One of the comments I hear most often is, “I’d like to truth journal, but I can’t figure out how to do it.” This isn’t surprising. Truth journaling is incredibly rewarding, but it takes a bit of practice to feel comfortable with it.
Today we’ll look at three of the most common mistakes people make when they first start truth journaling. I’ll also be sharing real journal entries with the permission of the women involved. If you’re new to truth journaling, click here to read a blog post on how to truth journal.
Mistake #1: Explaining the Problem
Jessie (not her real name) wrote to me and was having a hard time figuring out to get started. I told her to just give it a try and spill her thoughts onto the paper. This is what she wrote:
“I’m annoyed because Nathan (not his real name) poo-pooed my idea about going to the beach and sounded “stressed out” about it – blamed the reason for not going to the beach on money. Then he made a suggestion to do something we ALWAYS do – go to the movies and pizza which costs about the same amount of money as going to the beach and eating there. Not looking forward to our negotiations tonight.”
I asked Jessie to write the truth for each sentence, but she had a hard time doing it. Here’s why: If you look at her entry, she was basically just reporting the facts as if she were explaining the problem to a friend. Because of that, when she went to truth journal, all of the sentences were true.
I asked Jessie to give it another try and this time just spill out her thoughts without thinking about it. Here’s what she wrote this time:
“Nathan is so lame and boring. Same old, same old, all the time. How often do we get free babysitting? Why not have an adventure by the beach? He’s SUCH an old man! I married an OLD MAN! We are going to live this way forever and NEVER see the world!”
Do you see how different this entry is than the first one? These are the actual thoughts roaming around in her head. It will be easier to truth journal them because she’s not just reporting facts. Unfortunately, I don’t have the truth side of her truth journal entry, but I’ll give it a try myself just so you can get an idea of what the truth to these sentences might look like.
Thought #1: Nathan is so lame and boring.
Truth: Just because Nathan wants to do different things than I do for dates, it doesn’t mean he’s lame and boring. It just means he’s different than me. Plus he does other interesting things in his life that I don’t do.
2. Same old, same old, all the time.
Truth: Since Nathan tends to like doing the same things over and over, it will be a bit same old, same old all the time. But that’s not a crime. One of the things I love about Nathan is that he’s a steady, loyal person. And steady, loyal people often like to do the same things over again. I should be thankful that he’s steady and loyal! That’s a good thing!
3. How often do we get free babysitting?
Truth: About once a month (I asked her about this). Yes, it’s sad that we can’t do what I want this time, but there is always next month.
4. Why not have an adventure by the beach?
Truth: I think Nathan would be open to this if I didn’t spring it on him at the last minute. The truth is, he doesn’t like to change plans at the last minute and he was planning on pizza and a movie. If I ask him in advance next month, I think he’d be willing to go to the beach.
5. He’s SUCH an old man! I married an OLD MAN.
Truth: Well, he is old in some ways and young in others. I can’t expect him to be young in every way. And it’s not a sin to be old. :)
6. We are going to live this way forever and NEVER see the world!
Truth: We will not live this way forever. Life will change, plus our kids will get older and we’ll be able to do more things. But I also have to realize that regular life is not always exciting, nor does it have to be. God can use this situation to teach me to be content in ALL things: both exciting and unexciting. The more I find my satisfaction in God, the happier I’ll be.
Do you see how truth journaling this situation would have settled us down a bit? What usually happens when truth journaling for anger is that you start out mad, and you end up either feeling sorry for the other person or compassionate and more accepting.
Mistake #2: Feeling like you have to do it just right.
Michelle (not her real name) wrote me not long ago and was having a terrible time getting started with truth journaling because she wanted to make sure she was doing it right. I asked her to just give it a try. She did and this is what she wrote me after her first attempt at truth journaling:
“It was a big victory to go ahead and do it. . . with my perfectionism I had to give myself grace to just start writing and not make it exactly like yours or anyone else’s. I always feel I have to follow a rigid format. So this was so refreshing to 1) DO IT and 2) do it AS ME!”
You can read her truth journal entry below. As you can see, Michelle’s style is completely different than Jessie’s style, but just as effective:
Thought #1: Peter (not his real name) is just like his father.
Truth: Peter is a child of God, born of the Spirit of God. He is not his father. He may have some struggles that were handed down as fleshly behaviors but he knows about them and seeks the Lord for true change. He seeks the Lord, wants what is best for me and our family, and is mostly good. Maybe God is calling me to be a part of Peter’s healing (and him mine). Hurt people hurt people.
2. Peter is selfish.
He may have selfish moments but we all do. He is mostly unselfish. He actually, truly loves me. He pursues me. Cares about me. He is not perfect. But he is longsuffering and committed to me and our family. He is faithful and hard-working and honest. He is a good man and a gift to my life.
3. We never should have gotten married. Maybe we should split.
It was no accident that we met, fell in love and married. God hand-picked Peter and knew our (great) difference would be a struggle but dependent upon Him, would be for our good and sanctification. We may sometimes bring out the worst in each other but we are capable of bringing out the best.
4. Peter is my enemy.
Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against rulers and principalities of the evil one. I humbly confess to my God that my perception and my ‘feelers’ are way out of whack and that I can barely see straight. I come to Him for help and healing. Lord, open my eyes. Please help me sense Peter as on my, on our, team. Help me play on the same side. Your side and Peter’s.
5. I will get my way if I seethe, sulk and silently attack.
God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. We do not war as the world wages war but the weapons of our warfare are spiritual. God help me. My passive-aggressive, passed-down, manipulative, prideful, defense mechanisms do NOT work, do NOT make me feel good, do NOT produce good or desired results and do NOT please YOU!
6. If I forgive I will be hurt again.
If I don’t forgive I will be imprisoned, poisoned and harmed…giving a greater foothold to the enemy and causing a wedge between myself and God. Vengeance is the Lord’s. Entrust myself to HIM completely.
7. He will treat me like a door mat if I don’t control things around here. I’ll be taken advantage of.
Controlling things takes far too much emotional energy than the possibility of being taken advantage of…the Lord will strengthen me in obedience. God says to become great we must become the least. God gives grace to the humble servant.
Did you notice that Michelle wasn’t just reporting facts, but instead listing things she believed about the situation and about Peter? That’s why it was easier to come up with a truth for each thought. I call her method of truth journaling the list method. Instead of spilling out thoughts, she’s asking, “Am I believing any lies?” or “What am I believing that’s making me so angry?”
Mistake #3: Venting rather than truth journaling.
Ashley (not her real name) wrote the following:
“I woke up angry with my husband this morning and decided to try truth journaling. I don’t think I did my truth journaling correctly…I have almost three pages filled with emotions that have been building up for a while.”
We can relate, right? It would be easy to fill three pages when we’re mad at someone. The problem is that it’s far too overwhelming to truth journal it. Especially in the beginning it’s important to keep the initial thoughts to about a paragraph – maybe 6-8 sentences max.
If you write much more than that, you’ll have a hard time numbering each sentence and writing the truth for each lie. If you don’t take the time to record the truth, then it just becomes a venting session. And venting doesn’t set us free like truth does.
Give It a Try!
If you haven’t tried truth journaling yet, I hope you’ll give it a try. It takes a bit of time to become comfortable, but it’s worth it! I’ve also been working sporadically on a book about how to truth journal. If you have anything you’d like to see in the book, let me know! Also, if you have other struggles with truth journaling or questions about it, please let me know and I’ll address it in future blog posts.