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Redding, CA

Singer, songwriter, beard grower.

 

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8 signs of a performance mentality, or: how to be tired all the time and get nothing out of it.

Matt Stinton

For years, I’ve been a performer. An actor on the stage of my life. The role? Frankly, I played the role of the insecure musician who needed everyone to think he was the coolest and most talented guy around. To do this, I had to control every aspect of my life and image. Everything had to line up or shape up to make me come across just the way I needed to. Outfits, haircuts, social media posts, you name it. It all had to line up.

After years of this, I finally met someone who saw through the facade (enter wife, stage right, looking smart and very cute). One day, she asked me about all the acting. “It’s a lot of work trying to maintain that. Aren’t you tired all the time?” 

I stopped and thought about what I was doing, likely for the first time ever. I was tired. Exhausted, actually, and had been for years. Somewhere in life, I learned that I had to impress people to feel good about myself. That just being me wasn’t quite good enough and I had to try just a bit harder for people to value me.

That, as you can guess, is unhealthy. So now I’m on the exciting journey of how to not care about what people think…in the good way. Not the “I don’t need anyone else” way but the “That person disagrees with me and I’m not going to let it ruin my day” sort of way. 

I’ve compiled a list of things that should help you identify if you, too, are performing for love and approval.

1. You care about what people think of you. A lot.

You are always thinking about other people. You may pick out your outfits to appeal to the people you seek to impress. You may change the way you interact with others from one person to the next. Everything you say, you criticize afterwards and worry that you might have said something you shouldn’t have.

THE LIE: I will feel worthwhile if people have a good opinion of me.

THE TRUTH: You will only feel worthwhile when you finally believe what the Lord says about you. Chasing approval from other people is a fruitless endeavor.

2. You criticize yourself for making mistakes.

You have no grace for yourself so when you make a mistake, you are your own harshest critic. You likely think that this criticism will help you keep from making the same mistake in the future. You think you’re helping yourself but you’re not.

THE LIE: Mistakes make me look bad and if I look bad I am not worthy of approval.

THE TRUTH: You’re slowly killing yourself and sabotaging future efforts because you’re petrified of making mistakes. Mistakes are the stepping stones of success. 

3. You criticize others for the sake of feeling better about yourself.

When other people make mistakes or don’t perform well, it is your bread and butter. You may not be malicious about it but you do feel a bit better about yourself and feel a little more secure in your position when this happens. 

THE LIE: Seeing others fail will help me feel better, more valuable and more capable.

THE TRUTH: Feeling this way is really just a sign of insecurity. Insecurity will keep you terrified of seeing other people succeed, particularly when they succeed at something you want to be good at. 

4. Perfectionistic.

If you can’t do it perfectly, you won’t do it at all. You only want people to see you how you want to be seen. If they see you produce something that is mediocre, then you are mediocre. Even if they compliment you on it, you just HAVE to tell them all the ways you could have done it better.

THE LIE: I must produce quality to be viewed as quality.

THE TRUTH: This is a great way to be tired all the time. It’s also a great way to never be able to enjoy doing anything.

5. High need for affirmation.

Why do you need to be told 100 times that you did a good job? You don’t really know but what you do know is that you need to be told 100 times that you did a good job. Actually 101. Make that 102. You know, a few more times couldn’t really hurt. What’s more, you live for complements. When you don’t get them, you go fishing. “That was good, right?” or “I’m really happy with the way that turned out. (LONG PAUSE) What do you think?” or “This thing I just posted is so funny. Look!”

THE LIE: Affirmation from other people will eventually satisfy.

THE TRUTH: Needing constant affirmation is another telltale sign that you are insecure. You might have noticed by now but that void has never been filled by a complement or any other form of affirmation from another person.

6. Achievements and recognition make your world go around.

Congratulations. You got that promotion you’ve wanted for 2 years. Or you finally got that elite opportunity that only a few people are able to qualify for. Then why aren’t you satisfied? You spend approximately 8 minutes enjoying your new position before you start eying the next bigger and better thing.

THE LIE: It’s always the next achievement that is the one I really wanted and will finally make me feel valuable. 

THE TRUTH: There is no achievement large enough or elite enough to make you feel “special.” This is why the most famous people in the world are some of the most miserable. Wealth and fame were supposed to fill that void but they didn’t.

7. You take criticism from others very personally.

Criticism kills you. You know it shouldn’t but you hate hearing it. You feel like a failure when you’re criticized. You feel like you’ve let the other person down. You feel like you’ve disappointed them. You then revert to point #2 (i.e. criticizing yourself).

THE LIE: If I receive criticism, it means that I’ve failed. Again.

THE TRUTH: Criticism should never break you. Constructive feedback should inspire you. Destructive feedback should be flushed. 

8. You have a RIDICULOUSLY high need to be understood.

“Heavens above! Please don’t think that I said that. That’s only 98% accurate. That 2% might make you think less of me somehow.” Your image must be controlled at all times. To do this, every aspect of your life must be controlled by YOU. That means you can leave nothing up to interpretation or to the imagination.

THE LIE: People are going to misunderstand me if I don't say exactly what I mean and, if they do misunderstand me, I can fix it by explaining myself.

THE TRUTH: No matter what you do, you can't control what other people think. It’s just best to go ahead and accept this. You’ll be surprised how liberated you’ll feel. 

 

Any of that sound familiar? If so, you just might have it in your head that you’re not quite good enough on your own to get love. 

It’s work to undo this kind of thinking and this post is really just to help you identify if you have a bit of a performance thing going on. You’ll need to talk to the Holy Spirit about where you learned this mentality from. It usually will link back to a painful period of time in your life where you experienced rejection. You should forgive that person/those people and move on with your life. I’d also recommend bringing someone you trust in on your process (and don’t ask them if they think you’re so brave for tackling this thing…you know you’re being brave and we don’t need to fish for complements anymore anyway). Having someone walk with you through this will prove invaluable.

In closing, I will leave you with this quote from the ever-so-wise Bill Johnson.

“If you don’t live by the praises of men, you will not die by their criticisms.”

Breaking up with anxiety, or: What renewing your mind looks like

Matt Stinton

 

For years I’ve lived with a level of anxiety in my life and, for the most part, I would say I was unaware of its presence. After you’ve had something present in your life for a while, you tend to become blind to its effects. I suppose it’s because we just get used to things.

The Lord began breathing on this area of my life about 2 years ago and gave my wife and I a fire to see it broken off. It’s been a hard journey, to be honest, consisting of tears of frustration and long, difficult conversations on the couch. It has been, however, completely worth it. No one is meant to live with anxiety.

This journey first started with the realization that anxiety was present in my life. It had been a voice I listened to for years and had become so familiar with it that I had accepted it. But all of the damage was about to be undone. With the patience of my wife and the goodness of the Lord on my side (not to mention a few counseling sessions), I began to fight to gain back my peace. All of the momentum I gained over the previous 24 or so months was pushing me toward a single moment. The moment I broke up with anxiety.

It was a simple moment, really, perhaps even a bit odd. A few weeks ago, I was driving my car and felt prompted to call it all off so I did. I spoke directly to my anxiety and said, “I don’t need you. I’ve listened to you for a long time but I can’t anymore. I’ve made you a friend but you’ve never helped me. You’ve never made any aspect of my life better and I can’t live with you any more. As of this moment, I’m ending our friendship. You no longer have access to my mind or my heart and I will never listen to you again.”

There was no clap of thunder or earthquake to accompany this moment. Like I said, it was simple but I felt something shift and the first rays of sunlight started spilling into my heart. I felt joy and excitement where only hopelessness and fear had been.

Sometimes, I believe we become so used to a struggle that we actually become familiar and comfortable with it. We look for it. We expect it to show up. Whether it’s anxiety, shame, rejection or any other struggle, when this level of familiarity happens, we’ve made friends with something very dangerous and disloyal. It will never help us and will never add to our lives. Ending our friendship and dependence on it is vital.

Should you decide to end a relationship like this, fantastic! It might seem silly but there is power behind it. 

If the issues don’t fade immediately, it’s okay. Don’t freak out. There is nothing wrong with you and this is perfectly normal for two reasons.

Here’s the first reason. Our brains are fascinating. Science has shown that pathways are actually created by recurring thought patterns and trauma. This is why whenever you encounter a “trigger” you can find yourself reacting before you’ve even processed what’s happening. The part of your brain than processes logic actually gets bypassed by these pathways meaning that you react or feel an emotion before you’ve had a chance to assess the situation. You hear a certain word or phrase and you react. You get a text message from your boss and you immediately remember the time you missed that meeting and start feeling anxious before you even check to see what the text says.

So what does all of this mean to you? If you’ve dealt with something like anxiety for a while, your brain will naturally fire off the part of your brain that produces anxiety because it’s always done that. In essence, it’s become a habit of your brain. But the amazing thing about our minds is that they can be retrained to form new pathways which will break the association that has been made (you know, the whole “be made new by the renewing of your mind” thing). This can be accomplished by reminding yourself of the truth of the situation. That anxiety is a liar and that the Lord has promised to be your help in all situations. And you do this as many times as it takes. If it takes 1000 times every day, that’s totally fine. It will change. Your inheritance as a child of God is peace and a sound mind.

The second reason is that your mind is the most crucial battleground in all creation and the enemy wants to own it. For thousands of years he has preyed on minds—weaving just enough truth into his lies to keep people bound up by believing that things will never change or that they deserve to be punished. He tries to whisper those lies to all of us but they will only have power in our lives if we listen to them. 

So many of us go through life without realizing that we live with these lies screaming in our ears. 

“You’re not good enough to do this.” 

“This is never going to change and you’ll just have to live with this for the rest of your life.” 

“You’re going to be just like the person who hurt you. See? You’ve hurt people already.” 

Listening to lies like these will keep us living in the realm of anxiety because we will feel trapped and insufficient to break free.

My friend Jason says that you can’t be anxious and trust God at the same time and this is such a true statement! If you fully trust in God, then you’ll remember His promises over your life. These promises are designed to give you hope and will keep your head above water no matter the ferocity of the storm.

Hope is the biggest weapon against the enemy because it stands in direct opposition of his oldest trick: discouragement. You can’t have hope and be discouraged at the same time. They are opposites and cannot co-exist. Hope is the seed of breakthrough. If you have hope then victory is only a matter of time. If you don’t have hope, get some!

I can’t tell you what breaking a friendship like this will look like or feel like for you. You may feel something drastic, you may not feel anything at all. Not having an emotional response is not an indicator that nothing actually happened so don’t get tripped up by that. Often, we don’t live in our breakthrough because it didn’t look or feel the same way it did for someone else. If we don’t think we have breakthrough, we probably won’t live like we do.

Since I broke up with anxiety, I’ve had to remind it several times that our friendship was over. And, if it continues to try sneaking back into my life, I’ll just keep sending it away. Eventually it will get tired of not getting results and will just stop showing up. If I believed these persistent, annoying little knocks on the door of my mind were indicative of my friendship being still active, then I’d let it back in and stay under it’s influence.

Your mind is a battlefield. Love and fear both battle to be the victor and it’s up to you to decide which one will win out. Which voice will you listen to? The voice that builds you up or the one that tears you down? The one that promises life and freedom or the voice that tells you that you’re doomed to a life of captivity? The voice you listen to is the voice you empower and the voice you will serve.

God is about to change everything for you. Know how I know? Because that’s who He is. He is always turning night into day and winter into spring. He is a God of promise and redemption. Whatever you’re dealing with right now, He is bringing the answer. Not only that, but once you have victory, He’s going to give you authority over the problem you’ve struggled with. He’s going to make you a threat to the enemy and is going to use you to break people out of the same bondage you were in. How’s that for revenge?

Now, here’s your first assignment: believe that instead of the voice that tells you it won’t work out for you. You’re not friends with him anymore anyway. 

Summarizing a year, or: 3 things I learned in 2015

Matt Stinton

I think we've all been friends long enough for me to be honest with you, right?. 2015 was probably the hardest year of my life. I kind of hated it. Ok, not kind of. I actually hated it. I faced the most difficult challenges of my life. It was a year filled with frustration, anxiety, and a bit of an identity crisis, to be Frank. (See what I mean?) 

I was particularly grateful for my beautiful wife, Carla, who so graciously loved me through all of this. The way I see it, if we can get the "worse" part of "for better or worse" out of the way up front, it should make things easier later on. That's the way it works, right?

All that being said, I'm really glad that 2016 is here. Even though 2015 was difficult, I did learn some valuable lessons that I wouldn't trade for the world and I wanted to pass 3 of them on. Hopefully they'll help you should you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

1. Find the purpose of your season.

Regardless of what circumstances you are facing happen to be, God will use any season you invite Him in to. He's always up to something, particularly when you're having a difficult time in life. I personally don't believe that God is into sending hard times our way but I do believe He allows challenges to come our way because He knows the good that will come from them and that He can win with whatever hand He's dealt. 

Getting vision for what He's doing through your circumstances will put a fire under you and give you direction.

I really think the Lord loves when we ask Him questions. It means we're using the mind He gave us. Take some time and sit down with the Lord. Ask Him what He wants to accomplish through what you're facing. Ask Him what you can do to be successful in your season. Perspective makes a tremendous difference. Instead of feeling trapped by your circumstances, you'll see them as a tool that is refining you and helping you build a stronger foundation in your life on which the Lord can build. 

2.  Don't blame anyone (including yourself) or anything for hard circumstances.

In the grand scheme of life, it doesn't matter who's fault your circumstances are. The sooner you can get to this point in your season, the better.

Putting the blame on someone else will only frustrate you more and becoming offended with them is a guaranteed result of blame placing. Offense will keep you trapped in frustration, will prolong whatever it is you're walking through and will eventually make you bitter. You don't want bitterness following you through life. Bitter people aren't fun to be around and you don't want to be that person. Don't get me wrong, softening your heart and letting offense go is not an easy task but it's vital if you're going to be successful in your season. 

Putting the blame on yourself is another great way to stay frustrated and usually leads to some form of self-abuse. Did you realize that being hard on yourself is actually self-abuse? I challenge you to think of a time when you put yourself down that it actually helped you because I can guarantee it never has. Healthy self-assessment may lead to improvement (when balanced with a healthy does of grace) but self-criticism is destructive.

God is actually very particular about how we think about ourselves. I was on my way to work several months ago and I was being pretty hard on myself, telling myself that I was inadequate. My gloomy thoughts were sharply interrupted when I heard the Lord boom at me (I use the word "boom" because I can't really describe it any other way): "WHO TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE NOT ENOUGH?" I was taken aback. I had never heard the Lord that way before. I thought about the question for a minute and finally had to answer: "No one but myself."

The Lord is jealous about how we think about ourselves. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. When we put ourselves down we are insulting what He crafted so carefully and so beautifully. 

3. You are more than what you do.

I wrote a blog on this a few months back but I want to reiterate it here.

In the beginning, God created Adam and immediately called him "good." Adam hadn't done a thing yet. He was good because God make him that way.

Jesus was baptized before He had performed any miracles and yet the Holy Spirit rested on Him and the Father said, "This is my Son and in Him I am well pleased."

It's clear that God's measuring tool for value has nothing to do with what we accomplish or the things we're capable of. If that's the case, why do we measure ourselves that way? I believe it's because we place far too much value on the things that we're good at or the things that have gained us recognition or acceptance. We even identify ourselves by our abilities (ie. I'm a songwriter, I'm the funny one, etc.). The problem with this kind of thinking is that eventually we will face someone or something that will threaten these abilities. Once they're threatened or even taken away, our world crumbles because that's all we know. 

Your circumstances may change what you do but they can never change who you are.

God is interested in building a multifaceted, deeply rooted you. Let Him invest in you. Keep your heart soft and trust Him to lead you where you need to go. Chase after your dreams but if the door shuts, it's because another one is going to open. God knows what He's doing. As my friend Steffany sings, He's been a Father for a long time. 

 

 

The power of words, or: How liking a little boy's shirt can change his life

Carla Marie Stinton

Hi.  

So, as many of you probably know, I'm Carla - Matt's wife.  We live under the same roof and eat the same food (except maybe one of us drinks more coffee and the other eats more chocolate...) and while those two things are the same, our work environments are completely opposite.  He works in Bethel Music's office (a land full of adults) and I work in an elementary school, where we, as the adults, are vastly outnumbered by people thirteen years and younger.  

I say all that to say this: most of my blog posts are derived from something I've seen during my work day, and very commonly, these things point me to the Lord.  Perhaps a better way of saying it is: the Lord speaks to me through children, which really shouldn't be a surprise - the kingdom is made up of them.  There are deep truths embedded in the eyes and mouths of children, and if I take the time to survey them, I would consider myself very lucky to be surrounded by them on a daily basis.

With all that said, today while I was about to start an intervention with a few students, one student in particular came into the classroom in full on tears.  Not just tears that said, "I'm screaming for attention," but as he started to unwrap his heart, I began to hear the words he was trying to say.  To save all of you the trouble of me trying to scribe his kindergarten verbiage, he basically said that someone on the playground excluded him from a group and this hurt his feelings.  The funny thing is, this particular child was actually a part of the group that the other boy was saying he was not a part of!  

To fast forward a few minutes later, I sat my group of students down (both boys are in the group at this point) and the student who had been crying was very much still crying.  His crying was the point that he could not even speak without trying to catch his breath every few seconds.  In most cases, a big hug and a sticker are usually strong enough pacifiers but not today.

We sat the upset child in his seat, and I then spoke to the remaining five children in the group.  I asked one particular girl how her heart felt while she watched a friend upset; her response? 

"I don't like it.  Why is he sad?"

I advocated for the child to his peers and we all decided that the best thing we could all do was "celebrate" him.  I'm not sure what other places would call this ritual, but while being a student at BSSM (Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry) I heard the phrase "let's celebrate him/her" a lot, and it was usually followed by people throwing compliments to the person they were celebrating.

My students said things like:

"I like your shirt."  "You're awesome!"  "I like you 9,000!"  "Don't be sad!"  "I really love you!  I actually like you!"

There were a few more phrases here and there and most definitely an apology from the offender.

It might sound like I'm making this up, but as this little child heard positive things spoken over him and about him, literally his whole countenance changed, maybe within seconds.  All of a sudden, he was hearing things over his life that weren't negative, or "you don't belong" but rather the opposite.

Speaking positive words over a child who may need help in believing the best about them can literally change their life.  Unfortunately, I don't know the home life of every student, but I do know the climate that I can control when they're in my presence.  It's funny how at the end of the day, children and adults, just want to feel included; to feel a part of something.  The major difference between children and adults is that children will voice this need while adults usually set up a corner and stay there... does that sound familiar to anybody?

Anyways.

How often do we write children off as little human beings who don't know anything; or that things don't matter to them until they're older; that they'll always be this way, etc.  And trust me, there are days where these thoughts take little to no time to cultivate, usually due to frustration or that one child who just tipped the scale.  However, when Jesus said, "Do not hinder them" I think He actually meant that.  

The beautiful thing about children is that they have no filters.  We never have to guess what a child is feeling or thinking, because their words are as plain as day and usually require little to no effort to unravel.  The beauty that children (while young) don't judge their peers based on color of skin or remember their malicious actions (usually) is an incredible thing that we could all learn a few lessons in.  They truly forgive and forget and what a different world we would live in today if that principle was alive and well amongst us.

If there's anything I'd love for you to walk away from with this blog, it is this: Remember the power of your words; remember that children are some of our greatest observers and they have a strange ability to feel when the temperature/climate of a situation has changed and that can strongly affect them.  To remember to love them and explain things so that their little hearts and minds walk away feeling as though their needs were met and that you are a safe place for them.

If we share and extend grace to children, they'll know what it feels like to extend it to others, and if we've succeeded there, then I'd call that a really good day.