Picture: Edgar Pereira (Unsplash)
A troubled home life. Feelings of insecurity. A longing for love. Self-hatred. For Malcolm Duncan these feelings developed into a destructive morning mantra he would repeat in the mirror throughout his earliest years. Then one night he had a powerful experience… at a rock concert of all places… that changed everything.
Malcolm’s story shows what can happen when we stop repeating lies about ourselves and start believing who God believes us to be. Here’s how I told it to Chris Evans on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought segment.
What lies are you believing, and what will you replace them with?
Malcolm’s Morning Mantra
Picture: Ria Alfana (Unsplash)
I first met Malcolm Duncan a few years ago at a conference we were both speaking at. His confidence on stage was astounding given his background. Born into a chaotic home, as a teenager Malcolm became desperate for approval and felt falsely responsible for his family’s problems. This led to a daily ritual of what can only be described as verbal self-harm. Each morning he would go into the bathroom, look in the mirror and say out loud to himself:
‘You are stupid, you are ugly, and it’s your fault’
Malcolm’s words may have been extreme but I don’t think he was alone in the sentiment. When Winston Churchill turned 80, an artist was commissioned to paint his portrait. When Churchill saw it, he was so unhappy with the slouching figure staring back at him he hid the painting in his cellar, then his wife secretly had it destroyed! Similarly, every year thousands of people legally change their names—for some, it’s an attempt to leave an old self behind.
Nothing You Can Do
Picture: Vince Fleming (Unsplash)
Malcolm’s destructive morning mantra continued into his twenties. Then one night he had a profound experience at a concert of the singer-songwriter Larry Norman. Of all the things Norman said and sang that night, Malcolm remembered these words:
‘Nothing you can do will ever make God love you more’
‘Nothing you can do will ever make God love you less’
‘You will never disillusion God because he never had any illusions about you in the first place’
Malcolm told me those three sentences dropped into his soul, began dismantling his old self-image and rebuilding a new one. After that night he wept for three weeks straight. Friends thought he was having a breakdown, but Malcolm sensed this was divine surgery—the pain and rejection of his childhood being cleared away.
Finally, Malcolm woke one morning, went into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and realised the voice whispering that he was stupid, ugly and at fault had gone. He looked in that mirror and instead said out loud:
‘You are loved, you are beautiful, you are gifted, and it’s not your fault’
Do You Believe it?
Malcolm Duncan, Spring Harvest
Malcolm has gone on to lead churches and direct numerous community and charitable organisations. Twenty-seven years later, he still whispers those words into the mirror each day, reminding himself that in God’s eyes he is loved, beautiful and gifted.
And I believe we are too. Do you believe it?
What’s your morning mantra?
Talk to Me
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