life block

The Half Truth Trap

I used to play "two truths and a lie" a lot. It was one of the most popular youth group icebreakers when I was a teenager. The goal was to tell the group two truths and one lie, but in such a way others couldn't guess which was the truth and which was the lie. It didn't take long to discover the fastest way to trick others was to slip a hint of truth into the lie (I know, this church youth group game taught me how to deceive people more effectively. Ironic.). Yet I think most of us know this principle about deception from other realms aside from the game: the most believable lies have a thread of truth in them. That's what makes them so believable. We learn this from experience, from weaving lies or from falling prey to them a few too many times. Slide some truth in with deception, and the lie just became much more convincing. And another game of "two truths" is won.

However, there's a much weightier issue with half truths than winning an icebreaker game.

A while back I came up against a mental block I just couldn't seem to get past. Logically, I knew this belief I held about myself was false, but for some reason I couldn't move past it. My heart wouldn't accept truth. In moments of quiet, accusations would start piling up in my head about why I wouldn't ever be able to embrace truth and move past this false belief. And unlike other instances where I could easily shoot down lies with logical facts, I had no defenses against these accusations.

When I was a child, I remember going to Target with my family. My mom would point to the big, red concrete balls outside the store and joke with us, "If you can pick up one of those balls, I'll give you $100!" (Or maybe it was $20, which is basically $100 when you're 9.) My siblings and I would always try, straining with every ounce of our tiny bodies to lift that concrete ball. I never could pick it up, no matter how hard I tried. And boy did I try!

That struggle to pick up a concrete ball is exactly what it felt like when I was trying to let go of my false belief and embrace truth. It felt like I was putting everything I had - all my mental energy and strength and effort - into the task, but it just wouldn't budge. No matter how hard I tried, it didn't lift or move or roll or shift. Not even a millimeter.

To get past this false belief - this felt like an impossible task.

I was worn out. Discouraged and frustrated, I alternated between feverishly scheming some new plan to convince my heart to believe the truth and feeling utterly defeated, sitting down with my back against the concrete ball and hanging my head low.

Shout out to my sister Christina & her friend Liz for the picture!

Shout out to my sister Christina & her friend Liz for the picture!

Eventually, someone had to help me break the belief down into two parts. Someone had to help me recognize the thread of truth mixed into the false belief I couldn't seem to let go of. The result was resounding freedom.

The little thread of truth - the half truth in a bag of lies - is the big, red concrete ball we cannot move. It's what makes the accusations in our heads impossible to deny. Yet when we dissect our false beliefs and identify the thread of truth in them, we gain freedom. We are able to treat the thread of truth as truth (as the big concrete sphere we can't possibly move) and the rest of the bag of lies as lies (which are much easier to stop believing when we can separate them from the half truths tripping our brains up). 

Half truths come in many forms, such as:

I am not lovable because I am...

  • imperfect
  • not an outgoing person
  • not a quiet person

Or, I am inadequate because I...

  • am not good at public speaking
  • have to ask for help frequently
  • learn/read/talk/etc at a slower pace than the person next to me

Or, my circumstances are difficult because...

  • everyone in my life hates me
  • I have no natural gifts/talents
  • God doesn't love me

The list goes on and on. But when we can separate truth from deception in these false beliefs, the lies lose their persuasive power. The truth may be that we are not outgoing people or are quiet, and it's certainly true we are imperfect. We may not be good at public speaking, and our circumstances may indeed be overwhelming. We cannot change those things, and that's okay. These truths do not mean the rest of the sentence is true; we are not unlovable or inadequate or defined by our circumstances.

When we recognize the slivers of truth as the big, red concrete balls we cannot move, we are free to stop trying to do the impossible and change the facts. We are free to step around the immovable, keeping the truth and letting go of the lies. We are free to move past the concrete balls of truth into the rest of life which, just like a great big retail store, has so many wonderful things to offer us.

Are there mental blocks you've faced that seemed impossible to move past?
How did you end up moving past them?
Are there half truths are you believing? About yourself, your circumstances?

Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear from you in the comments or an email!

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When the Words Won't Come

It’s been a little while since I've been able to write a complete post. It’s not that I haven't been trying. The words just won't come. I’ve started writing on half a dozen topics in the past couple weeks, only to minimize the documents on my screen and eventually click out of them one by one, as my passion or conviction or interest fades away and the words stop coming.

This is, I suppose, writer’s block.

A few months ago I was trying to decide if I should jump into an online writing course by author and writing coach Ally Fallon. I don’t usually buy into online courses, much less purely-for-pleasure online courses, but Ally won me over.

You see, Allison used to offer an online course but permanently closed it long before I picked up writing again. Several months ago, I entered my contact info on the "just in case I ever re-open the course" page on her website, and when Ally decided to offer the course again last November, she sent personal emails to everyone who had indicated interest. She asked if I had any questions and invited me to enroll.

I was on the fence about spending money on a writing course (especially since I was about to quit my job), so I asked if the course would help with writer’s block. That was my biggest challenge. As promised, Ally emailed me back the next day. Her response was intriguing. She said, “I say that sometimes ‘writer’s block’ is more likely ‘life block’ and what we really need is to find clarity and direction.”

“Sometimes ‘writer’s block’ is more likely ‘life block’”
    -Allison Fallon

Her insight was spot on and a brand new idea to me. During the months preceding that exchange, I had waves of creativity and seasons of absolutely nothing. When I looked at the whirlwind of lessons I was learning in life during that same time period, I noticed the waves of creativity often came at the tail end of personal breakthroughs. She was right.

Right now, I’m once again in a place where the words just aren’t coming the way I would like. They come in sporadic, short-lived spurts to tease me before dissolving like marshmallows in hot chocolate. They float on top in easy access when I start sipping, but before I'm halfway finished they’ve completely disappeared and can’t be recovered.

However, this time around my perspective has changed (not on putting ‘mallows in my hot chocolate. On writer’s block.).

First, I have a little more grace on myself. Right now it’s not just writer’s block I’m up against; it’s life block. Living life is a big task, after all, and we all need time to figure it out. Though it’s possible to struggle with writer’s block alone and not life block, I find nine times out of ten they occur together. (I use writing as an example, but really the same applies to any creative endeavor.)

Second, I shift from focusing on decreased productivity to focusing on what’s going on inside of me. Sometimes decreased productivity—in writing, teaching, and other parts of life—is a reflection of decreased mental, spiritual, and emotional health. When I’m not feeding my soul, my creative energy also wanes. (This, I believe, signifies something about the connection between the Creator and and our ability to create.) When I get too caught up in churning out enough quantity or quality, I miss the root cause of the creativity famine. I miss the life block.

Though it’s tempting to file this chapter of my life away along with my unfinished blog posts, instead I want to hit pause and look around in this moment in life. This in-between, stuck-and-don’t-know-how-to-get-out, feel-like-a-stalled-vehicle moment.

When I stop in this moment, I notice how impatient I am. I’d rather arrive at the revelation or epiphany marking the end of life block and writer’s block and any other kind of block and move on with life. I’ve tried everything: talking about it, reading books about getting unstuck, reading books completely unrelated to distract myself, texting friends about it, and praying about it. Yet try as I might, I cannot force it. Breakthrough simply cannot be forced.

Whether we like it or not, we all spend some portion of our lives in this place of in-between and waiting for breakthrough. Maybe not a huge portion (though currently it feels like it to me), and maybe not an exciting portion, but a portion nonetheless. And since this blog is all about writing about what our stories are really like, this seems to fit. It’s always nice to know someone else is (or has been) in the same spot we are, even if it’s a rather dull and irritating spot.

So this post is for all those who have waited for breakthrough. It’s for those who are still waiting patiently. It’s for those who are frustrated and worn out and are trying to force breakthrough. It’s for those who face life block at any time, for any amount of time. It's for all of us. When we  pause for a moment—just for a moment—and look around, we realize:

It’s okay to feel stuck. It happens to us all. 

Our souls and hearts and minds may need some extra care during this season.

We’re not alone. Plenty of people around us are at points in their journeys where they feel stuck. 

When we look around ourselves for a moment—just for a moment—we find a strange, unique sense of community with all those who share the experience of life block. We find a strange, unique sense of community with everyone. 

In this community, we can wait with each other and commiserate together and encourage one other. And when the life block—and writer’s block—finally ends…we can celebrate each breakthrough together.

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