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Avoid pity, pride in talks with self, advises religion columnist Robert Hayes

Guest columnist Robert Hayes, bishop of the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference, says watch your words, even those you say to yourself.
BY ROBERT HAYES JR. Published: September 22, 2012

Most of us at some time have stood before a mirror and uttered a few words. I have no statistics to back my belief that this is commonplace, but I feel that a solid majority of people don't think twice about talking to their reflections.

So I've decided to pass on “Bob's Rules for Mirror Conversations.”

The first rule: Whenever you find yourself engaged in dialogue with your mirror self, be mindful of what you say and how you say it.

Psychologists use the term “rationalization.” Standing in front of a mirror, a person easily can fall into self-pity, excessive self-congratulation, even false pride and praise.

It's a moment where wrong can turn into right, where you can find a way to accept your excuses.

These conversations with yourself mirror what is in your soul, and whatever feelings you harbor about yourself — or others — can come to the surface.

The Scriptures are filled with examples of people talking to themselves.

When Moses sent spies to take a look at the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:22-28), what they saw frightened them. The inhabitants appeared strong; they looked like giants. Returning, the spies began pitying themselves, “murmuring in their tents, saying, ‘The Lord hated us and brought us out of Egypt to destroy us!'”

Their thoughts reflect a feeling all too familiar today, when people agonize, “Poor me! Why me, God? What am I going to do?”

I caution you. It's hard for God to use you when you feel sorry for yourself.

Another suspect dialogue people have with themselves is self-congratulatory, generating false pride and praise. In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus tells the story of a rich man talking to himself, completely forgetting God. The man's fields have yielded a bumper crop, and his inner thoughts betray him: “What am I to do? I have no place to store my crops. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and I'll say to myself, ‘You have plenty. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.'”

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