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« Responding to a reader: "But don't we sometimes need someone to correct our thinking?" | Main | Viewing my videos-oops! »

Why the "Correct their stinking thinking" model doesn't always help.

Most Christians have been given the Corrective Thinking Model of helping:  "This friend isn't able to heal because they've got 'stinking thinking' that's preventing it.  They're not able to receive the healing because they are holding stubbornly to misguided, destructive, even faithless thoughts." 

While on the one hand, this may be true in some cases, it often isn't helpful to tell the person that they're believing and thinking wrongly, and it may not reveal the true problem.   I've discovered when using the Corrective Thinking Model that it only proves mildly helpful because it often can't bring about the recovery needed: Besides the person may already be well-aware of their destructive thought patterns, yet feel helpless to overcome them.

The Corrective Thinking Model [Just Fix What's Wrong With Their Bad Thinking] is rooted in an Analysis Model that assumes:  "If we can diagnose the why, then we've healed the what."  This model assumes that analysis equals healing.  It does not:  Just like determining why you broke your leg during a skiing accident doesn't, in and of itself, heal the bones.  Answering the "why" only gives you revelation not restoration.

Agnes Sanford, in her classic on prayer, The Healing Light, describes the hazards of the "Correct their bad thinking" model:

"You mustn't think that way!"  cries the would-be helper.  "You'll never get well when you think that way!  My dear, let me tell you ..."   And [the helper] proceeds to hold forth upon her own line, to hand over her own ready-made cure-all.  ...

Sometimes it happens to fit the need of the sufferer, and sometimes it does not.  And the one who longs to help mourns that the patient has no spiritual understanding. 


Sanford offers this counsel to would-be friends and helpers: 

The sick mind does not respond to reason.

[Notice what Sanford indicates:  In our frustration as helpers, we often blame the patient for a lack of spiritual understanding, rather than questioning the approach used.]


A better model:

We often jump in with the Corrective Thinking Model because we sincerely want to help, and it's the only model we've been given.  A more helpful question than, "How do I correct this person's poor thinking and bad beliefs about themselves or God," might be,

"Jesus, you got here before I did.  What are you up to?  Before I got here, you were already initiating my friend's restoration.  Help me understand what you're doing as you love my friend.  How can I join you?"  


There's no shame in this: We're simply being invited to learn from Jesus, who is a gracious teacher. 

Recommended resources:

Note:  This is an issue I've addressed in the past in other places, especially in a two-part podcast with author Dwight Edwards ["Revolution Within"]:

  1. Podcast:  "Revolution Within," Part One
  2. Podcast:  "Revolution Within,"  Part Two


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Reader Comments (8)

So well said. Creating an open space as Jesus did on the cross is the loving way to be with someone.
Otherwise I am being arrogant and assuming all sorts of things that surely will not feel like love to my friend.

February 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWarren Aldrich

Hey Warren. You're right on: The Correct Their Thinking model assumes all kinds of things that may or may not be true. It's also a model rooted in the assumption that, "My job is to point out the places where you are unfinished."

Though corrective thinking may necessary [at times], we may not always be the best ones to deliver it. That's why asking Jesus is key to how we should proceed.

Thanks for responding. And...hope you got shoveled out. ;)

February 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim Robbins

Well said! I've been guilty of this in the past and groan when I think about it!

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

Hey Judy,

I know what you mean. I, too, have related to people under this model. Thank God there are other ways we can connect that are more fruitful and restorative.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim Robbins

Just focusing on my identity in Christ, that I'm righteous and complete already, has helped me a lot and brought healing emotionally and physically to me. Is this the same as correcting wrong thinking or is that different? I read some books by Jim Richards, and as I was reading it was like Jesus suddenly highlighted one major thing that He wanted me to see, for example, that I was righteous and approved (that helped get rid of my shame that I put on myself for just having a problem/sickness), and then another time it was that I was already complete and normal (that helped me to see I wasn't messed up but was already okay as a new creation). I didn't know if this was similar to the 'correct wrong thinking' idea or not. I would like to know other ways to see healing and etc. thank you for any input you have!

March 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLily

Hi Lily. thanks for connecting. You're absolutely right: Many times we do need a correction for our thinking. I, too, have found reading particular authors very helpful as I've discovered my new identity and worth. But God often brought those books to me when I couldn't hear it from friends. He brought the truth from those books to me when I was ready to hear.

What I was referring to in the post was that many people use the "correct thinking model" ONLY; or at a time when the other person just isn't ready to hear it; or they hand it out like a prescription without thinking.

Yet, there may be something blocking a person's healing that isn't revealed by telling a person, "Don't think like that."

For example, I heard a story of a woman who couldn't stop collecting teddy bears. Teddy bear plates, pillows, blankets, and more teddy bears themselves. Every corner of the house, every surface was covered with teddy bears. She had gone into counseling because she was up around 400 + teddy bears at that point and it was causing her marriage to suffer, though her husband was trying to be understanding.

When her friends, who knew how to pray, sat quietly and asked Jesus what was going on, he revealed a memory to her. A horrible and painful one, of being a little girl and watching her father, in a fit of rage, rip the head off of her only teddy bear.

Her friends didn't then, tell her, "You should be thinking teddy bears are the solution to your pain." They asked Jesus to come into that little girl's [woman's] fear and heal it. And it did.

Hope that helps. You brought up a great point.

...Jim Robbins

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim Robbins

What an amazing story! I see how amazing it is just to go straight to Jesus and ask Him to enter into the situation and bring healing as only He can. That helps me a lot! I am so used to thinking in terms of God always being about judging or 'correcting' me, it's sometimes hard to see that He is really just about loving me and healing me in whatever way is most helpful and won't hurt my heart. Thank you for sharing this!

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLily

Hey Lily,

So glad it helped. I've finally learned after more than 4 decades that walking with God is not the same thing as leaning on formulas and assumptions. His ways of healing are often very creative: When the guy fell out of the upper story window where Paul was speaking, the Spirit literally moved Paul to place his body on top of the dead man.... Which at first seemed bizarre, but it makes sense that in order for the healing of Christ to pass from Paul's body to the dead man's, more points of contact were needed than just a gentle touch on the guy's shoulder!

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim Robbins

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