It’s confession time. Heidi will tell me something, and my mind is a million miles away, focused on something else. Then five minutes later I will ask her a question about the very thing she was telling me. I’m caught with no excuses! I wasn’t listening to her. I was just pretending to. I didn’t pay attention to her voice. In the same way, a man is constantly hearing voices in his head. I’m not talking about those with some sort of psychosis. I’m speaking about sane, well-adjusted males. Yep, there are three voices whirling around in there. The trouble is that we don’t pay attention to the voices so that we can discern who is speaking. It’s not a trivial distinction. It’s life and death.
So what are the three voices? It’s the voice of our own self, the voice of Satan, and the voice of God. Ever wanted to know how to discern who is speaking? Here’s a brief description of each voice.
First Voice: Your Own Self
Your own voice is the easiest one to spot. It’s the self-talk that is going on most of the time during our waking ours. It’s our thoughts about ourselves, others, and life around us. It’s our feelings and intuitions put into an inner dialogue we have with ourselves. Some men can even be unaware that they are constantly speaking to themselves. So here are a few characteristics of that voice:
- It deals with your everyday preferences, prejudices, and preoccupations.
- It can be critical or accepting depending on personality, formative experiences, and lifestyle choices.
- In quieter moments, it expresses deeper desires and emotions.
- It is often controlled by what we are feeling and experiencing in the present, especially strong emotion.
Second Voice: The Voice of Satan
But every voice in your head is not yours. This is one of the more important revelations when a man becomes serious about his relationship with God. He runs up against a counter force that is actively vying against him. Satan is a defeated enemy, but he still has one powerful weapon — the lie. So he will often take negative or downcast thinking and accentuate it, much like adding gas to fire. At other times, he will be more overt and whisper a lie that appears incontrovertible. But believing the lie will leave a man hamstrung. Here are some characteristics of Satan’s voice:
- It’s always a lie, with enough truth thrown in to make it believable, such as “It’s always my fault. I’ll never be a man. I can never change.”
- There is a sinister tone to the whisper.
- It always distorts the truth about who God is or who you are.
- It seeks to kill and destroy by crippling a man.
- It is often the power behind unspoken vows we have made, such as “I’ll never be shamed again. I’ll always try to make everyone happy. I’ll never be caught failing.”
Third Voice: The Voice of God
God’s voice is often the last one a man spots. I know this was the case for me. Ironically though, God is speaking to us all the time. But His still, quiet voice is often drowned out by the noise of our inner or outer world. We don’t pay attention to His voice, so we are left listening to our own self-talk or to the enemy. But if a man learns to hear that Voice, He finds salvation and healing. Over time, a man will learn how the voice of God sounds, similar to the way he knows the voice of his father. By spending time together, you come to know and trust the Voice.
Here are some characteristics of God’s voice:
- It never contradicts His written Word, the Bible.
- It is gentle and quiet, though at times it can be firm.
- It always speaks with love and compassion.
- It always says the truth about who He is and who you are.
- It brings healing and deliverance from trauma, bondage, and the demonic.
- We usually need to be quiet enough to hear His voice.
Some Summary Thoughts
Now we see how important it is to pay attention to the voices. If we don’t, we may easily think it’s our voice when it’s the enemy. Or we may miss God’s voice altogether. We are unable to discern who is speaking if we don’t pay attention. Discerning between good and evil is one of the fruits of maturity (see Hebrews 5:14). It’s also the difference between joy and despair, turbulence and tranquility.
We often need help when we are learning to discern these voices. Talk to a wise friend or pastor. Discernment is also one of the major topics of spiritual direction. Sometimes a man will come to me for spiritual direction and needs help sorting out the voices. Whatever you do, pay attention to those voices!
Bill Delvaux is a graduate of Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has been a church planter, a high school Bible teacher, and a running coach. Six years ago, he pioneered Landmark Journey Ministries to help men connect their stories to God’s story through retreats and spiritual direction. His newest book, Heroic: The Surprising Path to Manhood, released in April 2019. His greatest claim to fame is being married to Heidi for 32 years and having two amazing daughters, Abigail, and Rachel. He and his wife currently reside in Franklin, TN.