As a writer for my college newspaper years ago, the most important—and often most difficult—task of putting the student press together was composing the headline. After our stories were written and edited, we often sat around the news desk into the early morning hours trying to get the headline just right for each story.
The headline had to be clear and concise. It had to summarize the truth contained in the story. Usually, after numerous attempts, an idea would form, and, finally, the perfect headline popped out and soon flowed onto the newsprint.
It’s the same thing with our lives. We walk around with headlines in our minds—words and phrases that underscore the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.
Some headlines are blatantly negative and untrue. They suggest we’re separated from ourselves and the Source of our Being.
I’m a bad person.
God’s disappointed in me.
I’m a failure.
I can’t do this.
I must be going crazy.
Other times, the words and phrases we carry around in our heads are positive and true. They lead us into deeper awareness of who we are and why we’re here on this planet.
God is good and so am I.
The Creator and I are One.
I am a part of God’s story of Divine Love made real in and through me.
I have been blessed with the power of the Creator in mind, body, and spirit.
I am God’s prayer.
I am God’s Beloved.
There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that emphasizes the importance of having a Right View—a correct perception—about life, ourselves, and God.
The proverb states, “Be careful where you’re going, because you might end up there.”
If our underlying assumption about ourselves is that we’re broken and in need of repair, we continue to get the headline wrong about who we are. We might just end up living a life of confusion and despair—or in a counselor’s office trying to undo the faulty thinking that got us there.
Those nasty untruths nag us as we grow. They come from verbal attacks and from those who tell us we’re bad. Our religious institutions can add to the intellectual suffering we experience by overemphasizing sin and fear of damnation. Often we become our own worse critics, chastising ourselves with every mistake we make.
The headline pasted on the front page of our newspaper foreheads can soon become, “I’m messed up—separated from myself and God.” And so, we run from ourselves and the truth that could set us free.
What if we made it a regular practice to reassess the headlines we tell ourselves? Would this ease our mental suffering? Would it help us realize we are the only ones who place limits on ourselves? Would it help us awaken to God’s Loving Presence?
According to Christian author and mentor James Finley, our perception of who we are in relationship with God shapes and molds our worldview. It triggers our inner dialogue.
Finley writes, “Although I am not God, I am not other than God.”
He suggests we are One with God because the Creator is the source of our very lives. If God is love, which is true, then we’re the human expressions of Divine Love. We can never be separated from our Source because it is the essence of who we are and how we’ve been created.
As we come to understand the Truth about ourselves, we realize we honor the Creator and experience inner joy by receiving God’s unconditional love.
So, how do we correct the headlines in our heads?
Our intellect alone can’t get us there. Jesus proved that after being baptized. When the Holy Spirit said, “You are my Beloved, in whom I am well pleased,” Jesus seemed to have been surprised and confused. Was it true? How could it be?
In response, Jesus went to the desert to be alone with the Father and figure out who he was. (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1).
During forty days and nights in the desert, Jesus had to reject the false headlines that tried to dissuade him from becoming fully who he was. He learned how to listen for and hear the voice of God. Through direct experience, he deepened his relationship with the Divine. He discovered the importance of solitude, prayer, and meditation as pathways to understanding who he was.
When Jesus returned from his mountaintop retreat, he continued the daily practice of solitude. He set aside time each day to be with his Father so he could learn more clearly who he was and tap into God’s on-going guidance.
We are not God. And we are not other than God. As we allow the Spirit to teach us that truth, perhaps we can toss away the untrue headlines and discover who we really are: God’s Divine Love expressed in human forms.
It seems there are three core practices Jesus and many other spiritual heroes teach to develop this mature understanding of ourselves:
1. Connection with the Creator through daily meditation and contemplation.
2. A teacher or spiritual mentor to help us discover the loving movement of God on our life’s path; and
3. Spiritual reading of scripture or other books of wisdom to show us the way, the truth, and the meaning of life.
By regularly practicing these three habits, we learn to let go of the false headlines we’ve told ourselves. Our thinking and daily experiences become filled with an awareness of God’s Presence. An explosion of joy often accompanies the realization that we’re part of God’s Divine and Loving Play. There is nothing to do, nothing to achieve, other than to fully embrace the divine powers that seek to unfold in and through us.
This week, set aside time for solitude and try this practice.
•Take a blank sheet of paper and make two columns: one for the negative false headlines you tell yourself, and the other for the positive truths about who you are.
•Under each column, write down the words or phrases that often rise up in you as you listen to the story in your head.
•Then cross out the false headlines.
•Highlight those that are true.
•Return to this practice whenever you need to be reminded of who you are.
With the help of the Infinite Source of Love, we can get the headlines right.
—brian j plachta