The 2 Weapons of the Devil: Negativity & Selfishness

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How does the devil wage war against us? What are his tactics, and what’s his goal?

The “battlefield of the mind” is not a metaphor. Christian author Joyce Meyer explains that, whether we know it or not, we’re engaged in a constant and literal battle for the well-being of our minds. On one side of the battle is Satan, who tries to corrupt our minds and lives with his negativity. In fact, the two primary weapons of the devil are negative thoughts and a selfish mind.

Continue reading for details on these ideas as well as Meyer’s suggestions on what we can do about these attacks.

The 2 Weapons of the Devil

Meyer argues that our minds are “positive” or “negative” because they are either aligned with God (positive) or succumbing to the influence of the devil (negative). She explains that if our minds and spirits are aligned with God, Satan knows we’ll be immune to his attacks. But, if Satan can control our thoughts, he can trap us in a negative life away from God. 

Satan as a Biblical Figure

The way we conceptualize Satan can impact our sense of agency in the “battle” between good and evil. In her imagery of Satan as an entity waging an actual battle in our daily lives, Meyer chooses to follow a very literal interpretation of the Bible. But not all Christians think of Satan as a literal, singular figure. 

Theological scholars actually urge against a literal interpretation of the Bible, encouraging readers to treat the text “as a symbol for a deeper reality”. Since scripture incorporates elements of several cultures, languages, belief systems, and traditions, astute readers look for the underlying metaphor beneath the word-for-word translation

The search for meaning beyond scripture’s literal wording applies to how we interpret the figure of Satan. In the Jewish tradition (from which Christian ideas of Satan evolved) Satan was rarely viewed as a literal entity. His first appearance in scripture is in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, where he is cast in the role of the “accuser” or “tempter.” But, he was used symbolically. Instead of being an outside force imposing his evil will against us, Satan served as a manifestation of the duality of human nature and a reminder that we’re all capable of thinking and doing evil things. 

Theology professor John Switzer explains why this more nuanced view of Satan matters. Switzer notes that conceptualizing Satan as a literal figure responsible for our negative thoughts can be a dangerous mindset because it allows us to deflect responsibility for our actions. He notes that we give evil more power in our lives when we think of it as a powerful entity. Rather, we should take ownership of our negative thoughts and actions and use “God’s grace” to make good choices. In this respect, Meyer may stand in her own readers’ way. While she urges her readers to take responsibility for their actions, as Switzer notes, this is difficult if you believe that “the devil made me do it.”

Weapon #1: Negative Thoughts

The first weapon of the devil is negative thoughts. Meyer explains that Satan chooses our minds as his battleground because it’s where we’re vulnerable. We have likes, dislikes, weaknesses, fears, and insecurities—and Satan appeals to them all with negative thoughts. He starts when we’re young and plants these negative thoughts little by little, and in doing so, uses our imperfect human nature to attack our minds without us even noticing. Over time, his negative thoughts grow into what Meyer refers to as mental “strongholds” (we’ll call them “negative mindsets”), places where God’s positivity cannot reach. 

More Work on Overcoming Strongholds

Popular Bible teacher Jennie Allen (founder of the Christian women’s group IF:) also uses the term “strongholds” in her 2020 New York Times best-selling book Get Out of Your Head. Like Meyer, Allen argues that Satan uses “strongholds” (a place where God’s love cannot penetrate) in our minds to keep us trapped in cycles of negativity. 

Also like Meyer, she explains that negative thoughts have the power to trap us in a negative life and that focusing our minds on God can help free us from Satan’s influence. She adds to these ideas with tips on how to break free from negativity—one such tip is to create “mental story maps” as a tool to break negative thought patterns. With these story maps, readers are encouraged to write down their negative thoughts and contributing factors. Then, through a combination of prayer and guided questions, readers can work through problematic “storylines.”

Weapon #2: A Selfish Mind

The second weapon of the devil is selfishness. Satan tries to keep our minds and lives negative by keeping us focused on ourselves. In short, Satan tries to make us selfish. If he can keep us focused on our physical bodies, our cravings, our desires, and so on, Satan can prevent us from focusing on God. Meyer describes Satan’s strategy as keeping our minds focused on the “flesh.” Since thinking about ourselves and our immediate surroundings is human nature, Satan uses our natural tendencies to defeat us. 

The Holiness of the “Flesh”

Meyer stresses the importance of training our minds away from “fleshly” thoughts throughout the book, framing them as inherently wrong or selfish. She cites passages of scripture from Romans 8 to support her interpretation. However, some argue that her interpretation of this excerpt of scripture, which comes from the Letters of Paul to the Romans, was misguided, and that the scripture passage was not actually a call to renounce the flesh.

Paul sent his Letter to the Romans in response to a disagreement between Jewish and Gentile (non-Jewish) followers of Jesus about following the old laws of Jewish scripture. Gentile members of the Christian church were reluctant to follow some of the strictest laws about the physical manifestations of faith, particularly circumcision. Paul’s letters explain to the Romans that, since the gentiles had accepted the power of the Holy Spirit, they could be true followers of Christ regardless of their participation in the physical rituals in the Jewish faith. In this context, we can see that the scriptural focus is not on the flesh but the uniting power of the Holy Spirit.

A description of “the flesh” as something to be overcome rather than celebrated also contradicts the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that the “belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith” and that Jesus “became truly man while remaining truly God”. The core of Christianity is that God became human and that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. This belief means that the flesh is not something to be overcome. Rather, our humanity (flesh) can bring us closer to God if we choose to live as Jesus did.

Our Defense: A Mind Focused on the Spirit

Meyer argues that if we want to have a positive mind and a positive life, we need to focus on God rather than indulging in selfish thoughts. To do this, we must adopt the Holy Spirit as our guide. Meyer explains that the Holy Spirit is also called the “Spirit of Truth.” If we allow our minds, and thus our lives, to be guided by the Holy Spirit’s truth, then we can be confident that we’re on the path that God intends for us. This assurance acts as a buffer against Satan’s seeds of negativity. 

Meyer explains that when we accept God into our lives, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us and share God’s mind with us. The Holy Spirit provides a link between our own spirit, which helps us feel what the right thing is, and our mind, which is susceptible to becoming confused and discouraged. Meyer describes a mind that works in partnership with the Holy Spirit as being “normal” for a Christian (we’ll call it “balanced”). When our mind is balanced, God’s positivity will inform how we see the world. Through the Holy Spirit, we’ll interpret and contextualize God’s teachings and messages, and recognize and reject Satan’s negativity.

The Holy Trinity 

The Christian concept of the Holy Trinity explains why Meyer references God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in different contexts throughout the book. While Christians believe in one God, He is conceptualized as three noninterchangeable entities for practical and spiritual reasons. For example, Meyer specifically discusses a partnership with the Holy Spirit in her discussion of seeking God’s guidance in shaping a positive mind. 

The Holy Trinity was adopted as a unifying Christian concept in the 4th century. While the conceptualization and formalization of the Trinity were contentious, the agreed-upon tradition allowed for a compromise between the Hebrew doctrine of a singular God and the Greco-Roman polytheistic tradition. 

For Christians, the nature of God and divinity (and the meaning of life) lies in the relationship between the three parts of the Holy Trinity. God the Father represents the source of all that has been and will be. God the Son (Jesus) is the physical manifestation of God’s love for humanity and His presence in the world. The Holy Spirit is the animating spirit of divine love that flows between beings. 

The Holy Spirit illustrates the idea that Christians find God in relationships. Meyer describes a partnership with the Holy Spirit in particular, not because the Holy Spirit and God are two separate entities, but because we can access the divine only in the context of a relationship. 
The 2 Weapons of the Devil: Negativity & Selfishness

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  • How the Devil makes it his mission to corrupt our minds with negative thoughts
  • How to recognize the signs that Satan is attacking your mind
  • How to thwart Satan’s attacks and find happiness and fulfillment

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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