Most people say they’re “fighting their demons” by overcoming weakness, addiction, or trauma. Recently, I’ve been fighting my demons in another way—by silencing the inner voices that I love to hear the most.
That Little Voice
If you mention an inner voice, most people immediately think of their conscience. This voice bugs you to stop before doing something wrong or encourages you towards something you ought to do. But I’m not talking about your conscience today. I’m talking about what some people might associate with self-esteem or ego.
This other voice is the one telling you that your significant other isn’t worthy of you, that you should be annoyed at your lazy roommate, or that you deserve more respect from your coworkers. In short, this voice is concerned with your pride and has an incredible talent for torturing you without your awareness.
The Inner War
Let me give you an example. This last week, I gave a presentation. I had been working on it for a while and I wanted it to go well. It did. Once it was over, I heard a soft voice in the back of my head.
Wouldn’t it be great if people congratulated you? That’s not too much to ask, is it? They should praise you. You deserve recognition for your hard work. Invite it. Bask in it.
At first, it sounds reasonable enough. I did work for this. Maybe I do deserve something for it. I can take a compliment, right? That’d be nice. Our culture loves this mentality. It’s easily disguised as confidence or healthy self-esteem. In reality, it’s usually nothing more than conceit.
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”Proverbs 26:12 (ESV)
“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”Proverbs 16:5, 18 (ESV)
I hope you can see now what I mean. I’m not disparaging confidence, assertiveness, or a healthy mental attitude. Those are all great qualities to have. I’m simply trying to unmask the sinful pride we so often hide behind other labels.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”Romans 12:3 (ESV)
In my example, my inner voice is tempting me towards pride. It mixes truth in there to encourage me to justify it as something neutral or positive. The truth is that I gave a successful presentation, that I am valued, and that I’m using the gifts my Savior gave me. The lie is that I got to where I am independent of God, that I deserve praise, and that I need man’s approval to be satisfied in my work.
I like to think of that tempting voice as a demon of selfishness I have to constantly fight off or an enemy I have to guard against. But the thing is, it’s not a demon or a fiend. It’s me.
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”James 1:14-15 (ESV)
This is the true culprit. It’s my selfish nature, my sinful flesh, the “old man.” But it doesn’t feel like it’s me. It just feels like a comforting resentment, a gentle push towards quick satisfaction, a quenching of my thirst for self-gratification. It feels good. And that’s the hardest part.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”Romans 7:15, 18-20 (ESV)
We have to challenge this voice. We cannot let it go unrestrained. It will lead us away to death by continuously pulling us down into sin. So how do we fight it? What can save us from ourselves?
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:9 (ESV)
Only by confessing and offering ourselves to God can we escape our enslavement to sin. We cannot live without a master. We must serve something. We are incapable of apathy, unable to rid ourselves of a desire to worship. So we must find something worthy of our worship, a substitute to our worship of self.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”Romans 6:12-14 (ESV)
I’ve taken to using a unique strategy in being mindful about combating my inner voice. When I hear it tempting me, I yell at it… in my head, of course. “Shut up!” “No!” It’s a way I can interrupt my autopilot thoughts and refocus my attention in the moment. I question what I’m telling myself rather than accept it automatically. It helps. Obviously, there’s more to it than that. I have to offer myself to God and confess my sin if I want to keep it from gaining a foothold. Daily commitment to scripture reading and prayer, along with a church community willing to keep me accountable, is essential.
I love the way the King James Version puts these verses:
“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”Ephesians 4:22-24 (KJV)
That’s the key to this process of fighting off our inner voice of selfishness. We must put off the old man and renew our spirits, allowing the new man to take control and lead us towards holiness. Only with God’s help can we become people who truly serve him and are satisfied in him alone.
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”2 Corinthians 7:1 (ESV)
So stop listening. Stop letting your inner voice lead you down paths of logic towards the gallows. Stop bargaining with yourself to see how much sin you can get away with before it catches up to you. Refuse to let it bind you. Run towards freedom. Freedom from our inner demons doesn’t come through acceptance of sin, blind positivity, or being self-sufficient. It comes through Christ.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
Let me know your thoughts about battling inner demons in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.
One thought on “Entertaining Demons”
Good one Luke. I also battle my inner voice on a daily basis. Sometimes, like yours, it’s telling me that I’m awesome and sometimes it’s telling me that I’m a loser. Either message comes from the same root of self centered pride. My favorite C.S. Lewis quote is, ““Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”