Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 03/22/2010 by Leslie Wiggins.
Recommended. With the strong caveat lector that a strong grasp of the gospel is necessary to put this book in its proper perspective.
One stress-management website defines self-talk this way: "Self-talk refers to the dialogue that goes on inside your head when faced with conflict or life challenges or even simple day-to-day concerns. This aspect of yourself has a running commentary about everything you do. It never lets anything go by with out some comment, remark or evaluation."
We all talk to ourselves. Some of us may mumble a phrase here and there while others of us engage in many-faceted conversations. Either way, our internal monologue, or dialogue, can be constructive or destructive. What we think about ourselves directly impacts the way we feel about ourselves.
After a particularly emotional morning of destructive self-talk, Jennifer Rothschild realized she seemed "to have a secret closet tucked somewhere in the hallways of [her] mind; a thought closet. And what [she] had been storing in that closet wasn't good at all: shelves and racks and bins full of hidden thoughts, secret insecurities, lies, illusions, and reminders of former failures." She goes on, "As I questioned my seemingly helpless state, I felt as if God Himself reminded me that if I don't control my thoughts, my thoughts will control me. And the only way to get any kind of handle on those thoughts is to monitor what I tell myself."
Self Talk, Soul Talk perfectly follows all of the steps found in typical self-help instruction. First, identify the problem. Second, take control of the negative thought. Third, replace the bad thought with a good thought. In this book, becoming aware of the negative inner dialogue is the first step. Many women berate and put themselves down from the time they get up in the morning to the time they fall asleep at night. Rothschild explains that women ought not tell themselves anything that contradicts the truth, what God has already said about them. According to her, 2 Corinthians 10:5 gives us the authority we need to take our negative self-talk captive.
The final step is to replace the lie with something true. Rothschild encourages her readers to stop talking to her self and talk to her soul instead. Her counsel is not simply to say something positive so that she feels better, but to speak biblical truth to her soul so that she can live the truth.
Self Talk, Soul Talk is divided into two parts: "The Life-Changing Power of Soul Talk" and "Seven Things to Say to Your Soul."
In part 1, Rothschild helps her reader go through her thought closet, sorting through items that do not fit, items that are outdated, and replace them so that our thought closets are "arsenals stocked with the weapons of truth." She shares personal anecdotes of her experience sorting through her thoughts and relabeling everything in her thought closet. She explains how the Holy Spirit functions in our lives to teach us and remind us of the truth. One sticky point for me, however, is that she says that our soul talk can contribute to our faith, and she uses the woman with the issue of blood as a case study. I think what she means is that we ought to preach the truth to ourselves until we move ourselves to act on the truth, but instead of "preaching" she uses words like "coaching" and "cheering."
In part 2, Rothschild introduces seven soul talk phrases that have helped her "stay on the path to spiritual success." She goes on, "Most of the soul-talk pronouncements are in the Psalms, and some are found in other books of the Bible. But one thing is for certain: Each will speak truth to your soul, and when it is applied, it will bring balance and wellness to your soul."
1) Tune In: Awake, My Soul
2) Look Up: Hope In God, My Soul
3) Calm Down: I Have Stilled and Quieted My Soul
4) Look Back: Forget Not His Benefits, O My Soul
5) Chill Out: Be At Rest, O My Soul
6) Press On: March On, O My Soul
7) Lift Up: Praise the Lord, O My Soul
Books like this one walk a fine line between sanctified self help (pop psychology with Jesus on the side) and plain popular psychology. The good thing about his book, however, is that Rothschild makes it clear that her goal with this book is to encourage women to sanctify their minds in the truth of God's word. She does not advocate happy, mushy mantras. Instead, she goes repeatedly to scripture for encouragement and perspective, mostly from Psalms and Proverbs.
There are a few precautions, however, that the reader needs to keep in mind. First, many of Rothschild's conclusions are over-simplified or incomplete. Too many times her advice is to just decide to say or think something different, something positive.
Second, she does not try to get to the root of our destructive and negative thinking patterns -- sin. In the chapter "Be at Rest..." Rothschild shares that she learned from an ancient rabbinic scholar that "the nature of God is eternal rest." That thought may feel really good, but is not enough for a chapter about finding rest for our souls. She repeatedly encourages the reader to look to God and go to God, but the gospel is missing. Yes, there is an appendix entitled, "How to Make It Well With Your Soul," but important details, like the holiness of God, mankind's depravity, Jesus Christ as the propitiation for our sin, grace, faith, and a call to repentance and submission to the lordship of Christ, are not explained.
Finally, Rothschild's reasoning for doing what she describes in Self Talk, Soul Talk seems to terminate in the self. While she does say that it does not honor God when we put ourselves down, she does not offer any greater reason for "renewing the mind" than that we need to feel better about ourselves.
The book, taken as a whole, is not bad; Rothschild does share some helpful advice, like being careful with the words we speak to others. But I would not recommend it to anyone who is not already a believer, who does not already has a firm grasp of the gospel. Without the gospel all you have here is a new set of laws to follow.