sarie Thank you. The song made me sob. Your words are great. Helpful. Encouraging. There is much to ponder on so thank you for tackling this subject. I have always liked Pink too. I think she is "real" as compared to other major singers of her time.

Barbara said...

What an awesome blog Sarie. This is an area that I really struggle with and seem to go two steps forward then three steps back but I got a lot of encouragement from your words. Thank you so much for letting God speak through you to all who struggle.

Renee said...

hey sar, great to wake up my brain to your blog this morning...well done...fantastic. Today I am going to work out a way to adapt and start teaching these 4 steps to the girls...thanks, answer to prayer.

Cathy T said...

It really was an answer to prayers as I read your blog for the first time. What you write was a great reminder and challenge. Thank you.

Emma said...

I enjoy reading your blog Sar. xox It'd be great to see your comments on some YA literature that's popular.

Kirsty said...

Hey Sar, your blog got me thinking about how easy it is to be ruled by guilt in our minds and hearts. Some girls may even feel guilty about self-loathing and loath themselves more for being capable of those emotions. I think we need focus our loathing in the right direction - towards Satan! - who so easily whispers lies into our ears and tricks us into believing they have some rational truth in them. The strongest attack and defense we have against the 'Prince of lies' is God's truth. We don't need to feel guilty about how we feel about ourselves. We need to let Jesus take the burden of our emotions and replace it with his words "you are precious because you are mine". We are weak if left to ourselves - we can be easily mislead by the Satan to believe we are worthless. It's only when we truly discover the worth of our Saviour, Jesus, that we can love ourselves. It's only when we love him that we can love ourselves, because we are made in His image and his desire is to refine us until we mirror Him perfectly. Throw away guilt, resist the enemy and he will flee.

As the songs says:
"When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin"

S. Fleming said...

The blog post is really good. It's quite powerful.
The bit where you are talking about 'Words of Death' I think is very true with a lot of people these days, and for Christian going through hard times, all that stuff they say about "Why has God let this happen?"
People need to focus on the fact that God made them the way they are and no matter what they are going through, God is leading them to a better place, so they need to stop thinking about themselves as being useless, and thats not just for Christians, either.

The lyrics to Pinks song are really up front and confronting, but they are true for some people.
like that quote you used from someone that said "that is basically my life in a video."

And with all the media and magazines telling everyone how they have to wear this or look like this be perfect, it just totally doesn't help some people self esteem.

Everything you said about God and Bible verses and Christianity in this post is so great. I have many reasons to believe that this is a successful blog post! Well done, young Padowan (star wars reference).
I think i shall show this to a few of my frinds and see what they think

Debbie Retief Garratt said...

Your post 'perfect' was absolutely brilliant - so so so helpful, thank you I am going to use it a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND was greatly helped myself. You rock, Sarie! You really are brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I have been searching for the words of this song for some time. I often hear it played on the radio as I travel to work and reflect upon the despair I have witnessed in my daughter's life. God has brought me to this site not by chance,but to remind me that there is comfort in knowing that I am not alone and to trust in his plan for her.

John Silversides said...

Good Stuff Sarie.
Lots of men have to deal with those thoughts in their heads too. Image and expectations can not always be lived up to.
The Black Dog lurks around many people - thank God we are loved by God even if our thoughts are a bit screwed up at times.
PS Closed Facebook for a few days and when I reopened it all friends had disappeared. Can't find you now :(

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