The Four Voices in Your Head
Are you tired of feeling overwhelmed or confused? Do you long for peace of mind? In Part 1 of this series, Patrick Morley introduces the four voices competing to shape what you do, say, and feel—and one way that you can help guard your heart.
By Patrick Morley
MIM Founder & Executive Chairman
Winter Park, Florida
During a time when I felt a heavy sense of responsibility, I was mentoring a younger man named Daniel. We met weekly in my office before work. One day, we finished about ten minutes early. I said, “Since we have a few extra minutes, can I just tell you a little about what’s been going on with me lately?”
He said, “Of course!”
I was able to talk through some of the difficulties I was facing with an autoimmune disease that had lasted, at that point, for three years. I also told him about some health problems in our extended family, and how my wife’s mother had just been placed on hospice care the week before. Before my father-in-law passed away, he appointed my wife as executor of his estate because of my mother-in-law’s deteriorating health. Since I have a business background, he asked me to help. Mostly, that meant I sent emails and made copies.
A few days before meeting with Daniel, my wife asked me to print what turned out to be a 20-page document. I grabbed the pages from the printer tray and ran downstairs to put them on her desk. Halfway there, I noticed the right two inches on every page were cut off during printing, and they were completely useless.
I lost it. I hadn’t realized how much pressure had been building inside me, but now it boiled over. I had a meltdown—complete with yelling and cussing.
Thankfully, my wife was not home. But I knew instantly that something was very wrong.
We all know we carry on a running conversation with ourselves all day. We call it “self-talk.” We need self-talk to help us filter the bits and pieces of everyday life and forge them into a congruent story.
But our “self ” is not the only voice in that conversation. Four other voices also constantly exert themselves to shape what we think, say, and do.
The four voices affecting the conversation in our heads are the world, the flesh, the devil, and the Holy Spirit.
The Four Voices
Every day, when your feet hit the floor, those first three voices rail against the higher principles of your Christian faith. They are the root cause of hurt feelings, living to win the approval of others, not facing your problems like an adult, unforgiveness, holding grudges, oppressive and sad feelings, misinterpreting social cues, false guilt and shame, and generally feeling the weight of the world.
When I exploded over the print job, for example, I knew the wrong voices had found a way to burglarize my thoughts.
Thankfully, the fourth voice in your head, the Holy Spirit, is exponentially more powerful than the other three voices combined. The Spirit brings calm to chaos, comfort to sorrow, peace to strife, clarity to confusion, and power to weakness.
In the coming weeks of this blog series, I want to introduce how you can recognize which voice is speaking and learn to take control of the conversation.
THE BIG IDEA: Three of the voices influencing the conversation in our heads are the world, the flesh, and the devil. Thankfully, the fourth voice—the Holy Spirit—is exponentially more powerful than the other three combined.
What’s at Stake?
Do you find peace of mind elusive? Unless and until you understand the four voices and how they work, it will continue to elude you.
You will continue to have inexplicable mood swings. You will continue to act out on your worst impulses and not know why. You will continue to be pleasant at work or school, but irritable around your family.
You will continue to experience low self-esteem or think too highly of yourself. You will continue to distrust the motives of others or be hypersensitive to negative cues.
Until you know how to adjust what’s going on in your head, you will experience ongoing frustration because you can’t get control of your emotions. You will find yourself going to bed angry, waking in the middle of the night in a panic, getting up in the morning feeling exhausted, and then blindly repeating the cycle all over again.
Not mastering the conversation in your head will eat away at your self-worth, poison your relationships, stunt your growth as a person, and limit how far you go in life.
You might be thinking, “I don’t understand why I’m struggling. The promise was that Jesus was going to change my life. I surrendered my life to Him, so why am I still broken?”
The truth is we all have areas of brokenness inside us. The Bible says we all once “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air… gratifying the cravings of our flesh” (Ephesians 2:2-3, emphasis added).
Notice all three of the negative voices are mentioned together in that one passage. Why do we still experience brokenness? Because of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Can you imagine any way of ever finding healing as a believer if you don’t take those very real influences into account?
But we can—and are called to—set our hearts and minds free, through Christ.
Burglarproofing Your Mind
Proverbs 4:23 says: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
When a Bible passage begins with, “Above all else,” that’s like the jet flyover at the start of a race. Sit up, because what comes next is the main event. Above all else—of all the things that could be said—Scripture isolates guarding your heart as a first principle.
What is the “heart”? Technically, the Hebrew word for heart is leb and includes the intellect, will, and emotions—all the things that establish your individual identity.
Today, we’re more likely to say “mind” than “heart,” but the idea is the same. It’s the totality of our inner being. And the Bible says, “above all else,” guard that.
Why does the Bible put such extreme emphasis on guarding your heart? Because, as the verse continues, “everything you do flows from it.” Other Bible versions say: “for it determines the course of your life” (NLT), and “that’s where life starts” (MSG).
Your heart is the starting point for every thought you think, every word you speak, and every action you take. Guarding the heart is such a big issue because our hearts (minds) are so vulnerable to being hacked or burglarized.
Here’s the good news: God would not tell you, “Above all else, guard your heart,” if He could not also equip you to do it.
In my new book The Four Voices, I recommend several tools, practices, and virtues that will help burglarproof your mind. One of those practices is to commit to being vulnerable with a neighborhood watch group—a trusted group of other Christians.
Do you have a few friends with whom you share openly what’s really going on inside your head? God gives us community as a gift—to affirm, challenge, encourage, and reassure us.
Even if we do everything humanly possible to burglarproof our minds, those efforts will always be more effective if we’re guarding what matters to one another in a group.
That’s why I wanted to talk to Daniel, and when I shared with him what had taken place, amazingly the cloud lifted. In those brief minutes of being heard by a trusted friend, the frustration that had been accumulating over three years of stressors evaporated. I was able to make the adjustment and take back control of the conversation in my head.
You can do the same thing. Whether it’s with one friend or with a small group, trusted confidants who will listen can help you understand what’s going on inside your head and make the adjustment.
At Man in the Mirror, we talk a lot about intentional, spiritual friendships. Yes, we all experience brokenness, but within the context of these discipling relationships, we gain the experience and confidence to fix the broken things.
Being part of a neighborhood watch is one of the many ways we can silence the voices of the world, the flesh, and the devil—and turn the volume up on the voice of the Holy Spirit, God’s gift to us to help us take control of the conversation in our heads.
Over the next few weeks, join me in this series as I share how you can identify and combat the other voices—as well as how God fills you up to experience the fruit of the Spirit: His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
To go deeper into these concepts, The Four Voices: Taking Control of the Conversation in Your Head is available for pre-sale here (ships in early May).
Father, teach us to discern which voices are speaking so we can take control of the conversation. Grant us wisdom to sort out our thoughts so we can walk in the fullness of Your presence and power. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Question of the Week
What are the four “other” voices in your head? Can you think of an example of how not controlling the conversation has eaten away at your self-worth, poisoned a relationship, stunted your growth in some area, or limited you? Share your experience in the comments below.