What are affirmations and how can Christians use them?
Have you ever been stuck in a negative thinking pattern where your thoughts begin to spiral out of control? If you answered yes, then you know how hard it can be to break out of it. Sometimes you just need a little prompt to remind you of the truth. Affirmations can be a powerful tool that helps to break that cycle.
Hello there, my name is Amanda and I am passionate about helping you get into the Word of God.
Affirmations are powerful statements that we can use to renew our minds to Scripture and in this blog, I want to not just teach you what they are but how to use them effectively. Join me below!
First of all, are affirmations even a good thing for Christians to use?
The tongue has the power of life and death. Proverbs 18:21
Affirmations are powerful statements we can say and think that are true and positive. While affirmations seem like 20th century inventions, God has been using the “I AM” statement since before the burning bush with Moses (Exodus 3:14). Before that, we see God use different statements to describe His character to His people and how His people used these types of phrases to describe Him.
We see some early examples of affirmations in Gen. 17:1 where God says to Abraham, “I am the All Sufficient One” and Gen. 16:13 where Hagar calls God, “The God who sees me”.
So, affirmations are not new and Biblically, they have been used for centuries as a way to reaffirm someone’s character and identity.
Taking a cue from the Bible, we should speak the identity God gives us over ourselves similarly to how God speaks His identity to us. For Christians, it’s extremely important that we make sure the affirmations we speak align with God’s Word. Why? Because as we repeat affirmations verbally and internally, we are renewing our mind to these phrases.
When we renew our minds to something, we create and strengthen neural pathways in our brains. This makes it easier for us to believe a repeated phrase over time. It’s a way to harness the power of our brain to benefit our faith. God actually tells us to do this in His Word (more on this later).
What are affirmations?
Affirmations are true and positive statements we can say about ourselves. They have the power to facilitate positive change in our lives.
Simple examples of affirmations are “I am loved” and “I trust God”.
These affirmations help us restate core beliefs that we want to solidify in our minds and hearts. We can use affirmations in three different situations to help us strengthen core beliefs:
- We can use them when we fully believe the phrase to reaffirm the idea as a core belief.
- We can use them when we are standing in faith and don’t yet fully believe the phrase but we are actively working toward the full acceptance of the phrase.
- We can use them when we don’t believe the phrase but know the phrase is true and we want to train ourselves to believe the phrase.
When we say affirmations (particularly aloud) we are creating new neural pathways that help us begin to believe the statement or phrase. Why would we want to do that?
Many of us have emotional wounds that have produced negative thinking patterns and bad habits in our lives. We need to overcome these harmful thoughts and habits. Affirmations are a tool that can facilitate this process by undoing the damage more quickly through the power of rewiring our brain.
It’s not going to be enough to tell yourself to STOP thinking negative thoughts or STOP bad habits, you need to create NEW thoughts and NEW habits to REPLACE the negative ones. Affirmations lay the groundwork to help you do this.
While Scripture supports the use of affirmations, it’s important to note not every affirmation should be viewed as healthy or Biblical. Let’s dig into that idea below.
Why is it important that affirmations are based on Scripture?
Affirmations are powerful and therefore, they can be dangerous. Scripture tells us the power of life and death are in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21) and when we take that seriously and literally, the words we say should be viewed as medicine as well as weapons.
This is why it is crucial that the affirmations we choose are based on the Word of God. Because if we don’t make sure our affirmations are based on Scripture, we run the risk of renewing our mind to a lie which can damage our perception and critical thinking skills.
Unbiblical affirmations can create the opposite effect of what they are intended to do: add fuel to the fire of our emotional wounds which led to the harmful habits and negative thoughts we are trying to correct.
I actually have a hard truth to share with you, you are probably already using affirmations in this negative way. Most of us use them on a daily basis and we don’t even know it. These negative affirmations are non-constructive self-talk and we do it without realizing it.
Have you ever looked in the mirror and said something like, “I’m fat and ugly,” or “I look so old and saggy.”
What about this scenario: You messed up at work by missing a deadline or at home by forgetting to pay an important bill. Do you say things like this to yourself: “I always mess up, I’m a failure,” or “I’m so stupid, I’ll never get the hang of this.”
We often repeat these narratives to ourselves in our minds without thinking about whether they are helpful or even true. Statements like these are dangerous because they have the potential to rewire our brain to a default setting with a negative view of ourselves. They can become self-fulfilling prophecies because as we repeat them, we begin to believe they are our identity.
How can affirmations help us?
A repeated affirmation can hold a lot of power because it helps rewire our brains. The thoughts we think and the things we say are constantly reinforcing neurological pathways in our brain or establishing new ones.
If you’ve never heard of neuroplasticity, it is the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience.
Neurologically speaking, we have pathways in our brains that we walk like trails. Some trails are more well worn than others but because our brain has a plastic-like ability to flex and be remolded, we have the ability to strengthen current pathways and establish new ones.
These thought trails can be negative or positive and they are reinforced by thinking the thought over and over again and speaking the thought aloud.
With affirmations, we basically want to harness this power to use it in a positive and Biblical way. While this idea is still relatively new to science, it has been in the Bible for thousands of years. The Bible calls it “renewing your mind” in Romans 12:2 and “taking your thoughts captive” in 2 Corinthians 10:5.
In Philippians 4:4-9, Paul gives us excellent instructions for positive mental health:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
If what you are thinking and saying about yourself doesn’t fall in line with this description from Paul, you really need to examine it.
Why are you saying it? When did you start saying it? In what situations do you find yourself saying it most? Does it align with what is said about you in Scripture? Is it helpful or moving you to take action?
This is the beginning stages of taking our thoughts captive and making them obey Christ (2 Corinthians 5:3-7). Affirmations help us start this work by replacing negative thinking patterns for positive one’s based on Scripture.
Are you ready to begin changing how you think of yourself? Let’s jump right in below!
How do you use affirmations?
Getting started with how to use affirmations is an easy 4 step process.
Step 1 – Identify unhelpful or unbiblical habitual thoughts through journaling/writing and think about the thoughts you think about
Step 2 – find scripture to replace thoughts and turn them into affirmations
Step 3 – study, Bible journal, think about, and speak aloud why these affirmations are true
Step 4 – do this consistently over time, be patient, and pray. Change will take place.
Out of all of the steps, step 1 is probably the most difficult. It will require you to become self-aware and break out of your auto-pilot mode. The best way to break out is by observing yourself (non-judgmentally) through journaling.
To do this, simply take a week to write down the thoughts you have throughout the day.
This requires you to observe yourself and after a week or so of doing this, you should be able to begin to see habitual thinking patterns in your life.
For example, when you wake up in the morning, what are your first thoughts? Write them down. When you look in the mirror, what are you thinking? When you experience frustration, what thoughts race through your head? Simply document what thoughts pop into your head throughout the day, good or bad, and then reflect on what you’ve written. You may be surprised by what you find.
Once you identify a negative thinking pattern, search your Bible for Scripture to replace the negative thought by turning it into an affirmation. OR you can look through my printable affirmation card sets and see if one of the topics resonates with you. Shop the printable sets below.
Once you have a Scriptural affirmation to replace your once negative thought pattern, do all that you can to stay in the Word and renew your mind to the affirmation you’ve chosen.
- Write it in your neatest handwriting,
- speak it aloud daily, and
- always repeat it to yourself when that negative thought pattern tries to come up again.
With time, effort, and prayer, you will see a transformation take place in your mind where the Scriptural affirmation will begin to supersede the previous negative thinking pattern. I find it very encouraging to keep a journal during this time to document my progress as well as hold me accountable when I begin to backslide.
It’s your turn!
I would love to hear from you in the comments below about what your current affirmations are or if you need help determining what your affirmations should be. I am happy to help out!
My current affirmations are I am clay (Jeremiah 18:6) and I am seen (Genesis 16:3). Why? Because I am God’s vessel, He can reshape me as He sees fit. This is a hard pill for me to swallow, so I have to remember that no matter what I go through, God sees me and knows me. I can trust Him.
What are your current affirmations?