Friday, May 18, 2018

Thoughts on introspection and journaling

DebbieLynne Kespert wrote a great piece about journaling the other day. I recommend it. I linked to it below, too.

Journaling is the act of consistently writing down one's thoughts, feelings, and events in a notebook, as the definition goes. Some people do that to track growth, or to leave as a legacy to coming generations, or to vent. Journaling is distinct from many other kinds of diaries, like food diaries people keep for medical reasons, or weather diaries farmers keep, stress or anger management diaries, and the like. Journaling expressly focuses on one's conscious inner thoughts, sensations, and feelings. It is a method of emotional self-examination.

I've never gotten into journaling. I like to experience the day and then move on. As someone on the autism spectrum, I'm not that in touch with my feelings anyway, seeing them as not precisely unnecessary, but usually as unhelpful. Yet many others see journaling as very helpful--
Ever wondered why history’s great minds including Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln, Andy Warhol, Leonardo Da Vinci, Marcus Aurelius, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Ernest Hemingway, George Bernard Shaw and Maya Angelou would spend so much of their precious time writing things that will never be seen by another soul? ... Many famous creatives, writers, innovators and original thinkers of our generation keep journals— for many, it is a creative necessity, for others, a place for exploration, and for some an art form in and of itself. (Source)
For Christians, some self-examination is good. It is worthwhile to examine one's self to see if one is in the faith. Scripture admonishes us to do just that. (2 Corinthians 13:5, 2 Peter 1:10-11).

In the Christian spheres, Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, kept a diary and also wrote letters constantly. Those became his autobiography after he died. The great theologian Jonathan Edwards kept a journal. In it, he penned his famous 70 resolutions. As the pastors say at the Netherlands Heritage Reformed Congregation, "these resolutions were birthed out of his felt weaknesses and known deficiencies, not his personal attainments. They represent, therefore, his sanctified, biblically-conditioned aspirations."

My personal journal: In my journal below, I am trying to figure out from the Bible
about the different resurrections.


Christian journaling can be very good.

However caution abounds. Ligonier says that self-examination is important, but must be done rightly. Faulty self-evaluation, the passage tells us, is an obstacle to walking by the Spirit. If after examining ourselves we "conclude that we are superior to others" the self-examination is faulty, but alternately if we conclude that "if we consider our gifts inferior to those of others, thinking we are unable to assist burdened believers" it is also faulty.

So the Bible does call for some self-examination to be done, and there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

But is a good thing, ever too much of a good thing? It can be. In her article, Journaling: The Pitfall We Should Recognize, DebbieLynne Kespert says that she journaled for 17 years, venting feelings, writing experiences, and meditating on her disappointments, her frustrations and her fears. Then she had an epiphany. She wrote:
So when someone uses a personal journal to ruminate on their feelings, should it surprise us that we wind up wallowing in self-absorbtion? Self-absorbtion, however, is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity. Christ demands that His followers actually die to ourselves for His sake.
It's the tendency of sinful man to wallow in self-absorption to begin with. Journaling only increases that tendency. Excessive navel-gazing is not good as it takes our eyes off Jesus, upon whom we are supposed to fix our eyes. (2 Corinthians 4:18, Hebrews 12:2).

Jared Mellinger wrote about excessive self-examination in his piece "Self-Examination Speaks a Thousand Lies. He said,
Unhealthy introspection is a daily threat to our joy in Christ. Many of us tend to examine ourselves in a way that is excessive, inaccurate, and leads to discouragement. God calls us to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5; Lamentations 3:40), but healthy self-examination is a difficult and dangerous duty. The flesh seizes self-examination as an opportunity to turn our thoughts against us. Introspection is deceptive because it often looks like we’re doing the right thing: we’re not indifferent to our sin — we want to seek it out! But when that introspection makes us self-absorbed instead of Christ-absorbed, we undermine our faith.
Providentially, Randy Alcorn wrote an interesting piece a few days ago as well. It didn't center on journaling per se, it was about self-control, but it speaks to the where we want our mind to go:
What is your mindset? Do you dwell on selfish, envious, jealous, bitter thoughts? Or do you dwell on what pleases God? Do you focus on God, His Word, and His mighty works on our behalf, or do you focus on woes and misfortunes and abuses suffered at the hands of others? According to Scripture, the choice is yours.
The choice is yours. Journaling can be good when the Christian employs self-control during the introspection process. Do you journal? Do you enjoy it? Has it become simply a way to focus attention on one's self? Let me know int he comments what your experience has been.


Further reading:

The End Time: Is Christian Journaling Good or Bad?

1 comment:

  1. Personally I don't journal, though I have at a select few times in the past. Generally, I don't feel it's very helpful for me. More than that, I don't even find it an interesting or desirable thing to do. But I can see types of journaling that some may enjoy, such as your Scripture journal (that I also have done from time to time), and also times where having a personal journal containing documentation of events or situations may be helpful or even necessary. I would agree though, the idea of navel-gazing really isn't profitable for anyone, especially not believers.

    I had a sister in the Lord once share her thoughts with regard to the issue of introspection. She said other than a healthy, brief dose of daily self-examination (for sin), it is best to keep our eyes on the Lord and others. I agreed with her then, and still do today.

    I also really like the comment you made here, Elizabeth:
    "I like to experience the day and then move on."

    That's a good way to see it!

    -Carolyn

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